Darlene, please call the Republican National Committee. They’ve phoned me several times asking for you. When I tell them you aren’t here, they break into a fund-raising spiel. I suspect they’ve used this opening on many Americans. Is Darlene an especially Republican name?

I now handle Darlene calls by telling the caller “I’ll get her” and then I just put the phone down for several minutes, aiming to tie up an RNC phone line. They know they’re lying, and I know they’re lying. How long does it take them to realize that I get it and am pulling a reverse trick on them?

I’m pretty sure the real RNC will protest that these calls are not from them, that they are a form of telephone scam. Well, caller ID says “RNC” and the spieler says he represents the RNC. If they ain’t, the real RNC should take prompt steps to prevent misuse of their name.

Republican robocalls have moved beyond “Darlene” to voter suppression. Heavily Black urban areas are blanketed with robocalls warning that those who vote by mail will have their names registered by a federal agency and be subject to forced vaccinations for coronavirus.

This is all bogus, and the callers, who did not disguise their names, are now under indictment. Trouble is, the prosecutors are at the state level, not federal, where so far the problem has been left to fester. Shouldn’t voter suppression be a federal concern?

Old-fashioned larcenous calls, many targeting seniors, seem quaint in comparison. They include paying off your credit-card debt, free Caribbean cruises and renewing your nonexistent car warranty. Of course, you must give your credit-card numbers. Such scams would cease if the scamsters did not make money.

Is nothing being done to stop them? Apparently not. Telemarketing is so big and so generous to congressional candidates that none dare go against them. We simply have to look out for ourselves by becoming aware and mistrustful of all phone calls, especially from the “IRS” threatening jail if you do not immediately pay a made-up dollar amount, which they demand in money orders, big-store gift cards or Bitcoin. Ask what line your error is on; they won’t know. (The IRS never calls; they write.)

Other fake calls are from “grandsons” who plead they’re in jail for traffic violations and need a few thousand dollars for bail. I knew immediately it was fishy: my 10-year-old grandson does not drive. Ask “grandson” what his NAME is. He’ll stammer and won’t say. Sadly, a friend’s ex-wife fell for the scam. Actually, many telephone scams are from prisons; cell phones in cells let cons con.

We got many calls telling us we won a Caribbean cruise, although lately these “prizes” have disappeared, as few people want a COVID cruise. One fun riposte is to tell the scammer you’ve already accepted another cruise. Could you combine the two prizes for a cabin upgrade? Or switch them for an Alaska cruise? Stretch it out; these people hate having their time wasted.

In an election year, doubt telephone pollsters who seek your political views and voting intentions. How can you tell if they’re legitimate or partisan “push polls” designed to persuade by misrepresenting candidates’ positions. Question exactly whom they represent and who’s paying for the survey. Few are legitimate. Have fun giving false answers but, when they go on too long or become obviously biased, hang up with the warm feeling that you have wasted their time. Already, half of people called hang up on telephone surveys, one reason they’re so inaccurate.

But, you object, what about real charitable, political and survey calls? Yes, there’s a place for them, but how can you tell which are legitimate? Ask the caller: “How do I know you are who you say you are? Prove it.” Flummoxed, they can’t and become angry. Good. With too few responding, the entire phone-solicitation industry will become worthless. Let’s all do the Lord’s work by hastening this process to its logical conclusion.

At present, with essentially no follow-up or fines, the do-not-call system is laughable. Scamsters ignore it, figuring they can move their boiler-room operation quicker than any enforcement agency can catch them.

Our aim should be to make calling organizations so desperate that, to save their own industry, they’ll at last pressure Congress to enact legislation that really stops scams and robocalls. Congress will not act on its own; both parties are too beholden to the solicitation industry. Congress could fix misuse with a federal tax of 10 cents per call, trivial for family and friends but expensive for robocallers. Heck, make it 25 cents.

Until then, we must, sadly, abandon civil politeness when dubious phone calls use politeness against us. The safest rule today is to distrust all calls but those from family, friends and Darlene.

BTW: The fly was whispering talking points.