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Answer Man: Dial '9' if you want to be taken to the cleaners

Dear Answer Man, yesterday a very polite young lady called and asked if I would be interested in taking a survey. It had to do with increased controls over what our kids watch on TV and the Internet. I played along and suggested that yes, stricter controls were needed.

She then informed me that my opinion was valuable, and in order for it to count, I needed to join a petition. If I pressed 9 on my phone, it would electronically register my vote. I've read that by pressing 9 on your phone while talking to someone, they could take over your long-distance capabilities. I informed her of my suspicions and that I was going to check with the state attorney general's office to see if this was a scam.

Oops — we somehow got instantly disconnected. — R.W.

R.W. is a very smart reader — he smelled a rat, he called the rat out and he promptly informed me, which means my global audience now has this vital information.

The "dial 9" scam -- or "dial #-9-0" or some other combination of 9 — has been around almost as long as the Internet, and as R.W. has read , it's definitely possible for someone to hijack your long-distance service in this way. Business and government-scale phone systems are at risk, not individual residential phone lines or cellphones, according to Snopes.com and other sources, but why would a legitimate survey organization ask you to "register" a vote by pressing 9?


Though R.W.'s phone and long-distance bill may not have been at risk in this apparent scam, all it takes is one victim to make a telemarketing fraud worthwhile for crooks. I'm not aware of recent complaints in Minnesota along these lines, but if you've taken a call recently from "a very polite young lady" who wants you to press 9, let me know.

If you think you've been the victim of a phone scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov, or call 1-877-FTC-HELP. You also can try the Minnesota Attorney General's office at 1-800-657-3787.

Downbeat on concert halls

In a particularly perceptive column last week , I noted that for a city with the wealth, culture, glamour and romance of Rochester — well, at least the wealth and culture — that we need a decent concert hall and a first-rate theater. The proposed Rosie Belle center at the corner of South Broadway and Fourth Street would feature two theaters, and though it appears to be going nowhere, it's the only real proposal on the table.

A reader whose name I know but who asked not to be identified, sent this comment: "Thank you for addressing the need for a performing arts center" and went on to note how inadequate the local options are. Another reader daydreamed about how the Chateau Theatre building could be turned back to its original purpose if the Barnes & Noble bookstore moves out as expected after its lease expires next January.

I, for one, think that's exactly what downtown Rochester needs, and it would nail an important goal of DMC, but it wouldn't address the need for a larger, versatile concert hall or theater.

A little birdie tells me there was some discussion at Monday's Rochester City Council meeting about preserving the facades of the three 100-year-old buildings downtown where Titan Ventures plans to build the Broadway on Center mixed-use project. Those buildings are now home to CJ's Midtown Lounge, Ginny's Fine Fabrics and Jakobson Management Co.

That may be fine for those fairly ordinary commercial buildings, but I've heard that same concept -- preserving only the facade -- mentioned as the possible fate of the Chateau Theatre. That should send shivers up the spine of anyone who cares about downtown Rochester's few remaining historical gems.


The Answer Man is one of Rochester's few remaining historical gems. Send questions to P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903 or answerman@postbulletin.com.

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