I’ll bet all my readers have had an automated scam telephone call by now…or are about to get one. My home phone seems to be immune, but my studio gets them all the time.
Here in Australia the scammers generally use a script that says they are from the taxation office and threaten arrest and seizure of assets to get you to start on the telephone call trail that they hope will lead them to your bank account or credit card numbers. I gather than in the USA they use the name of the FBI, IRS, or other authorities to make their criminal threats.
The classic clues are there – the silent pause before the recording starts, the faint hiss, the ever-so-slightly off accent coupled with a plausible name. The automated ones are no fun to receive, however – past the theatre of it all – because you cannot play with a machine. I now hang up on them as soon as the clues start, and dismiss them from my mind in 5 seconds. I have never lost a necessary call.
The human-contact scammers are more entertaining, as you can sometimes get one of them who has had a bad day, or a sour curry, and gently goad them into rage. I do it by being attentive, kind, and pleasant. A little vague, perhaps, wittering away now and then, wandering from the point but never too far. I play the role of stupid old white guy perfectly, as I have studied the part for years…I must sound like the fattest and slowest duck on the pond.
I’m sitting comfortably in an air-conditioned house with a drink in hand, and I’ll bet they’re not. The longer they are forced to talk to me to persuade my obviously senile mind to click on the Windows link…and I never quite seem to be able to grasp how to do it…the closer they are to lifting their safety valve. I have been able to stretch it to 10 minutes before a monumental burst of Hindi oaths terminated the conversation.
If I’m pressed for time – cooking or some other task in hand – I just say to them that they are violating the moral precepts of their religion and that they should be ashamed. It is not rude to say that – it is the truth. Maybe one day one of them will reform. Or maybe I will.
I know who to bet on…