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Letter from America

O'Donnell Irish EyesO'Donnell Irish EyesI just hung up on a scam caller—rudely, I might add.  Well, rudely, if you consider smartly and decisively clicking the “END” button on a cell phone to be rude. (Golly-gee-whiz!  It was EVER so much easier to deliver an indignant response to unwanted attention back in the day when you could powerfully slam the receiver of a landline phone into its cradle!)  But I digress. My recent call went down exactly like this:

Caller, speaking up to drown out background noise and voices: "Hallo, I am speaking with Cah-Ra, yes?"

Cah-Ra: "Who’s calling, please?"

Caller: "I am calling from windows technical support..."

Cah-Ra, interrupting: "Oh, I don't have any."

Caller: "You have not a computer?"

Cah-Ra: "Not exactly; I don't have windows. I live in an igloo."

Caller: "OK, madam. So sorry I am to have been a large bothering to you."


The entire exchange took less than one minute—thank goodness, because my cell phone bill is high enough as it is. What I want to know is this:  Who FALLS for this type of call?  They are such obvious scams!  Judging from all the background noise I heard during the conversation (leading me to believe that he was calling from a telemarketers’ boiler room located in the bowels of an office building in downtown Bangalore), there are apparently numerous suckers in the world, ripe for the pluckin’ and ready to provide a complete stranger with all the information that stranger requires in order to wipe out a bank account or go on a spending spree with the randomly targeted mark’s credit card number. 

Because I suddenly realized that these scams really do make money—big money—to line the pockets of unscrupulous crooks, I now wish that I had strung this particular caller along, so as to keep him too busy to place another call for a good long while!  I have, after all, done this very thing many times in the past, and with great success.  Of course, I realized after each one of those protracted conversations that my keeping a pesky caller on the line was a complete waste of my time—my valuable time—during which I might have spent completing far more productive and exciting tasks.  Why, I might have spent the same amount of time watching American Idol while clipping my toenails, memorizing ten new Mandarin vocabulary words while polishing off the last sleeve of my Thin Mint Girls Scout cookies, or even by thumbing through the brand-new Yellow Pages directory while wondering how the Mount Everest of laundry in my hamper might wash, dry, and fold itself without human intervention. (I might have mentioned in the past that I’m proud of my keenly honed ability to multi-task but, if I haven’t, you are seeing it first, right here, right now.)

Yes, I have on occasion kept lyin’, schemin’, cheatin’ scoundrels on the phone for the sole purpose of preventing them from preying on the innocent for hours.  Oh, all right:   I have kept dozens of these sleaze balls occupied for 45 minutes (my personal record best).  Yes, you read that correctly:  15 minutes!  You can do the same thing by employing the 12 simple techniques I have perfected over the years.  Let me give you a sampling of these tried-and-true tips:

  • scammerscammerGet the caller on your side; make him—and, trust me, these con artists are almost always male—perceive you as a human being, not as an object.  Ask him where he lives.  No matter what his answer is, your follow-up question should always be, “Oh!  Do you know Dr. R.K. Patel?  He is my godmother’s sister’s boyfriend’s podiatrist’s niece’s math teacher!  HE lives in _____, too!”  When the caller tells you that he does not know any Dr. Patels, you’ll know for a fact that he is lying!  Then ask him if he has been to your favorite restaurant in _____:  Micky D’s!  Now more relaxed, he will assure you that he knows the restaurant well.  Moan suddenly into the phone and tell the caller that you have been suffering with a painful arthritic neck.  He will commiserate.  You now have him in your corner!

  • Reassure him that you want to hear what he has to say.  Is he trying to get you to buy prescription drugs from an offshore pharmacy?  Interrupt his spiel:  “Oh, I take a LOT of medicines!  Will I save money if I buy them from you?”  Naturally, he’ll inform you that you will save a bundle.  While moaning a couple of times, do a quick Google search for a list of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S.A.  Start with any drug that begins with a letter in the middle of the alphabet and skip around randomly from there.  After you mention the name of a drug, your caller will go through his own list and start spouting out quantities available and the price of each.  “Hmmmm…” is the best response you can offer…before you jump to the next drug.  Continue with your drug selections and your “hmmmms.” This will eat up at least 20 minutes of his time before he gets suspicious and hangs up on you. 
    Perhaps your obnoxious caller is trying to sell you a “fix” for your ailing computer.   Ask him what the problem seems to be.  He’ll direct you to go to your computer.  No matter what he tells you to do—from turning it on to going to a certain web site—respond in a kittenishly helpless tone of voice:  “Where exactly is the on-off button?”  “Could you repeat the name of the web site; ooooh, let me spell it back to you:  “W-E-C-A-N-H-E-L-P-D-O-T-C-O-M?  No?  Don’t spell dot?  Just hit the dot button?  Where is that?”  Now you’re cookin’ with gas, sister! (No matter how much this goes against every fiber of your feminist being, do play up the damsel-in-distress and the creep will be putty in your devious hands!)  
  • Perhaps your caller is offering you a GREAT investment opportunity in gold or silver or pork bellies.  This type of caller doesn’t deserve a stall at all.  Just tell him he is “so 1990s” that you can’t be bothered talking to him.  Suggest that he go to _______, where you have it on good authority that there is a successful boiler-room operation pushing 21st Century scams, a great math teacher named Dr. R. K. Patel, and a fine dining establishment called Micky D’s!

  • Give him a taste of his own medicine:  Ask him if he finds it difficult to keep his living space clean and organized because he feels run down and tired all the time...mainly because he is losing sleep from worry about the mounting personal legal expenses from his recent  arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. When he hesitates (but before he can utter a single syllable), invite him to become an entry-level distributor in your SnorWax, 31 Baskets, VitaMuch, and LegalWielder multi-level marketing networks.  Tell him that as soon as you receive his check for $1349.37, you’ll make it easy for him to make $17,000 a week!  When he questions your sanity, mutter a few newly memorized Mandarin vocabulary words under your breath, and tell him that you just cursed him with six months of flatulence, impotence, and incontinence but that you have a drug salesman on the other line who can sell him just the right drugs to reverse those conditions.  “Hold, please, and I’ll connect you!”

There you have it!  Don’t you feel empowered?  You are now almost sufficiently well equipped to thwart the attempts of any smooth-talkin’ “telephoney” to part you from your hard-earned cash!

For a tiny investment of only $9.99, I will send you the remaining nine simple tricks.  Knowledge of all 12 will make you virtually impervious to the slime-ball tactics of every ruthless rapscallion on the planet…now and forever more!  Act now, and I’ll throw in my patent-pending U-shaped, reusable icy-hot pack.  That arthritic neck you’ve been moaning about will thank you!

By Cara Sheridan O’Donnell

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