How to Handle a Phone Scammer – Part 1 of 2
Maybe it’s because I’m nearing the target demographic for scammers as I approach retirement, but lately I have been on the receiving end of a spate of calls from fraudsters wanting to alert me to everything from problems with my social security number to the fact that I’m suddenly wanted in multiple states for bank fraud.
My wife always tells me that when I get one of these annoying phone scam calls, the mature, adult thing is simply to hang up – which is why I never do that. I prefer to have a little fun with the caller instead.
The following are actual phone con artist solicitations I’ve received within the past few months. I’m not suggesting you should try messing with these phone flimflammers yourself the way I’ve done – unless you want to have fun. These calls typically start with a robo-message, urging me to press 1 to talk to a live agent. And they always end the same way – with the perpetrator getting totally fed up with my antics and hanging up on me. I find it endlessly entertaining. But then, I feel the same way about slinky toys.
Of course, I never give out my real name, account numbers, actual address, or date of birth. And when they ask for my name – as they always do – I usually provide the name of a random former NFL quarterback. The key is that whatever horrible or alarming news they reveal, I always act like I believe them unquestioningly and offer to do whatever they ask me to, in order to extricate myself from the supposed mess I’m in.
The Social Security Scam
Robo message: “This is the Social Security Administration with an important message about your social security account. Your account number has been compromised. Please press “1” to talk to an agent to discuss how you can get assigned a new social security number.”
So I press 1.
Officer Wilson: This is Officer Wilson. How can I help you? (She speaks with a noticeably thick Caribbean accent.)
ME: Thank you, ma’am, I just learned that my social security number may have been compromised. Can you help me?
Officer Wilson: What is your name please, and your social security number?
ME: It’s Bart. Bart Starr. And my social is 014-56-3954. Would it help if I provided my date of birth and the name of my kids to prove to you I am who I say I am? They are great kids, except for my middle child, Conrad. He’s going through a phase. Do you have any suggestions for how to deal with a 9th grader who still wets the bed?
Officer Wilson: I don’t know anything about that. Here is what I need from you – …
ME: I’m sorry. Why would I think someone from the Social Security Administration could help me with my son’s bedwetting problem. Please forgive me. But now that I have you, do you know any good fajita recipes? We’re having guests over this evening, and I promised my wife I’d help out with an entrée. But between you and me, I don’t know the first thing about Mexican food. You’re not Mexican, by any chance, are you?
Officer Wilson: What are you asking me?
ME: Oh, never mind. Hey, you sound like a nice lady. Can I borrow $500 if I promise to pay you back with interest in six months?
“CLICK” (That’s when “Officer Wilson” hung up on me.)
The Bank Fraud Scam
Robo message: “This is the FBI. This is not a hoax. According to our files, you are currently wanted in four states for multiple instances of bank fraud and securities fraud. Please report to the nearest FBI office within 24 hours or else an agent will come to your residence and put a lien on your property. To learn details about the charges pending against you, please press “1” now.”
So I press 1.
Agent Johnson: This is Agent Johnson. Please provide your name and the last credit card you used.
ME: Oh my. Yes, Agent Johnson. My name is John Unitas. But my friends call me Johnny – with two “n’s.” And I don’t know what to say. I knew it was only a matter of time before my past would finally catch up with me. Here’s my VISA card number: 4576-4032-4119-4002.
Agent Johnson: We are willing to give you a one-time pardon for your past criminal activities if you agree to pay a fine of $2,500. Would you like to pay this fine with this credit card?
ME: That seems more than fair. But the more I think about it, I actually think I would rather turn myself in. After all, I did commit that bank fraud your generic automated message mentioned. It’s time I pay for my crimes by doing the time, right?
Agent Johnson: Excuse me?
ME: Quick question: Will I be sent to one of those rough prisons like in the movie The Shawshank Redemption? God, I loved that film. Or would it be more like one of those country club prisons like Martha Stewart was sent to? Can I put in a request for whatever prison Martha got?
Agent Johnson: What are you talking about?
ME: All I ask is one small thing. Can I take my little girls out for ice cream one last time, and so I can tell them their daddy has to go away for a while, but he still loves them? Then you can haul me off to the to the Greybar Hotel, okay?
Agent Johnson: What’s wrong with you?
ME: Oh, one more thing. Regarding that credit card number I just gave you… Please don’t tell my wife about my latest charge – the one for $795 for a life-size sex doll from China that does sexy talk in your choice of five different foreign accents… I was just having a bad day. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was going to return it. Please don’t tell my wife, oka– …
[You can read Part 2 of this article, with even more conversations I had with actual phone scammers, simply by clicking here..]
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021