The title of this blog post is a no brainer. There are new recorded, mass telephone calls all the time. Some are campaign-type messages, some are marketing and some are meant to get as much of your money as possible sent to a place where you’ll never recover it.
Phone scams are often designed to cause you to panic, so your critical thinking skills go on the back burner. The caller — live or recorded — will suggest you’re in trouble, and then provide instructions to help you get out of trouble. In the United States, a popular racket involves telling people they have warrants for their arrest, and explaining how to pay fines to resolve the legal crisis.
A particularly disturbing con game is turning up in some cities, especially New York. It’s directed at people from China, and tells them they’re under investigation at home.
Stephen Nessen’s report on WNYC (link below) mentions that the callers exploit Chinese citizens’ fear of their government, but we can’t dismiss the fact that similar scams have been ripping off U.S. citizens for a long time. Fear of authority is everywhere, but some fraudsters do the right research to find people who are most vulnerable.
Traditional grifters focus on particular traits and intimate information to manipulate one or two people at a time (or maybe a whole audience watching a televangelist, but I digress). That takes longer than using an automated system to reach everybody in one calling area. The most successful Twenty-First Century swindlers are high-tech.
Be alert to the possibility that one of these calls might wake you up very early in the morning. That happened to me once, and the live caller didn’t get anywhere because in my confusion I happened to say the right thing and he hung up. When I first answered the telephone, I didn’t know what he was up to.
Okay, the caller didn’t have a very convincing scheme. He began by addressing me by my full name (which is easy to get from cell phone records) and claiming he was calling on behalf of Microsoft Windows. He said he had received word that Windows had stopped working on my computer. He wanted to help.
This is the part of the blog post where my imaginary friend plays the first four notes of the Dragnet theme on the kazoo.
The story that Microsoft will — or even can — contact one computer user with unsolicited tech assistance is a pretty far reach. Still, if you feed that line of crap to someone who is barely awake…
I believe I made an involuntary mpfrpltrp sound, followed by “If you’ll just tell me what’s wrong, I’ll ask my technician to look at it.”
I thought I was being polite, offering to pay a technician so the nice man on the phone wouldn’t be bothered with my tech emergency. I also wanted to go back to sleep.
It’s oddly gratifying when something you do in a clueless state causes a criminal to give up on the possibility of making you his next pigeon.
Here’s a link to the WNYC story. And think about keeping your telephone turned off when you sleep. I know that might not be possible, but weigh the pluses and minuses. It really is difficult to identify a fraudulent call when the phone wakes you.