Wanderings – Call and answer at your peril

I have tried to be nice. I have tried to be civil. But it is getting to be a bit of a nuisance – or a pain. Phone calls at all hours from companies that are out to scam you. These things are largely run the same way. A number you don’t recognize calls. You pick up the phone and mistakenly say “hello.”

The voice on the other end informs you that your Amazon Prime account has been used to order an iPhone 13 and there may be suspicious activity on your credit card. . “Press ‘1’ to confirm this order, or press ‘2’ to contact the fraud department.”

Knowing that either number I press will result in me talking to a person on the other end of the line, I pressed ‘3’, just to be difficult.

The person on the other end of the line answered and began reading their script. “Oh no,” I exclaimed.

They continued that they needed to confirm the 16 digits of my credit card, the expiration date, and the security code on the back.

I did not provide this information, as I know my Amazon account already has it and that Amazon does not call to ask for this information. In fact, no company does.

I asked where they were calling from. “What do you mean?” the caller asked. I politely asked where the call centre was that the nice gentleman was calling from. The conversation went down hill from that point.

There were a couple of exchanges back and forth, me insisting on knowing where he was calling from, and him insisting he was calling from Amazon. After I asked what part of Brazil he was in, he got angry, used some undignified language that was anatomically impossible, and promptly hung up on me. Clearly this person was out to scam me. Amazon never contacts me by phone. If there is a problem with an order I get an email, or a message on the App. I think it’s a badge of honour if I can frustrate a scammer to the point that they hang up on me. But I digress.

It’s upsetting though to see people are taken in by these types of scams. I know of people who have been taken by phone scammers. Some have paid “delinquent bills” by buying gift cards to give the codes to “companies.” Others have thought they were helping family members out of a bind, only to discover later it was a ruse – and not by any family member. I don’t blame anyone who has been taken by these scams, as those who perpetrate them are using more and more clever technology to pull these off. But that is only part of the problem.

Just as we’ve seen with the rash of vehicle thefts, the resources needed for law enforcement to prosecute is immense. Add into that international boundaries, and it’s a needle in a hay stack to track down these fraudsters, and arrest/prosecute them.

There have been some recent successes, but those have centred on those scammers who set up shop in Canada, not in far flung places in the world. Only recently are banks catching on that some clients may be in the process of being duped, and offering assistance when they see something suspicious. But in most cases, it’s easier for the authorities and banks to do nothing. The amounts are “small” relatively speaking for them. For those scammed, it’s not inconsequential. Our privacy laws are no help either.

Energy “marketers” can get access to lists of potential customers to bother thanks to the need to allow access for public utilities. Governments throw law after law on the books, but fail to back them with boots-on-the-ground enforcement and deterrence.

There are even laws in place for technology, not allowing certain companies to abuse phone numbers. Again, no enforcement.

When I was a kid, not that long ago really, a crank or scam call was a nine year old calling someone to see if their fridge was running. You know the punch line. Ah, simpler times.

I am doing my part in a very small way, by messing with these scammers. If someone calls to say my “Microsoft Windows 11 PC” is sending out viruses – I tell them I don’t have any electricity and ask if they know when the power is coming back on. A call asking to set up a time to inspect my hot water tank for a rebate program was met with a pot placed over the phone – being hit many times by a metal spoon.

One recent scam call was placed on “hold” while the Toronto cast of Phantom of the Opera performed via my CD player and a loud speaker. I don’t think the scammer stayed on the line long before the intermission. Another heard a loop of cartoon characters Ren and Stimpy’s Log Song.

Mostly though, I just dump any and all phone calls to voice mail. If its important, they’ll leave a message. The rest can get the message, or take the hint.