Don't Hang Up
We're being warned now of yet another phone scam. The usual advice authorities give is to just hang up the phone. Eureka P.D. infobabe, Susie Owsley, goes so far as to suggest a "No thank- you" to the person on the other end before hanging up.
I say nonsense. Keep the scammers on the phone. I may have mentioned this episode before but, just in case I didn't, I'll tell it again. I received a phone scam call some years ago and am proud to this day how I handled it:
I'm hanging around the house one day and the phone rings. The guy on the other end asks for me by name and tells me I have "absolutely won one of four great prizes...". I'm skeptical, of course, and wait for the pinch line when he'll ask me for my name and credit card information. He just goes on quoting me some supposed federal law that's supposed to assure me he can't rip me off.
This guy was good. Real good. He really had the gift of gab. Still, I knew he was trying to set me up but, being the lonely guy I am, it was nice to have someone to talk to and he was a good talker. He knew how to carry on a conversation about whatever the topic might be.
So I'm talking with him for maybe half and hour and he starts trying to get personal information from me little by little- a good strategy. If he'd asked for it all at once some might not notice they're giving away important personal information. First he'd confirm my name, then he'd chat some more and then ask for my address, and so on.
I didn't have a problem with giving out my name and address as that's probably public record, even back then before the internet, but I'm waiting for him to ask for credit card info.
But first he works into the conversation that to receive my "prize" (don't recall just what the prize was, but it was a good one) I just needed to buy something from them to try out. I didn't need to keep it and could return it right away but I had to at least order something. He rattled off four different prizes, the details of which escaped me except for one: Some Jenny Craig diet plan food.
He gives me all the sales details on it. I tell him I wasn't interested in any of the prizes, but if I was, the wife might be interested in the Jenny Craig stuff. He tells me the price is over $900.00 but assured me I didn't need to buy it. All I had to do was return it once it was delivered.
So we chat a little longer about nothing in particular and he finally moves in for the kill and smoothly asks me for my credit card info (even though I hadn't said I would buy anything at that point). He asked for the number, first, in keeping with his clever technique of trying to minimize any appearance of gathering credit info.
That's what I was waiting for. I knew it was coming sooner or later.
I tell him, nicely, that I don't give out credit card info over the phone. He gets a little flustered but keeps his cool and reminds me of the federal law he quoted me some time earlier. He insists he is bound by that law and there was no way he could use my credit card info for nefarious purposes.
I tell him once again I understand that, but I still don't give out my credit card info over the phone. He's getting even more flustered and finally realizes there's not much more he can say, at least at that point, in regards getting my credit card info.
In what seemed to be a last ditch attempt to salvage the situation, he asks me to hold on while he gets his supervisor to come talk with me. I hang up.
Within half a minute, or so, he's calling me on the phone again, but I don't answer. The answering machine picks up the call and I can hear the guy: "Mr Mangels...pick up the phone. Mr. Mangels...I know you're there, pick up the phone...Mr. Mangels, I can't believe you'd be SO RUDE as to hang up on me....". And so on for a minute or two.
Finally he hangs up and it's over.
I was stoked with myself over that. I had him on the phone for at least 45 minutes and he didn't get a thing out of it. Think if everyone did that, assuming they had the time to fool around for that long. The guy could spend a whole day and get...nothing.
Don't hang up!
Called Eureka Police and told them I was hit on by what I believed was a phone scam. They say there's not much they can do and to call the Better Business Bureau.
Called the Better Business Bureau in California. That was a fiasco and I never got through.
Called the Better Business Bureau in Nevada, from whence the call supposedly came, and inquired about Sierra Industries. This is who the guy identified himself as representing. Nevada BBB says the company used to be under some other name with umpteen unresolved complaints but now had a number of complaints under their new name and some had been resolved.
I mentioned to the gal what this guy was doing and she wasn't surprised and didn't feel it was actionable on her part. To paraphrase: "That's what these people do. They get your credit card info and sell you stuff you don't want...". So, what's the problem?
I kind felt like the word needed to get out on this and called one of the local TV stations, KVIQ Channel 6. It's no longer with us but it used to be fairly close by my house at the corner of Broadway and Wabash in Eureka.
I spoke with one of the news gals there. She seemed interested but wasn't going to mention it without some live person to reference and interview. She wanted me to come down to do a segment on the scam with her.
I backed out of that one under the excuse that it wasn't that big a deal. In reality, I just didn't want to do it on camera. I wanted to give my news tip anonymously.
That was it. Except for Channel 6, no one else seemed to care.