My phone number has somehow made its way onto the call lists of an untold number of telemarketers. I’ve been getting solicitations for years, often 3 to 6 in a single day. On many occasions, the caller thinks I’m Mrs. Sanchez. Sometimes the caller attempts to conduct business in Spanish. I’ve had the same phone number since 2012. I’ve never used Sanchez as a pseudonym. My command of Spanish is minimal at best. I have no idea how my number ended up on these particular call lists.
My phone has a California area code, so many of these telemarketing calls are targeted at a California home owner. I get the same recording offering to steam clean my carpets every couple of weeks. I simply hang up on this recording and others. Real people say they represent contractors and are offering California home owners free estimates on home improvements. Sometimes the free estimates (and/or government subsidies) are related to solar panels. I usually tell these people I don’t have a home or I live in my van, and they can’t get off the phone with me quickly enough. Sometimes I get a wish of good luck! before they disconnect.
When I can get a word in, I ask the telemarketers to remove me from their call list. They say they will, but I doubt they do. Really, why should they bother? How will I know if they do or they don’t? What are the chances I’ll take some sort of legal action if representatives of the company continues to call me after I ask them to stop?
I do block the numbers of known telemarketers, but that barely helps. For every number blocked, two new ones seem to spring up in its place. The same companies seem to have a multitude of outgoing numbers at their disposal.
Usually I end these calls as quickly as possible. I don’t have a need for the legitimate services offered, and I fear most of these calls only lead to scams. However, sometimes I’m bored and decide to see if I can have a little fun before the call ends. My fun usually takes the form of pretending I think I’ve already won a prize when the caller tells me I may (probably not) have won a prize.
Oh! That’s so great! I gush. How soon can I go on that cruise to Antigua/pick up my new car/spend my $6 trillion dollars? I’m amused for a few minutes while the caller frantically tries to convince me I haven’t won yet, and I act
as if my prize is already on its way.
I’ll probably go to Hell for these games I play, as it’s not kind to mess with people who are simply trying to make a living. Then I remember these people are making a living by taking advantage of people who aren’t so savvy to the wicked ways of the world. Who’s going to Hell now?
One day I was at the library, working on this blog. I had my phone’s sound turned off, but I saw I had a call coming in. I answered and was greeted by the least human robot voice imaginable. The robot told me its name was Gail, and there was a problem with my social security number. Gail the robot asked me to call back the number it was calling from so we could discuss the very urgent problem with my social security number. Apparently Gail was not just a robot, but a robot programmed by a non-native speaker of English. Her syntax was off, and her word choice was strange. Surely the legitimate Social Security Administration would do better than this recording.
I don’t know exactly why I decided to return the call. I think it was because the recording was so outlandish. I was wildly curious to find out what an actual person on the other end of the line would say. Besides, I had nothing to lose. These people already had my phone number, and there was no way I was going to give up any other personal information.
I dialed the number and was surprised when a live human being immediately answered my call. The voice seemed to belong to a male, and from the accent, I judged the person to be a non-native speaker of English. Of course, I have no way of knowing if my assumptions were correct.
I could hear a lot of noise in the background. The call center I had reached must have been huge because I could hear the frenzied buzz of many voices and the tapping of fingers on multiple keyboards.
I told the person who’d answered the phone that I’d received a call from the number I’d just dialed and was now returning the call as instructed. The telemarketer (or scam artist or whatever they’re calling themselves these days) asked me when I’d received the call, and I replied, Just moments ago. He asked if I’d received a voice mail, and I said it hadn’t been a voicemail, it had been a call from a fake human.
At this point I grabbed my purse and walked out of the library and stood on the sidewalk so my exchange with the telemarketer wouldn’t disturb the other patrons. I thought this call might last a while.
The telemarketer asked my name. I asked him what name he had on file for me. When he insisted that he needed me to give him my name, I said, You called me.
The telemarketer immediately dropped all pretense of professionalism. Fuk U, beetch! he said to me.
I couldn’t believe it. I’d barely provoked him. He’d gone from zero to cursing because I didn’t immediately state my name. He must have been having a really bad day.
I was stunned into silence, and he screeched again, Fuk U, beetch!
What are you saying? Are you even speaking English? I asked. It was not the finest comeback, I admit. I knew very well what he was saying and in what language he was saying it.
He threw one more Fuk U, beetch! at me for good measure, then disconnected the call.
Wow. I was shocked, but not really offended. We hadn’t been on the phone long enough for me to take his anger or even his cursing personally. Someone should tell the guy that immediate cursing and early termination of a call is not the way to swindle a person’s social security number out of them. He needed to use a little finesse, perhaps some sweet talk and flattery. He needed to earn the caller’s trust, build up the caller’s confidence in him. He was never going to scam anyone with that negative attitude of his.
I doubt a supervisor would ever guide him to an outstanding career as a scam artist telemarketer. After all, the call was probably not being monitored for quality assurance or training purposes. His supervisor would probably never know he was going off script to hurl Fuk U, beetch! at non-cooperative callers.
I added my number to the National Do Not Call Registry maintained by the Federal Trade Commission. We’ll see if doing so puts a dent in the number of telemarketing calls I receive.