Getting Even With Telemarketers (One Spam Call at a Time)
By Andy Dworkin
PlannedMan

Telemarketers play a numbers game. The more calls they make, the greater their chances of hooking a sucker. Then they call me...

Getting Even With Telemarketers (One Spam Call at a Time)
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Highlights


Soon as I get a spam call, I get into character. Mine is a thirty year-old man who lives in a doublewide trailer.

"Darn, I know my credit card's around here somewhere, just hold on."

"Sorry, I get confused. Also I don’t move so fast since I lost the leg to diabetes, and lately my emphysema’s acting up..."

I try to never leave them without hope. Can they can leave their number so we can call them back?

I’m lucky. I have one God-given hip, a partially-attached retina, two cataract-replacements, no appendix, early onset kidney disease and gout. But, as the Texans say, I’m on the right side of the ground. I have a ton to be thankful for. Lately, I’ve been focused on how I can give back.

Such a stupid fucking expression. I take it to mean how I can take a skill I have to help someone who doesn’t have that skill. My body’s a mess but my brain’s working fine. Certainly better than a lot of people in their 70s and 80s who pick up their phones when scam artists call.

Instead of chortling about how dumb these old folks are for being such easy prey, I decided to help them. How? I’d take all my spam calls. And then I work to keep those callers on the line with me for fucking ever. Because if they’re talking to me, letting me yank their chain, they’re not getting Matilda Crotchworth’s Visa card number or the password to her accounts at Third First Bank. I figure for every hour I spend on the phone, at least two elderly dimwits have been saved untold amounts of agony and money.

I am doing a public service, one idiotic phone call at a time.

I am doing a public service, one idiotic phone call at a time.

It’s pretty easy. My phone tells me the incoming call’s a spam risk.  It used to be that the callers – all with South Asian accents – identified themselves, if at all, as Sanjiv, but they’ve smartened up, and now introduce themselves, same accent, as Tom Johnson or Dick Gordon.

Soon as I spot the spam call, I get into character. Mine is a thirty year-old guy who lives in a doublewide trailer with his older sister. I sign over my disability checks to her. She controls all our money. Cards, coupons, government payments. We watch a lot of TV. Make our meals in the microwave. And we love animals. We have thirty cats. At last count. So my sister is always on her way back from Petco with a ton of cat litter when I pick up the phone. And the key: I’ll gladly give him the credit card number — if he can just hold on till she gets back.

Don’t worry, shouldn’t be more than five minutes. I wish I could help. I mean, I think I remember the first four numbers, will that help? Five, four, six, six. It’s a Visa. Wait, Tom. Maybe that’s the Dollar Tree card. We shop there a lot, everything really is a dollar or less, almost. I’ll tell you what – I’ll look for the Visa card number while we’re talking – because I know it’s around here somewhere, in one of these drawers.

(Sound of drawers opening and closing.)

Of course, we don’t use Dollar Tree for our litter, just Petco, cause we use at least eight bags a week! Oh, wait, Tom, know what? It’s Thursday, so she might be a little late, because on Thursday’s she goes by the bakery to see what’s on the day-old shelf. We love Parker House rolls. Have you ever had a Parker House roll, Tom? Mmm, you should, they’re so good! We like to put them in the microwave with the butter already on.

Darn, I’m sorry, I know it’s around here somewhere, just hold on. Because we definitely need burial insurance — especially at the same price as veterans! My sister will be so excited. She tried to serve, but unfortunately there was a weight problem.

Wait, hold on, don’t go away – there’s something going on in the living room.

(Forty second pause – then, returning, breathless).  Really sorry, Tabatha and Fritz were really going at it. Do you have any…what’s your name again? Right, I’m sorry. Do you have any cats? They really have minds of their own!

Okay, I think I hear my sister’s car, hold on.

(Full two minutes – while I make another quick call.)

Sorry, Tom, false alarm. We live right next to a busy road, so sometimes I get confused. Also I don’t move so fast since I lost the leg to diabetes, and lately my emphysema’s acting up. Just one thing after another. That’s what we’re saving for, putting money away for a few more oxygen tanks. It’s pretty tough. But we all got problems. I’m sure you have relatives with medical problems, right, Tom?

Sorry, don’t mean to go on.  I just know that darn credit card’s around here somewhere…

I keep hoping that one of my heartbreaking tales — about my deaf-mute dad, or my quadriplegic wheelchair-bound self  (“Does the cruise ship have ramps?”) will result in a come-to-Brahma moment for some Tom, Dick or Sanjiv, that he’ll see his face in the computer screen, realize what a human piece of shit he is for trying to bilk me, throw down his headset, and storm out of the office,  vowing to never again take a job trying to wheedle money out of unsuspecting fools. But it never happens. Instead, the instant the Elizabeth Warren PAC offers him a signing bonus, he’s back dialing for dollars.

I confess, some of these miserable heartless bastards are so vile that I actually break off the calls before they do. But I try to never leave them without hope. Can they can leave their number so we can call them back? No? Well, then, please, do call again. And over the years of my public service work, many have. Only when I say I’ll give them my credit card info if they give me theirs do they disappear for good. Until one of them decides that half-wit’s sister has to be back from Petco by now. Just has to.

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