Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Persistent calls from India

I’ve been getting a lot of unsolicited phone calls lately, usually to the phone number belonging to my former company. The business has been closed for long enough that I feel free to mess with whomever calls on that number. My favorite opening, after I hear the telltale click of an automatic dialer plugging me into a call center, is to ask before they say anything, “Are you calling about the virus on my computer?”

Since most of the people calling me do, in fact, want to put viruses onto my computer, they usually know they’ve been had and they hang up right away. But today I got a couple of extremely persistent guys. The first one assured me immediately that he wasn’t calling about a virus.

“OK. What would you like to sell me?” I asked.

“Oh,” he said, “I don’t want to sell you anything.”

I interrupted, “So how can you make money if you don’t have anything to sell?”

He replied that he wanted to give me something for free, so I asked how his bosses could possibly pay him if he didn’t have something to sell.

He replied that he wanted me to have solar power and that it wouldn’t cost me anything.

I interrupted again, “OK, you’re not selling anything but you want to sell me free solar power.”

He kept trying to explain his “free” product to me and I kept interrupting with stupid questions and jumping to absurd conclusions. The guy wouldn’t give up. Finally I asked, “Don’t you understand that I’m messing with you? Most people would have hung up by now.” Unimpressed, he pressed on with his sales pitch. I finally thanked him very much and told him I’d have to be the one to hang up.

The other persistent caller really did want to try the “virus on your computer” scam. Undeterred by my sarcastic opening, he assured me that he was calling from Windows Technical Support and that they’d noticed on their servers vast amounts of traffic indicative of a highly-sophisticated morphological virus. Clearly reading from a script he didn’t know very well, he had a hard time spitting out those fancy words.

Ignoring the fact that what he said made no technological sense, I said, “If you’re going to sell me a virus, you’re going to have to practice your script. That didn’t go smoothly at all.”

“Oh no,” he rejoined, “I never said anything about a virus…”

I interrupted, reminding him what he’d just said about that highly-sophisticated morphological virus.

He pressed on, gushing over the urgency of solving this problem. “I know you have a high-quality antivirus program on your computer. This problem can’t be detected by antivirus software. We need to solve it right away.”

“OK,” I said. “Tell me your phone number and I’ll call you back.”

“You don’t have time to call me back,” he urged, “you need to log onto our website right away.”

We circled around those points a couple of times. I said I wouldn’t do anything unless he gave me his phone number so I could call him back and then we’d talk further. I figured that if he gave me a real phone number I could complain to the authorities, but he wasn’t that stupid. He made up a phone number starting with 800 but ending with too many digits. It was painful to hear him making up the sequence, struggling over each digit and then going too far. I told him that couldn’t be a real phone number so he repeated the same number, though smoothly this time.

Next I asked for his name. I couldn’t call him back without knowing his name. He said his name was William, but he couldn’t really pronounce it. Then he elaborated, “William Vincent.” Great. Now he’s a family member. I actually did try dialing the first seven digits of the number he gave me. Sadly, it didn’t get me to William so our little game is over.

I may not bother answering the phone at all tomorrow. Apparently that guy I messed with a few weeks ago really meant it when he said that he definitely would NOT add me to his do-not-call list.

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