I like to think I’m usually pleasant to unknown callers. I fondly imagine I treat people with due courtesy when I answer a call from a number I don’t recognize from my caller ID. I have, however, had an illuminating couple of days and have discovered that I can be a total shrew. And get a large degree of satisfaction out of the exchange.
A few days ago I innocently answered a call from a number I didn’t recognize. The voice on the other end of the conversation had a distinctive accent, heavy enough that I had to ask the caller to repeat himself more than once. Eventually I learned he was calling himself Daniel and purported to be a representative of the U. S. Treasury, specifically the IRS. He wanted to discuss the delinquent amount I owed the government. Knowing that I didn’t owe those folks at the treasury anything and the IRS doesn’t make phone calls out of the blue, I was certain this was the well-known confidence game often aimed at older, single people who might be easily conned. I quickly hung up and went on about my day. In a very few minutes the call was repeated. I answered, said I wasn’t interested in continuing the conversation, and disconnected again. The calls went on, at half-hour to forty-five minute intervals, for most of the day. I didn’t bother to answer them.
Late in the afternoon, I noticed I had a voice mail message waiting. I checked it. It was a message from the spurious IRS representative Daniel. He’d left a statement to the effect that if I didn’t return his call within fifteen minutes, there would be Federal Marshals at my door with a warrant. Enough already! Nuisance calls are one thing, open threats are something else.
I grabbed the car keys and my cell phone with the offensive voice mail and drove over to the sheriff’s office. The nice deputy–sweet boy, I’ve known him since he was in my seventh grade class and he still remembers when I kept him in for writing notes to the girl two rows over–listened, sympathized, said all the comforting things he could think of, but assured me there was nothing the sheriff’s office could do. These scam artists are out of the country and untouchable by local law enforcement. He suggested I call my carrier and have the number blocked.
Good thought, I suppose, except my phone carrier explained, with great patience, that the company really couldn’t do that. These slimy creeps switch phone numbers like my granddaughter changes nail polish–daily. The best the phone company could offer was putting my number on a national “Do Not Call” list, which might help with telemarketers, but probably not with the scammers.
Surely, I told myself, someone in law enforcement can do something. This nonsense has to be illegal. So I called the Attorney General’s office and spoke with a lovely lady named Katherine in consumer affairs. She, too, was sympathetic and understanding and totally without a means of stopping the harassment and threats. Her suggestion was simply not to answer the phone. I could have my number changed, of course, she added as an afterthought.
Since the caller claimed to be a representative of the IRS, I thought perhaps that agency would be interested and possibly have a suggestion. No, indeed, they were aware of what the con artists were doing but believed they were operating from outside the country and were beyond reach. In the final analysis, these crooks specialize in hounding and intimidating older people, conning them into giving credit card numbers to pay for tax arrears that are fraudulent, and can not be stopped by any agency.
By the time I heard the eleventeenth version of why no one can do anything, I realized there was no resource or conventional solution that would stop the threats or obnoxious calls. The only thing I could think of that might work would be to convince Daniel and his cohorts that I was not intimidated, not a likely target, and not going to pay them a single silver farthing. So the last time I heard from Daniel the conversation went something like this:
Me: I will not talk to you but you are going to hear a few words from me. You are an unmitigated crook, a scam artist, and a punk. I hope your mother doesn’t know what you’re doing with the life she gave you. You disgrace her. This thing you are doing may intimidate some people, but I am not one of them. Go to hell.
Not the polite and well-behaved model of propriety I was raised to be, I’ll admit. But oddly enough, Daniel and his friends haven’t called back.
The point of this rambling, other than venting my ire, is to share with others that this enterprising group is out there and apparently there is no agency capable of putting them out of business. The only thing that seems to stop them is to convince them there is no hope of wringing money out of their intended victim. Be loud, be firm, be as disrespectful and hostile as possible. If they sense any glimmer of fear or trepidation, they’ll continue to pound at the gate. Only when the game isn’t worthwhile will they desist. Of course, they will then go on to the next number on the list and pursue another possibility. Warn your mothers, grandmothers, uncles, neighbors, anyone who might be coerced, because these jackals have no conscience.