I’m a nice person—mostly. Ask anyone who knows me. Except my family. Don’t ask them. But most people would say I’m fairly agreeable on most days.
But if you were to catch up with Phone Scam Sam and Fraud Call Frannie between phone calls at the scam factory, they’d tell you that I’m irritable and mean spirited. And they’d be right.
I blame them. I once answered all my phone calls politely and when I got one that sounded questionable, I’d say “She’s not home. Can I take a message,” as though I were one of the children or the housekeeper. I knew it was deceitful. Anyone looking at our house would know we don’t have a housekeeper. But at least I was courteous.
And then one day, I answered my phone respectfully as usual, but when a women’s voice mentioned my credit card, I snapped. I screamed into the phone, “Stop calling me!” It was a recording.
Still, it was oddly satisfying. The next time my phone rang, I didn’t even wait for “hello,” I told the caller to get a real job. It was my husband. I’m joking. It was a scammer. And I would never be the same.
A few days later, I asked a caller if his mother knew what he did for a living. I told another that I’d give her my credit card number if she’d give me hers first. I held the phone away from my ear during one call and, in a load whisper, said to the empty room, “I’ll keep him on the line while you trace the call.”
One day, I even called a scam number back. When a real person answered, I stayed quiet while he said, “Hello, hello.” Then I did it again—six times. To their credit, each time, someone answered in that polite way you do when you want to bilk someone out of their life savings.
It was rude and I’m not proud of it. But I’m not the only one who behaves badly in the face of bad behavior. A friend told me that when a spam caller asked for her husband, she said he’d died recently and would therefore be unable to come to the phone. Meanwhile her healthy husband stood nearby listening to her side of the conversation and wondering if he should be worried.
Another friend told me that when someone claiming to be her grandson called asking for bail money, she said, “Is that you Michael?” The caller said, “Yes” and she said, “That’s odd. My grandson’s name isn’t Michael.”
I haven’t gotten the fake grandchild call yet. It’s a common scam though, so I’m rehearsing. I plan to tell my fake grandchild, “I’m sick and tired of bailing you out. You’re on your own this time. And you’re out of the will too!”
The experts say that you should hang up quickly when you realize it’s a scammer calling. Do not engage. But I’m no expert.
They advise you to put your name on the Do Not Call Registry, which does stop calls from legitimate organizations you don’t want to hear from. But I figure anyone who makes a career of grand theft won’t be deterred by a little law forbidding calls to numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.
Still, you should listen to the experts. Don’t behave like I have. I feel bad that I’ve let robo robbers and cuckoo callers bring out the worst in me—and confirm that my number works. But I can’t stop myself.
Today I answered a call from a scammer, held my phone next to the wall, and started knocking and saying in a mournful voice, “Let me out. Let me out.” I could hear the scammer saying, “Hello… ma’am…hello.” I was enjoying myself immensely until a coworker walked into my office and asked if I was okay. No, probably not.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of the humor book, I Didn’t Know You Could Make Birthday Cake from Scratch: Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Screaming at robocalls can be comforting