Scam calls getting more frequent and less fun

LANE: My newest hero!
Thank you Mark.
laughter is the best medicine to end the day.

Mark Lane News Journalist
Scam calls getting more frequent and less fun
We need a better class of phone scammers.
They used to try harder. They used to pride themselves on adding the small personal touches that give a come-on some believability, a little verisimilitude.
These days it’s strictly a volume-based business. No attempts at boiler-room sales patter. None of the old con-man charm. Standards aren’t what they used to be.
I got a call from a Jamaican-based call center last week in which the guy cursed and hung up on me within no more than a minute and a half.
This was disappointing and, I felt, unprofessional of him. I’m used to being able to string along a scam caller for at least five minutes with false enthusiasm (“I must be one lucky guy to have won a cruise like that!”), unreasonable demands (“Could you leave the money I’ve won in a grocery bag by my front door? My religion demands I operate on a cash-only basis”) and questions to steer the caller off-message (I am a professional, after all).
A friend of mine with a most sincere telephone voice once offered to pray with a student-loan debt scammer. “I want to talk to you about your immortal soul. You must feel horrible doing this to people day after day,” she said before he hung up with her.
Like her, I feel I’ve kind of won when they hang up on me rather than vice versa.
An effective scam appeals either to greed or fear. I am a generally sunny and optimistic person despite critical claims to the contrary, so I respond more readily to greed than to fear.
Appeals to fear hack me off. You should hear me at election time.
And lately, the scam cell phone calls have gone from entirely greed-based to primarily fear-based. From fake winnings to fake prosecution. Instead of “you may already be a winner,” it’s “you may already be a felon.” I see this as a troubling cultural indicator.
Lately, my wife has been getting repetitive calls claiming that we are tax criminals and police are heading to our house at this moment to haul us away in handcuffs unless we call back this instant and arrange easy payment terms.
The script was written by somebody with a shaky and secondhand knowledge of English as it is spoken. But what was offensive was the fact that it wasn’t even a person talking. It wasn’t even a recording of a person talking. It was crude, computer-generated speech.
Robo speech in a robo call. So impersonal.
And here, I should be very plain: If you get a call from someone identifying themselves as the U.S. Internal Revenue Service — or more hilariously, simply “the government” — who wants fast payment over the phone, this is always a scam and an old one at that.
The same goes for warnings that you must pay fines right this minute now for failing to show up for jury duty.
Bonus hint: An agency of the federal government is unlikely to refer to its enforcement arm as “the cops.”
Language use, it matters. The scammers could be ever so much more effective if they’d only hire copy editors.
These calls are common enough that sheriff’s departments and the IRS are forever warning people not to respond to them. And with April being tax-deadline month, a lot more people are receiving them right now.
Which suggests I’m getting these calls because everyone else is getting them and not, as I’ve long suspected, because I’m on a special suckers list. Which is reassuring in its own way.
Thank you Mark.
laughter is the best medicine to end the day.