Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dishonest Telemarketers Present Peril for the Uninformed.

Today I chose to answer a call I received a from a number I didn't recognize. It turned out to be the annoying experience that can usually be, but for the uninformed it could spell disaster.

The number showed up in my caller ID as 1-850-386-1643.

Generally, my policy is to hang up on any pre-recorded spiel simply out of the principle that my time is as valuable as anyone's, so if you want to speak to me do not lay out a computer generated hook then place me on hold until you've got an agent available. Today I broke that policy because like most folks who have lives that involve more than answering calls trying to get me to buy vinyl siding, I'm on the National Do Not Call List and they said right away that they were calling about my credit cards. Since I've long since abandoned using credit cards other than an Amex we've had since 1984, I was really curious to speak to someone and find out where they got my number.

The agent who answered launched into his speech; at his first breath I asked "Where did you get my number?". He gave me the scripted answer, mentioning all the big name credit cards, telling me how much my credit card company appreciated me making all my payments on time and how they wanted this company to help me get lower rates.

The next time I worded the question slightly differently. "Which company gave you my number?" was answered with the same scripted response, words varying only slightly, referencing all the major credit card names and how much my creditor thinks of my great payment history and how it wants to save me money.

This time I varied my response a little too. "Sir, I have no problems paying my bills, so if I wanted my credit card rate lowered I would call the company myself. I am on the National Do Not Call List. I'm asking you again, which company gave you my number?" to which the guy on the other end started SHOUTING that not everyone was out to get me and that I shouldn't be so paranoid. Then he hung up on me!

I guess I should tell you how I work in a field that requires me to be ultra-polite to many, many folks in a day. It is also a profession where a number of those folks can be in the middle of being inconvenienced in a big way and who are being anything but nice to me. Most of the time my colleagues and I keep our heads, reminding ourselves that regardless of what the person in front of us is saying or doing that it's a temporary situation and there's no need to let them cause us a meltdown similar to what they're having. So I probably shouldn't be as entertained by the fact that my simple, calm, politely presented questions to some wannabe identity thief caused him a meltdown, but I am.

What I also am, though, is sad for anyone who is in a situation where they might be sucked in by these scammers. Educate your parents. Educate your children. Educate anyone who might fall victim to them.

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