Scam callers are where I find joy in life.
Wait, that sounds deeply tragic. Let me be clear that they aren’t the source of all happiness, but they do bring just a little jolt of occasional rapture, a surprise hit of delight.
If a scammer calls me, I make a point of wasting as much of their time as humanly possible, until ultimately they give in and hang up on me. I have turned breaking the spirit of scam callers into an art form – my personal Sistine Chapel moment came when one scammer (who shall remain nameless… because I don’t think he was really called ‘Mike’) started hurling abuse at me for wasting his time.
It feels like social justice to irritate, confuse, and generally fuck with those who trick people out of their hard-earned money. I don’t really protest, or sit-in, or campaign, so I guess this is my version of making a difference.
The most common scam is the one where a guy rings from a major phone company and warns the internet in the house has been hacked. If you just follow his instructions and do some stuff on your computer, he will fix it in a jiffy, but if you don’t your internet will be cut off.
In response to this the tactics I use are endless, but some I have previously enjoyed include:
- Pretending to be a tween who needs everything said slowly.
- Pretending to be an aging woman who needs everything said loudly. And also slowly.
- Attempting to engage in a series of existential questions about the nature of the internet.
- Putting them on hold every 30 seconds to deal with a fictional, unruly toddler.
- Claiming my laptop is so old it takes 10 minutes to turn on and asking them to wait.
- Desperately worrying that the phone will cut out because of a phone line issue I’ve been having and asking for a number I can call them on if that happens (actually worked once).
- Getting them to take me through every phase of what they want me to do repeatedly while, and constantly.
Ultimately, if I wind up into enough of a rambling monologue it usually ends things, but today… today I finally met my match. The scam caller broke me. Let's call this guy Larry.
After several minutes of claiming my computer screen kept going black every time I followed his instructions (I was actually cleaning up post lunch, then boiling the kettle), I could feel Larry's frustration brewing.
I thought I had Larry on the ropes, that a hang up was moments away. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Below is the faithfully recorded transcript (typed immediately after) of what happened next.
LARRY: Are you stupid or something?
ME: I am not the stupid one, dude.
L: Do you think you’re stupid or I’m stupid?
M: I think you’re stupid.
L: You think I’m stupid?
M: Yes. Because you are sustaining this well past what I would imagine you should. Statistically, if you have any chance of scamming someone you have to move on to the next number, right?
L: I am the stupid one?
M: And a scammer. I have had a great time making a cup of tea while we talked, but it’s brewed now--
L: Why do you think I’m a scammer?
M: Let me amend that, I am also stupid. We are both stupid, as is the fact this conversation is still going. I have a tea that needs drinking.
L: Just to be clear, you think I’m stupid.
M: How do you imagine I believe the internet works? Magically? Through a laptop? Why would I fix the internet in a home through a laptop? A laptop hooks into the internet, it isn’t the internet. I’m fairly certain. In addition, these companies don’t call and ask you to type stuff in, and you opened this entire call wrong anyway, I think you need to work on the opening spiel because it’s not really how it happens, and I’d think you’d have this down by now. At the start of the call—
(Larry lets out an extended sigh – I think I’m finally about to break him)
M: Oh, I’m sorry, am I wasting your time? How awful for you.
L: Hey, my god.
M: Almost makes you want to hang up, huh?
L: Notice, I say, “Hey” not “Oh”.
M: I did notice. What’s the difference?
L: “Oh” is like an exclamation. Like you’re shocked.
M: And what does “hey” mean in the place of “oh” in that context?
L: It’s more just like regular. Like hey (pauses for emphasis) my god.
M: Sort of like ‘Hey, my god, why did I have to call this number and get this nutty lady on the phone?’
L: Sort of, yeah. But this isn’t a scam.
M: Tell you what, if you’re from Telstra, as you claim, give me the Telstra number to call you back on.
L: I will give it to you.
M: Great. Shoot.
L: May I ask, am I speaking to XX XXX?
M: I’m not really interested in giving you a name. Just like you are clearly incapable of giving me an actual Telstra number that will go through to you. Give me a number and I will believe this is not a scam.
L: I will give you a number.
M: Excellent. Hit me – what’s the number?
L: Where do you live?
M: Don’t you already know that? Isn’t that information in front of you right now? Where do you live?
L: I am based where you live. The same city and country.
M: And where is that?
L: Melbourne, Australia.
M: Ha! Good for you, that’s not where I am.
L: Yes, it is.
M: No, and I feel quite confident on that fact.
L: You live at XX XXXXX Street, in the city of XXXX (all you need to know is he was out by a state and a suburb… and a street pronunciation).
M: You are incorrect. That’s not where I am.
L: Yes it is. I am outside your door right now. Stick your head out your window, you will see me.
M: I don’t understand, in this version am I currently in a block of flats? Will I look down and see you, or out and see you?
L: If you look outside and see a man on your street, that is me.
M: Nope. I won’t. I won’t see anyone.
L: And there is my van on the street as well. It’s the… blue-black one.
M: Dude, this conversation is a little creepy now. Why do you need a van? What is the van for? Also, I am not even there.
L: Go on, wave.
M: I’m waving, can you see me?
L: Yes. Oh my god, you are very beautiful.
M: Ha – liar!
L: I am not lying.
M: Dude, on so many levels.
L: How old are you?
M: Why would I tell you that?
L: Are you over 70, or under 30? If you are underage I am very sorry.
M: So am I. And I have no reason to tell you my age. Isn’t that on your file?
L: I ask because you have a very smooth voice.
M: Thank you. I have been told I have a voice for radio actually. And a face for it too.
(He chuckles – holy crap – he is not hanging up – is he enjoying this???)
M: Dude, why are you sticking with this conversation. Try another number, seriously, play the odds.
L: You still think this is a scam?
M: Yes. You didn’t even claim this call was being recorded for quality purposes. Is this call being recorded for quality purposes?
L: Yes, and training purposes.
M: Great. Well you can train people how to deal with irritating ladies then. You must be glad you have this all on tape.
L: Can I ask you a question?
M: (Defeated) Sure. Why not?
L: Are you married?
M: Why would I answer that? That’s a really weirdly personal question. Are you married?
L: I don’t find that too personal. I’m not.
M: I don’t understand why we’re still talking. You should call someone else, I have a cup of tea waiting.
L: Will you meet up with me tonight in Melbourne?
M: No. Hard no.
L: Let me give you a treat, please. Meet up with me in the city tonight and I’ll buy you a cup of tea.
M: I want to tell you straight out the gate that offering to buy a girl a treat makes it sound like you’re talking to a puppy. Don’t do that, for the purposes of your seduction game – offering a girl a treat is creepy.
L: Oh, okay.
M: Now this has been entertaining, then weird, but you’ve broken me. I have to go.
The call lasted 11 minutes and 16 seconds.