No act of telephone deviancy is more heinous than the dreaded telemarketing scam. What starts as a pleasant call from a Phoenix area code can quickly devolve into a hostile exchange — leaving you confused, angry and desperate for answers.
I myself lost an entire year of my life to a telemarketing scam. This all started last May, during my morning commute to work.
I was turning off Sunrise Highway, steering with one hand while fluffing my morning coif with the other, when I received a call from an unfamiliar 12-digit number. I answered via Bluetooth (the very height of luxury), and a young woman excitedly informed me that I’d won a free Disney Cruise to the Bahamas. All I had to do was provide my credit card information, social security number and dental records. Like any sensible man, I pulled over and did exactly that.
Only, once I arrived at the cruise ship on the date of departure, I was shoved into an alleyway by two broad-shouldered men wearing telephone headsets. They forced me to empty my pockets at leadpipe-point, then struck me over the head with that same leadpipe. Thank God my assailants dumped my unconscious body aboard the Disney Cruise ship and not the Hudson River.
The cranial blow left me with temporary amnesia. And so I spent the last 11 months at sea, making a living as a short-order cook on the Disney Magic Cruise Line. Cooking Lilo and Stitch themed frittatas, painstakingly preparing Beauty and the Beast edible candelabras. I took a lover who oversaw bungee operations at the Mustafa’s Plunge attraction. I befriended Donald Duck and became vegetarian.
It was a simple life but I was content. Until I received a phone call from another unknown number. The caller demanded I return to domestic waters, informing me that I was married and employed. I learned my boss was absolutely livid that I had missed the last 11 months of work. And that my wife had spent the last year happy as a clam — it turned out she was cool with either my returning home or my staying at sea. What a gal!
What follows are some of the most recent, widespread scams on the market. Do not be fooled by these cheap hoaxes, and keep yourself informed. Remember, it only takes one assurance of free timeshares to ruin your entire life.
5. “Say Yes”
This scam has been making the rounds as of late. Here you’ll get a call from a stranger asking “Can you hear me?”or “Are you there?” If you reply “Yes” you’re in deep trouble. Because scammers will record your verbal affirmation, and use your voice to authorize unwanted charges — anything from a credit card payment to annual subscriptions to Teen Vogue. It’s best to breathe heavily and not say a word when these scammers call. That way they’ll only use your panting to make unwanted purchases to Aeropostale outlet stores.
4. “Say Rhubarb”
An older variation of the “Say Yes” scam, this one starts with a 1920s flapper phoning you on a person-to-person call. “Fella, I got a heap of pies coming my way,” the dame will say, “just utter the word ‘Rhubarb’ and I’ll make sure one of them is shipped to you tout de suite.” Do not say Rhubarb. If you do, you’ll be flagged as a dangerous and active serial killer. Because the caller in this scam is actually a desperate detective looking to pin as many as 40 unsolved murders on an unsuspecting rube. By saying the word “Rhubarb”, you’ll be arrested as the notorious Rhubarb Killer, wanted since 1923 for connection in a string of nightclub fatalities using rhubarbs, rutabagas and the like.
3. “We Have The Results of Your Blood Test”
If you’ve ever gotten your bloodwork done after a routine checkup, there’s no doubt you’ve received this gem. Here, you’ll receive a call from your “general practitioner’s” office asking you to make an appointment to review the “troubling” results of your blood test. Hang up the phone. Do not go to the doctor’s office. This classic trick is a quick way for you to lose $20 in meaningless visit copay. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Eating what you want. Drinking. Smoking. There’s literally no indication that anything is wrong.
2. “Your Father’s Been In A Terrible Rollerblading Accident”
Today’s modern society features many advancements that make day-to-day life easier. Advancements such as the baby wipe, Rogaine, or the private browsing window. Unfortunately technology has also created a sophisticated detection system that monitors our search engine results for financial gain. Case in point: After my father left for Florida at the first sign of sleet last fall, I’ve received no less that 30 voicemails from a Pensacola area code informing me of my father’s terrible near-fatal rollerblading accident. A scam I’m wise to, since these telemarketers obviously knew that I’d Google searched “How to sabotage my own father’s rollerblades so I inherit the Henne millions.”
1. “This is Your Wife, Susan. I Have a Flat Tire, You Have to Help Me. This Isn’t a Telemarketing Scam, David.”
I got this gem of a line just last Friday evening, as I was waiting for my wife Susan to arrive home for our Friday Night Latke Fryup. In this scam, the caller is seductively made to sound like your wife through sophisticated audio advances. The caller will be noticeably upset as she begs you to rush out to your car and drive to Exit 19S on the Southern State Parkway to deliver roadside assistance. I’m not sure what the endgame is here, but don’t fall for it. It’s most likely a phishing scam to get you to say “Oh sure, honey. I’ll be right there. I love you pumpkin.” That way, telemarketers can record your response and purchase such goods as honey, pumpkins and the steeply priced I’ll Be Right There — which I believe is a popular new sneaker by Adidas.
By the way, if anyone knows where Susan is, please, call me. Doesn’t matter if you call from a private, unknown or out-of-state number. I’ll answer. You’re likely to have the best success between the hours of 5-7 p.m., when I’m about to eat dinner alone, somberly exploring the many plausible options why my wife would leave without any notice.