Why I Might Be a Chump

I got one of those calls, a phishing thing I’d have learned a bit more about had I not toyed with the guy the way I did. He had a Middle Eastern accent, called twice (I think) from a local number. Claiming to be with Amazon. Claiming there was suspicious activity on my account and something over a thousand dollars was going to be charged against me for an IPhone unless I cancelled it. If I’d given him a chance, I believe he would have asked me for details about my bank account to “protect me.”

The first call I missed; it was local as I mentioned, and I called back. I got a voicemail acting as if it were associated with a dental business. I got another call and picked up. Different number, still (575), the Northern New Mexico area code.

I don’t know why; I was bored I guess. I thought I’d find out what the latest scam was. Automated voice, not at all convincing of any connection to a government agency (as was the pretense of such calls I’d received before) or in this case, a mega-corporation; “press two to be connected,” and I did. I haven’t had an Amazon related credit card in at least a few years, since declaring bankruptcy, and I cancelled my thirty-day trial of Prime membership at the end of October after enjoying the latest season of Goliath and maybe a couple of other things.

So I played around a little. I asked him why he was calling from a local number, since as far as I knew there was no Amazon call-center in Taos, New Mexico, population just under 6000; asked him what account he was talking about; he said it was my bank account so I asked for the last four digits of the card he meant. Sort of beat him to the punch in line of inquiry, and that actually pissed him off.

He told me with as stern a voice as he could muster that he was with Amazon cancellations, then some other things and I don’t know when I started laughing but I know at some point he said, “It’s funny, sir? You think this is funny? Well your bank account will be charged one thousand dollars, and then we’ll see how funny you think it is!”

The reason I think I may be a chump is because after taking the time to investigate this rampant phenomenon of elaborate grifts we’ve many of us been the targets of, all I could do was feel bad for the guy. I heard voices in the background, could tell it was a call center, so there are maybe dozens of folks like him in the same sweaty room, hoping to get somebody on the hook and win a little treat from the bigger crook in a back office, and it all seemed very sad to me. I worked in telephone research for a while; call centers are not fun. I started picturing this little guy in his little booth, using a mid-90s purchase headset with the foam wearing off, plastic corners underneath biting at his ears; with a Diet Coke and a dead bag of his country’s off-brand answer to Doritos spread out in front of him, trying to shake a few dollars loose from this Golden Age of the American Dream, and here I go out of my way to waste his time and call his racket out for what it is in the most obvious terms; even having a laugh at him while I’m doing it. For all I know he got slapped around by an eavesdropping superior after that because he wasn’t sure how to deal with me, then went home to fifteen kids and a desperate, hysterically unforgiving wife from his twelve to twenty-two hour shift exhausted, diminished and without the first hope in his heart for a better day, other than one not involving a call like mine.

Or maybe he is getting rich off of this shit, I don’t know; maybe I am a chump.


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