Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Scamming the Scammers

I’ve been getting some strange phone calls recently. At about 6 in the evening, almost to the minute, the phone rings and I find myself talking to somebody I don’t know. It’s clearly originating from a call centre somewhere in India, where many companies have outsourced their customer operations. This isn’t the strange bit; I get loads of annoying phone calls trying to sell me things I don’t want or need.

What’s weird is that the operator insists on pretending that he’s got a western name. Though their English is perfect, it’s so heavily accented that I flatly refuse to believe that I’m talking to someone called, Gareth, Simon, Steven or Darren. Why are they doing it? Is Britain so populated with wankers, that we refuse to deal with anyone called, Ishaan, Suraj or Satvinder? Perhaps it’s just a mistaken attempt at establishing a rapport, but where does that end? I have visions of poor buggers in Bangalore receiving ‘Coronation Street’ training, forced to memorise massive diagrams of the complex family trees to be found in Weatherfield.

“Yes, Aisha, you’ve done very well on the exam. You only got one wrong. It was a tram that killed Alan Bradley.”

I had it out with the guy who called yesterday. I stayed on the phone with him for a couple of minutes.

“Hello, Sir, my name is Patrick and I’m calling you from…”

“You’re not called Patrick.”


“You’re not called Patrick.”

“Yes I am.”

“Why did your parents call you Patrick, if you live in India?”

I was hoping he’d done a bit of prep and would bullshit me that his dad was a big fan of The Prisoner, but he just carried on insisting that he was really called Patrick. I know it wasn’t his fault, just obeying orders and all that, but it does demonstrate the sort of contempt that these companies have, both for us and the people who work for them.

When someone’s trying to rip me off, I prefer them to do it by good old fashioned email. I’ve been getting the 419 scam emails for years now. These are the ones that imbue me with a feeling that I’m a very important person, because the Finaunce Minster (sic) from the Ivory Coast has took a bit of time out of his day to try and improve my life. The ‘419’ refers to the part of the Nigerian penal code that this particular scam contravenes.

I often wonder how anyone working for the government in a small African country manages to get anything done these days. Can you imagine actually being the Finance Minister for the Ivory Coast? Hardly anyone replies to your emails and when they do, it’s to accuse you of being a heartless charlatan.

Every now and again, I reply to one of the emails, just for the crack. A whole internet community has built up around this. Just have a quick look at to get an idea of the lengths people go to, to take the mickey out of the scammers. It’s seizing a bit of the power back from them and the logic dictates that the longer they’re messing a scammer about, the less time the scammer has to dupe the more gullible people in society.

The best fun I had with one was a couple of years ago, when I received a heartfelt plea from a low level civil servant in Burundi. Somehow he’d managed to lay his hands on $43 million dollars. It was burning a hole in his little pocket and he was determined that I should have a chunk of it.

I informed him that his email had arrived in the nick of time. As the Managing Director of a feather duster factory in Merseyside, I was having a hard time of it. I’d just had a huge tax bill and was experiencing some cashflow problems. I quickly supplied my details to him and urged him to act quickly, as I really needed the $8 million he was promising.

He soon got back to me. Apparently, the account details I’d supplied weren’t working and I must have made a mistake.

As a show of good faith, I then emailed him a picture of myself and let him know that, as I now considered him to be a friend, he could stop calling me Mr Dodd and use my nickname, ‘Doddy’.

In the next email, he described me as a very handsome man, who he was sure would spend the money wisely. I informed him that I intended to invest heavily in the Jam Butty Mines in Knotty Ash. Unfortunately, Ken Dodd’s ubiquity was my undoing. Someone in Bujumbura must have seen a Royal Variety Performance and let my scammer know he was having the piss taken.

With no sense of irony or shame, I received a terse, final email from my new Burundian friend. I was ‘a man widout no moral, and you waste a god fearing man’s time. Please think about your action.’

No comments:

Post a Comment