Caller ID spoofing (copy)

Telemarketing calls are catching up with cellphones.  File photo

Since it’s Labor Day and many of you have the day off, it seems like a good time to discuss the use of your time and energy in dealing with unwanted calls to your phones. I haven’t had a land line at my house since 2004. Initially, we took it out just to cut some costs. After all, we all had our own cell phones. Why did we even need a phone at the house?

When we first had it removed, the immediate benefit was not receiving so many unwanted calls every evening while watching "Jeopardy." Those days are gone, now, because the telemarketers have found us again. It took awhile, but the calls from scammers and spammers once more ring at the most inopportune times.

I understand we can register on a "Do Not Call" list, but I don’t believe many of those who call pay much attention to it. My phone often alerts me that such a call is "Scam Likely," and most often, I don’t answer.

For the longest time, if I didn’t recognize the number, I just didn’t pick up the call. But to tell you the truth, I’m not sure that serves as much of a deterrent. The computer just tells itself to call again, later.

Hello, anybody there?

I read recently that people who make these calls know there’s a 96 percent chance of being rebuffed. They’re prepared for rejection, but also have a script for any response you might provide.

If you say, “I don’t have time for this today,” the pitch person hears, “I will buy this another day.”

Unless you use a hard "no," there’s an opportunity for a call back. In addition, if you just hang up, it often means you’ll definitely get another call at another time. The caller can be persistent, create a sense of urgency and even threaten that if you “..don’t act now, you’ll miss out.”

We’re told to avoid providing personal information: no Social Security number, no credit card numbers, etc.

We’re also advised not to engage with the caller, because that creates a level of interest that prompts these people to move in for the kill.

This is where I recently decided to part with conventional wisdom.

I won what?

On a recent early afternoon, I received a call from an excited gentlemen informing me that my cell number had been randomly selected to received a large sum of money from the New York State Lottery. I calmly asked how much and he breathlessly indicated it was $2.1 million.

It was then that I decided to see how long the two of us could keep talking.

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I would talk and then I would stall. I told him to hold on while I retrieved pen and paper. A few minutes later, I indicated I needed to retrieve my wallet from another room. He patiently held on, and after a period of time, I’d return to continue our conversation.

Eventually, he told me that in order to release the $2.1 million to me, it would be necessary for me to first send $750.

The conversation, though still somewhat civil, took a bit of turn. He couldn’t understand why I wasn’t more excited at my good fortune. I took a different tact and told him I had a better idea.

Since we were such trusting souls at this point, why didn’t they just send me the $2.1 million, and then I’d be so grateful, I’d immediately forward them the necessary $750. “Oh, sir, we can’t do that,” he said as I could hear him shuffling through his proper response script.

I then got my two cents in about preying on decent, unsuspecting folks and how do people like you sleep at night, that kind of stuff. I even overheard his supervisor tell him to cut me loose, to end the call.

When we were done, I realized I had kept him on the phone for more than twenty minutes. I didn’t get any money, but I felt like this time, I had won. Sometimes, you just have to find your victories where you can.

I haven’t had another call since. Can you hear me now?

Reach Warren at peperwarren@gmail.com

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