Telephone con artists

                                          

“Congratulations you’ve won an Android device!” said the guy on the other end of my mobile whose name was Jack, “so long as I can confirm that the details you’ve given me in the recent competition you entered online are all correct” he continued.  

“Wow”, I said, “thanks that’s great. What details are you referring to?”

[A little bit of small talk with the smooth talker on the other end of the phone ensued]

“Can I confirm your name?  And your address?  We need to know where to deliver the device…  And one of our consultants would be happy to speak to you about debt reduction/early retirement or increasing your wealth” he said.

“Well, you already know my name and have my address” I continued.  

“Sure” Jack went on and confirmed these.  Then, ” what time can our consultant come around to see you?  Are you free this week for us to come around and deliver your Android device?”

Then, “We’d really like to speak to your partner as we’ll especially if their name is on the mortgage too.  Do you have a mortgage?  How much do you owe?  And how much is your house worth?  

I hesitated, not wanting to divulge too much personal information to a stranger.  An appointment was made for two days time at midday at my place.

The next day I got another call, this time from a different mobile number.  This guys name was Ben.  

Again, “Congratulations on your win and I’m just following up on yesterday’s call.  I just need to confirm that the details you gave are correct” and he went over my details again.  

This time, “Can you please tell me what your occupation is?  And your partners?  And where do you work? “. 

When I protested and said that it wasn’t necessary for me to divulge this information just to deliver an Android device or offer me general financial advice, Ben continued, “If I don’t ask you this information, I could lose my job” he said in an attempt to persuade me.  “And I need to make sure that there’s no conflict of interest” he went on as if he was an ethical person, “you know, I need to make sure that your partner doesn’t work in real estate… ”

I continued, “I don’t see that it’s necessary to spend all this time talking to you on the phone when your representative is coming to see me tomorrow at home.  It’s inconvenient for me to talk right now because I’m working and I’ve set aside time to talk about financial matters with you tomorrow”

“But it would save a lot of time if I got this information from you before our representative comes to see you tomorrow” Ben continued.  “I need to find out.  How much is your house worth?  And how much do you owe?  We need this information blah, blah, blah…”

Then it got ugly.  He became aggressive on the phone and I told him that I was cancelling the appointment and that a ‘free’ Android device was just not worth this much trouble.  I could hear him hang up in anger and disgust.  

I was stunned,  I googled the name of the company and as it happens, Google always offers search terms that follow on from the words you’re searching for and as the company name came up, so too did ‘ripoff’ and a link to a real estate journalists article about real estate scams just like the one I was about to be hoodwinked into.  Here’s the link (haven’t figured out how to do hyperlinks on WordPress yet sorry): http://www.yourinvestmentpropertymag.com.au/mistakes/the-dark-side-of-property-investing-141575.aspx 

I told everyone.  My coworkers, the family, the folks at the meeting I went to later tonight.  I couldn’t believe that I’d been so gullible. Stranger danger is no stranger when it’s attached to a ‘prize’.  I had a set of expectations in my mind that involved the words, “prize” and “financial advice” and even “choice”, but this was clearly not a shared vocabulary.  

Clearly there was no intention to deliver a prize (stop, I can hear you all groaning already, crying ‘how can she have  been so gullible’)?  

But it wasn’t guilt, or gullibility.  These guys are tapping into people’s greed.  It begins with the ‘prize’ and the warm feeling associated with a lucky win. I was OK with that.  Then it was going to progress to making a fast buck, but clearly I was not OK or even comfortable with the direction that the conversation was going.  

But what alarmed me was how easily these guys had slipped into my everyday world.  The phone calls came through mid morning and early afternoon, when I was sitting and working at my desk.  I wasn’t being held up in a dark alley, it was broad daylight and I was at work.  And I had believed them.  

I hated myself for my trusting nature at that point, but more than that i despised then for taking advantage of my trusting nature and attempting to dupe and coerce me.  

Be warned.

Photo credit: http://residentialsettlements.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/nigerian_rental_scam500.jpg

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