03 October 2014

Hold on a Minute

They say you always remember the first one. That would be a girl named Rachel. She was followed by Carmen and then a few more after her, but I don't remember all the names now. Wasn't really my fault they kept coming back for more. I tried to stop it all with a simple push of a button, but evidently that part of my phone no longer worked because they just kept right on calling, even when I asked to be taken off their phone lists.
Finally, after the last time Rachel called, I hit the phone button labeled with the number 1 and I immediately got put on HOLD. A pleasant female voice, obviously pre-recorded but not by Rachel, informed me I was Caller #22 and thanked me for holding. There was no background music while I waited, but I wasn't worried because I quickly moved up in priority to Caller #17, got thanked again for holding, then jumped to #12, always very polite, and before I knew it I was in single digits and a real person came on the line. Never did figure out what happened to all the numbers I got to skip over. Maybe this was a big business outfit with lots of operators to handle all these important phone calls. My girl Rachel must really be something special to work at this place.

Just as I was ready to actually connect with Rachel on a personal one-to-one basis, some guy who must've been her boyfriend came on the line. I knew it wasn't her brother because this guy had an accent from India. Oh sure, he was pleasant enough and spoke good English, but still, he had that very distinctive accent. I quickly learned he was from Card Member Services and was offering to help me get a lower rate on my credit card. Hey, who wouldn't appreciate paying less money every month to those greedy credit card companies?

Unfortunately, I probably won't be getting that lower rate he offered. Seems I failed to meet his expectations. Not sure where I went wrong. Had to be something I said since he soon asked to speak to my wife so he could explain everything to her.

I will admit things went downhill after I broke out in a laugh, accused him of being a scam artist and informed him (thank you Rob Lopresti) that as long as he was talking with me, this was time he wasn't able to con someone else. He emphatically denied being such a person and then asked for my mother so he could talk to her. Sadly, I explained that he would have to travel to Texas where she was buried. It must have been a bad day at the office or maybe he was merely feeling frustrated with his job, because he moved on to the more colorful aspects of the English language. By now, my wife who was listening from the other room started laughing herself.

He and I continued, with me laughing and having a great time, while he became more colorful with his adjectives. I wonder if the FCC is aware of this type of conduct on our telephone airways? I fear such rough language could offend the ears of some of our more sensitive citizens. As he started to repeat his apparently limited vocabulary, I asked for a phone number so I could call him back. He promptly found some new words he hadn't yet used in our conversation. As the ten minute mark approached, I changed tack and politely inquired if he could hold on to the line for a few more minutes while I got someone to trace the call. The line went quiet. Then it died. Guess that means I may not hear from Rachel again.

But hey, Carmen called again as I was busy writing this, so those girls are still out there. I was sorry I didn't have time to speak with Carmen right then when she called. Wonder if she too has a boyfriend with one of them foreign accents?

The very next day, to my surprise, I got a call from another gentleman with an accent from India. This time, it was direct, without any pre-recorded voice and without being put on HOLD for a Caller Countdown. I quickly determined this caller was not Rachel's boyfriend from the previous day. Nope, this fellow sounded more like the same guy I always get when I call for support on my hail-damaged computer or wandering software. I will say this gentleman was very polite and had great patience with me, even though we had a bad connection (probably not his fault) and a slight problem understanding each other (this could have been my fault). I chalked the latter up to the fact that I was conversing in American English which I understood perfectly, whereas he was speaking some form of India English, no doubt derived from the King's English some decades after India dropped out of the bottom of the British Empire. In any case, there appeared to be a slight language barrier as he had to constantly repeat his directions. I do commend his patience in this trying endeavor. Of course, there is always the possibility that I could be a slow learner and therefore none of the blame should be laid at his doorstep. He was merely attempting to help me out.

He quickly explained that he was from Windows and that hackers may have gotten into my computer. I thanked him profusely for his awareness. He instructed me to go to my computer (several times) where he would then show me if I had a problem. He then inquired (several times) if I were in front of my computer. Next, (several times) I was instructed to sit at my computer. Then, stupid me, I had trouble understanding if I were supposed to be on the internet during this process, or not. We finally determined it was not. Hey, what did I know? I'd never been through this harrowing process before.

Now, I was supposed to hit the Windows key and the "R" key. In case you don't know, this brings up the RUN screen. Next is to type in "event log" at which time he would ask if I saw any error messages. Naturally, the screen will show some errors because sooner or later every computer gets an error message, but this was supposed to prove that my computer had been hacked and infected with a Trojan virus. At which point, the helpful "guy from Windows" would have me type in a certain website to clean out the virus. He was doing such a good job that I hated to disappoint him, so in the interests of congeniality, I said "good one," laughed to show we'd had a good time together and hung up.

Obviously, these two gentlemen from India have not read Rob Lopresti's 950 word short story, "Shanks Holds the Line." Rob mentioned this story in one of his previous blogs, plus editor Linda Landrigan posted the story on AHMM's blog site a few months back.

For more on this scam subject, feel free to Google "Card Member Services" and/or "Windows key and R."

Oh, and if Rachel calls be sure to say hi for me.

Postscript~ I just got a call from Emma. Evidently she is busier than Rachel because I started out at Caller #33 while on Hold. When a live voice, a nice black girl named Ashley with an American accent, came on I inquired why I never got to talk with Rachel or Carmen. She said, "Who?" I explained they were the names on the pre-recorded tapes that called me. I must have confused her because she went into a long rambling explanation before finally hanging up on me.

Oh Rachel, where art thou?


  1. Delightful.....and unfortunately, altogether believable.

  2. lol.

    Rachel still calls me, although I refused her card service. Once I called back and asked to speak to her but who ever the guy was that answered the phone hung up. I haven't heard from any of those other women.

    On Wednesday, I think I must have gotten a call from the same guy about fixing errors on my computer. No matter how many times I told him I hadn't used my PC for a month, he stuck to his script about those errors. He never did answer my question about how he knew my computer had errors. Finally, after about 30 minutes, I told him I use a Mac. He said "oh" and hung up.

  3. This was great, R.T.

    A few months ago, I got a call from my “bank” in which the caller explained that my debit card might have been compromised when I had used it at Target. To be sure she was speaking with the right person (for security reasons, she said), the caller asked for my name, debit card number, PIN and mother’s maiden name. Concerned this might be a scam, I said I couldn’t do so. She promptly assured me this was no problem, and provided the phone number of “card member services” so I could call them, and be sure I was speaking to my bank, instead of a scam artist.

    When I dialed the number, which (for some reason was quite different than the one listed at my bank’s online site) I was surprised to find the phone answered by a voice so similar to my original caller’s (they must be TWINS!). Knowing I was now speaking with my ‘bank’ I happily gave her all of the information she requested. She confirmed that I had given her the right card number (which I found oddly close to the non-emergency phone number for the Scottsdale Police Department), my correct PIN (1234: Leigh will tell you this is the BEST PIN!), and she finally confirmed that “Yes,” I had provided my mother’s correct maiden name, after which she repeated it back to me, even spelling it: “Ima Rotinhell: I-M-A R-O-T-I-N-H-E-L-L”. After hanging up, I wondered if any members of my local police department might have had a card compromised at Target, so I emailed them with the phone number I had called, so they could call card member services, or maybe refer this number to some other member of law enforcement who might need to make that call. I did the same thing for my bank’s employees.

  4. An amusing- and all too timely column!
    I've sometimes been tempted to start boring crank and solicitation and scam callers with my latest plot problems.

  5. Nice to hear that others are also playing with these scam artists.

    Louis, you got me beat. I haven't been able to keep any of the scammers on the phone for more than ten minutes. Keep up the good work.

    Dix, your ploy was great. I see I need to step up my game a few more notches.

  6. I usually just hang up on scammers, but when I'm in a playful mood, I like to tell them that I only accept calls from Jupiter.

  7. A few months back my e-mail was hacked and all of my contacts got messages that I was stranded in the Ukraine. Most of them ignored it, of course. But my son responded telling the hackers he would send the money, but they would have to pay a transfer charge. They bit--for awhile--telling him they had no money and directed him to send money to Western Union. He told them he was catching the next plane to the Ukraine and would bring the medication I needed for rectal bleeding. That ended the correspondence.

    I don't recommend this, but it was good for a laugh.

  8. As usual, you can turn a pain in the neck into an absolutely delightful post, RT!

  9. Ah RT, if only we could cross-connect the Man from Windows with the toaster oven tech support, we could make a movie1

  10. I'm a little late to the party here, but thanks for the great post, R.T., and for fighting the good fight. And, of course, for plugging my story. If anyone hasn't read it you can find it here http://trace-evidence.net/2014/05/05/shanks-holds-the-line-by-robert-lopresti/ or in my new book, which I will write about here on October 15.

  11. Ah RT, if only we could cross-connect the Man from Windows with the toaster oven tech support, we could make a movie1

    THE MAN FROM WINDOWS: An engaging action/adventure/comedy in which mild-mannered but always stylish IT rep Hubie Melko -- long hailed as "The Geek from Chic" -- battles "shaggadelically evil malware" to save the free world's industrial computing system from being melted into digital toasters, winning the hand of plucky librarian Maude Lightfoot as he does so.


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