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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • A Little Salt: Annoying a potential scammer

  • Want to annoy a potential scammer? Courier-Post columnist Danny Henley shares one way.
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  • It’s not hard to find someone willing to take what you have. And any more there seems to be a bumper crop of scammers with the charm necessary to convince you to GIVE them what you have.
    Periodically I receive calls at the Courier-Post from readers wanting to alert others about a scam that someone tried to pull on them. But I don’t have to be at work to hear about attempted schemes.
    Like many in Hannibal, my residence suffered storm damage on May 20. And like many we (specifically my wife, Nancy) have been dealing with insurance and contractors ever since.
    A few weeks ago we received a call from someone with an official-sounding title wanting to verify some insurance information. All they needed to complete the process was some information, like my Social Security number, to verify my account. My bride politely, yet firmly, said “no way.”
    A week or so ago Nancy fielded another phone call at home from an individual who expressed concern over the well-being of our computer.
    The man, who Nancy at times had trouble understanding because of his foreign accent, explained that our computer had picked up files that were making it run slowly. If we didn’t do something about it these files, which a standard virus protection program wouldn’t detect, could ultimately begin corrupting data on our computer.
    “I’m just calling to help you,” he purred, stressing that his “help” would be provided at no charge.
    But for him to “help” us, she would have to turn our computer on and complete a few key strokes, and he would walk her through that process. At that point he would deal with those troublesome files.
    “If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them,” he assured my wife.
    However, when Nancy began posing inquires, the individual became agitated.
    Even after 38 years of washing my dirty socks, Nancy can still tell when something stinks, and this was reeking.
    At that point my wife instituted a popular and at times successful sports strategy. Albeit unintentionally I suspect, Nancy initiated a “delay game” that ultimately drove the caller to a high degree of frustration.
    In games such as basketball and football, a delaying strategy is frequently initiated by the team that has the lead to lessen the amount of time the opponent has to make a comeback. When it comes to dealing with a would-be scammer, who likely made his money on the volume of computers he could gain access to, finding someone who did not immediately comply was taking money out of his pocket.    
    Page 2 of 2 - Since the start of their conversation, my bride had been taking an assortment of notes, writing down his name, location, phone number, and details regarding the files that had supposedly found their way onto our computer and what he was going to do. Because writing down such detailed information does not happen instantly, the caller found himself having to wait.
    “Why haven’t you turned your computer on yet,” he demanded to know. “All I want to do is help you.”
    As minutes passed, the individual became even more annoyed. Finally, the frustrated individual shouted, “You’re wasting my time!” and hung up.
    As soon as their conversation ended, Nancy placed a call to the Missouri Attorney General’s office and detailed what had happened. The individual she spoke to in Jefferson City confirmed that the low life Nancy had been speaking to was not legitimate and was only trying to gain access to our computer in order to steal personal information.
    We’ve all been frustrated by time lost to sales and political calls to our homes. I was proud of my wife whose “delay game” tactic wound up wasting a crook’s time.     
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