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good deeds

i'm not writing this to toot my own horn, but rather because i hope it inspires others to do the same as i.

many of you may have received calls from organisations claiming to be acting on behalf of microsoft, or claiming to be microsoft. these calls are, of course, a scam, designed to get you to to hand over not only your credit card and banking information, but also to trick you into downloading software that allows the spammers to access your computer and all the information on it. most people aren't going to fall for this crap and just hang up. i have a slightly different view however. i talk.

this isn't a tactic the everyone can employ, i grant you. one of the benefits of being able to manage my time more or less as i see fit is that i can make time for the little things, such as making sure that these creeps spend more time talking to me and less time talking to people who are less experienced, more nervous and more trusting with people when it comes to handling computer problems. most people aren't going to have the time to do this, but if you do, it's something that i would highly encourage.

i'll be honest, though. i'm not doing this just because i think it's a decent thing to do; i'm doing it because i enjoy it. with all the petty frustrations that one is forced to endure every day, a call from a scam artist is like a gift from god. isn't it just a nuisance, you say? absolutely not. every day we are forced to be nice to people who don't deserve it, who treat us with disrespect or outright contempt. our best ideas are dismissed, destroyed or stolen by people who are stupider, lazier and meaner than we have ever been. and every day, part of us dies a little, because there's nothing we can do about it.

then one day, we get a call from someone who offers us a window of opportunity, someone who truly deserves to be treated badly because they're doing a really shitty thing. a really illegal thing. don't fool yourself into thinking that these people are deceived as to the nature of their job- they aren't. start asking questions and you'll be amazed at how quickly they become irate and even insulting. most will try to shout you down to stop you from asking them for more information. but they're trying to sell you, which means they ultimately need your cooperation to do their job. if they can't get your cooperation, they need to get you off the phone as quickly as possible, because they need to keep fishing for victims. if you block them from achieving either of these aims, panic sets in.

i've had some success in this regard. if i can't get one of these guys to yell, really yell in anger, i consider the call a failure. one time i made one break down and cry. i've even had these people call back and leave cursing messages on my answering machine. and the more they hate, the better i feel. the more they show me that their day is ruined and that they will remember me for a long time, the more i am convinced that i am a good person. it's perverse, i know, but life is like that sometimes. cruel to be kind. or something.

here are a few of my favourite tactics:

"i don't understand". keep asking for an explanation, again and again. as long as they think there's a chance you could be conned, they're going to keep trying. try to make them explain how the minutiae of your computer transmission system works so that you can know how it's communicating with them. a variation on this is to relay everything they are saying to another person in the room [real or fictional] and then have the other person be the one asking the questions. this slows things down even more.

"paranoid privacy freak". get super-paranoid about who they are and what they're doing with your computer. demand they tell you who they're working for. tell them you're tracing the call. sound as menacing and nuts as you possibly can. spew whatever violent, non-sequitur thoughts come into your head. [note :: they will eventually hang up on you for this one. they're not entirely stupid.]

"it's not working". pretend to be going along with them, but be unable to find any of the controls they mention. my personal favourite is to pretend not to be able to find the 'start' button, listening to them get angry for a few minutes and then telling them that my operating system is in french. no matter what they tell me to do, i tell them i'm not seeing what i should be seeing. after a few tries, i act like it's working and make them talk me through the next step. when i get bored of doing this, i finally tell them that i don't have a windows computer. or i tell them that i don't have a computer. the moment of anguish this brings is a thing of beauty.

"hang on, let me google that." insist on googling everything they say. ask what microsoft office they're calling from. find it. look it up on google earth and get excited when you see the building [regardless of if you actually do]. ask what virus you have and look it up. [the last call i got named the "sapray virus". this is what you get when you google that term. if they can't even be arsed to give you the name of a real virus, they should be punished.] ask for their employee number. google that. ask them for their name... you get the idea. none of what they tell you will be true, but that's not the point. eventually tell them you googled "cold calls from microsoft" and read them the information that turns up. something like this page will help.

"let me tell you a story." this one requires a little more work, but it can be really funny. interrupt everything they say by speaking inanely about something from your experience [without telling them anything true about yourself, obviously]. make shit up. make lots of shit up. it can be improbable, although the more improbable, the more likely they'll just hang up. as a variation of this, i like pretending to be drunk or high and responding to them rrreeeaaaallllllllyyyyy sssssllloooooowwwlllllyyyy and in the most verbose way possible.

feel free to add your own suggestions, or, if you try any of these out, feel free to share how they've worked. together we can ruin the lives of evil spammers.

Comments

playhookie said…
I totally agree that any second they spend on the phone to you is a second they are swindling someone's granny so is an eminently good deed! I've been trying to think up some more ideas, but you've really thought this one through and have an extensive arsenal of tricks to deploy. Keep up the good work!
morelikespace said…
This sort of thing is one of the benefits of having a bit too much time on my hands. Glad you enjoyed it and, yes, I will certainly continue!

as long as you're here, why not read more?

i agree, smedley [or, smokers totally saved our planet in 1983]

so this conversation happened [via text, so i have evidence and possibly so does the canadian government and the nsa].

dom and i were trying to settle our mutual nerves about tomorrow night's conversion screening, remembering that we've made a fine little film that people should see. which is just about exactly what dom had said when i responded thusly:

me :: i agree smedley. [pauses for a moment] did you get that here?

dom :: no?

me :: the aliens who were looking at earth and then decided it wasn't worth bothering with because people smoked even though it was bad for them?
come to think of it, that might mean that smokers prevented an alien invasion in the seventies.

dom :: what ?!?!?

me :: i've had wine and very little food. [pause] but the alien thing was real. [pause.] well, real on tv.

dom :: please eat something.

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