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Those unwanted phone calls may still find a way through

Peter Goodman is a commentator based in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Courtesy photo.
Peter Goodman is a commentator based in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Commentary:

Registering my cell-phone with “Do Not Call” has cut down on nuisance calls, but I still get some.

If busy I just don’t take the call; but I often receive legitimate calls from unknown numbers: to those seeking legal help, I recommend an appropriate lawyer; some call to confide, often confidentially, further information about someone I’ve written about; occasionally callers just thank me for a particular column, or disagree and question me.

Spam calls have long been a problem, particularly before cell-phones started warning “Scam Likely.” (NEVER provide even trivial personal / financial information! Anyone threatening you or feigning urgency is almost certainly fake. IRS doesn’t tell you to send it a Walmart gift card! If something sounds important, independently look up the real number for IRS, the police, the utility, or your bank and call to check. Don’t verify using a number they give you for Microsoft or whatever.) We occasionally got them even in my childhood. A neighbor listened to one long sales call, said it sounded great but his wife made such decisions; Fran listened silently then said she’d let him talk to the real decision-maker, handing the phone to Philip. Philip, 5, soon held up the phone, saying, “He wanna talk to you, DaDa.”

I do not always know the callers’ intentions precisely. To sign me up for some costly non-necessity, defraud me, or simply to gain a little confidential information that can be abused or sold to someone who’ll abuse it. But these ludicrous calls must sometimes succeed. So I figured, if I had time – watching a ballgame, say, or watering vegetables – I’d waste as much of their time as I could, figuring that the time with me was time they weren’t defrauding some poor sucker. When they asked name, age, and zip code, or address, I’d give reasonable but false information, get passed on to “one of our licensed agents,” and eventually, just say, “Listen, I’ve just been wasting your time so you couldn’t use it to cheat some poor bastard.” Most hung up then, some cursed me first, and a few were so dense they kept on trying to con me.

Once, years ago, after I insulted a caller, he said a familiar phrase I can’t print in the newspaper or utter on radio. He added that he knew where I lived and would kill me. Somehow, we kept talking. After awhile he mentioned that he was from the Hunza Valley – a beautiful, mountainous region of eastern Pakistan that I’d wished I could someday visit. When I said that, suddenly he was proudly praising his home region and inviting me to visit his home some day. We rang off amicably. Weird!

Sometimes if we’re discussing something, I’ll take the call and respond to the initial come-on by asking the caller’s opinion: “Would you like to donate to our radio station?” or “How can we make our country more equitable?”

Sometimes, too, spam calls aren’t labeled.

Recently, I switched to a frank but friendly brushoff: “Yes, I’m fine; but I’m really sad that you have to do this kind of work for a living, calling and bothering strangers.” Most hang up immediately. Only one woman was quick enough to respond, “Yes. I’ll stop if you send me some money.” One man said, “Thank you for praying for me,” before hanging up. A few keep on keeping on right over me.

It’s true and concise.

Peter Goodman's opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of KRWG Public Media or NMSU.