Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sleaze and Deception

The caller ID said it was a woman calling from a local number. It's always a NAME that calls, always different, always local.

"And a goooood morning to you, Mrs. Sykes," said the sleazy voice that I recognized instantly. (He says "gooood" like Robin Willliams in Good Morning, Vietnam.) I could hear the grease dripping off of his hair as he continued on, oblivious to the fact that I was remaining stonily silent (usually I hang up on him).

He continued on to tell me that "It's that guy who always calls you," he purred. "It's always something" (usually it's taking some unspecified group of kids to a ball game). He's great at tugging at your heartstrings, while holding up the jar of snake oil that you know you want.

This time, it's "guys returning" who need some help in resettling and, well, Easter is coming and they want to do something special for these guys.

"And where are these guys coming from?" I asked. I've volunteered at the homeless shelter and know a tiny bit about this.

"Oh they're coming back from across the water," he said, "and some of them can't fit in the homeless shelters."

"Across the water?" I said. "That could be across the causeway for all I know" (the road that leads from Davis to Sacramento across a spillway for the Sacramento river.

He laughed as I pressed for an answer. "Oh, they're returning from... you know that place, where we're pulling out of...?" he sputtered.

I told him that if he didn't even know where these guys were coming from, I couldn't help him.

I don't know. Maybe he is legit but he is just such a smooth talker, has such a sleazy voice over the phone that I don't want to give him a dime. I've been hanging up on him for years, yet I'm still on his call list. It's too bad that you can't add charitable organizations to your don't call list. I just hate realizing that this damn guy has suckered me into answering the telephone yet again.

I hate it that in my dotage I have become so suspicious of everything and everybody. We donated to earthquake relief after Haiti and then found out a year later that the money was being "held" and none had been disbursed. It makes me question who are the good guys that you can donate to for help in relief in Japan. Will we give money to some government agency or to the Red Cross or something and then discover that people are just holding the money and nothing is actually being done?

The president went on TV yesterday discussing the danger from the nuclear reactors and how there was no danger to the United States. The second his message ended, there was a news teaser that the local news would have some scientist on to talk about a "radiation cloud" that was headed for Los Angeles. News at 5. Which is it? There is no danger, or there is danger? And since we can't do a thing about it anyway, do we even care?

This afternoon I succumbed to an ad on TV for "Clean My PC," which promised to get your system running faster. It had a high rating from Two Cows and some other web sites that I trust, so I decided to try it. Naturally, it picks up lots and lots of problems and then to clean your registry you have to pay. Interestingly, you have to pay $40, which I decided not to do. I could live with the slow PC that I'd become used to. But when you try to close the web site you get "wait! If you want, we'll reduce the price $20." Well, $20 vs. $40 sounds do-able, so I decided to do it. (Note to anybody who decides to try Clean My PC---do NOT pay $40 for it!)

You call their web site to connect with a technician who does a live scan of your system. She was aghast at how many problems there were and they have a technician who can clean them all out of my system in a mere five hours for a mere $309. I told her that was out of the question, so she gave me the $125 option. I told her that was out of the question too and I'd live with the danger. She let me know I could always call back and upgrade, but we finished the call and I finished cleaning the scan with my new $20 program.

The computer is significantly faster. Significantly. But I'm left with the warnings of all the bad things that can happen if I don't pony up $125 to have a technician wipe my system of all viruses.

I figure whatever damage could be done to my system or my identity has already been done and I can't afford $125...and because of my goooood morning guy, I wonder how much of this is just a scam to get me to spend money unnecessarily.

I'm afraid that I have become forever suspicious. P.T. Barnum was right and I really don't want to be that much of a sucker.


Mary Z said...

I never give money or my time to someone who makes an unsolicited call - I hang up as soon as I realize it's a gimme call. We have local charities we support.

I don't have the patience (or sadistic tendencies or humanitarian tendencies - take your pick) of my friend who, if she has time, talks to these people; engages them in conversation; asks about the weather where they are; corrects their grammar; etc. She says she's keeping them from calling someone else. 8^)

Harriet said...

1. You can't avoid charities via the don't call list, but you can tell them to remove your name. And you can report them if they keep calling after you've asked to be removed. (Remember, whatever their cause, you can't save the whole world.)

2. I've begun to get a feeling about companies who scare you about something and then offer to protect you. You can run free applications like spybot or ccleaner regularly all by yourself; even I can do it.

jon said...

Somebody called us yesterday and said we were a finalist in a contest. My wife took the call. We could win $25,000 or a NEW CAR! This sounds like "the price is right."

We were one of three finalist. My wife ask the person to repeat that since there was a lot of background noise like 30 people on a telephone in a basement.

My wife told them to give the car to someone else.
She may have let them off to easy.
We are on the do not call list. I would have demanded to talk to their supervisor and strung them along for twenty minutes with vague threats of government intervention.

Kerry said...

Sure, you're suspicious of everybody, but there *are* a lot of scams out there. Calls like this are one of the reasons we got rid of the land-line. Cell phones only now. I think they're not allowed to call cell phones.