by Henry Lane Hull
This past Monday I won a $750,000 prize and a brand new Mercedes-Benz, or at least so I was told by a telephone caller, who identified himself as being with a major promotional raffle. Living by the conviction that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true, I questioned the party to learn more of my reputed windfall.
He told me that the representatives of the scam would be coming to my house later that day to deliver the money, tax-free, and the car. He profusely congratulated me, but did not ask where I lived or how to get to my home. After assuring me that the prize was tax-free, he went on to explain that I should have to fill in some simple paperwork, and pay $499 to ”cover taxes.” He wanted to give me time to get that money together–in cash.
I said that I had understood him to say that the prize was “tax-free,” to which he went into what I should term a prime illustration of “first-class equivocation.” He did not explain how the money should be delivered; I envisioned multiple trunks of small bills, or perhaps one huge check.
As the conversation went on I became increasingly amused by the caller’s difficulty in expressing himself. After a few minutes I decided that enough was enough, and terminated the conversation, letting him know that I fully realized he was a scam artist, and not a very good one.
On a similar front, I repeatedly receive recorded calls from a person identifying herself as “Elizabeth.” In her message I am going to be the beneficiary of more unexpected wealth, which will come as soon as I press “1” on the telephone. She adds that if I wish to be removed from her twice-weekly harassment, I should press “2.” I almost have worn thin the number “2” on the receiver in attempting to dismiss her repetitive solicitations. Obviously, the “press 2” is purely a means of complying with some arcane and unenforceable regulation, but means nothing in practicality.
A major hotel chain, reportedly “major” that is, continues to offer me free lodging for a stay at a five-star resort. The problem is that the location is in one of their remote, and clearly less popular, locations to which I must get myself on my own means. I have decided that I can do better by staying at home.
About twice a month a man, I refrain from referring to him as a “gentleman,” with what sounds like a distinctly foreign accent calls to say he is ready to proceed with solving my computer problems, and that if I do not proceed immediately my computer will shut down and be inoperable. The static on the line indicates to me that he is calling from a land far away.
To mitigate the incidence of these calls, when I see a weird number appear on the headset, if the caller is a live person and not a recording, I often reply to his or her solicitation with the utterance, “Uh da nut spik Engliss.” Immediately, the party switches to Spanish, to which I reply again that I am not proficient in English, which achieves the desired result, as the caller hangs up at once.
My experience with such blatant frauds was honed in the early years of our marriage when an elderly friend came to live with my Good Wife and me for a year. She previously had lost three fortunes, and hoped that she could regain some measure of financial success by sending in literally dozens of replies to giveaway bulk-mail offers, usually paying for a subscription of some sort in the process. Of course, she never won anything, but was not deterred by lack of success. Those were the days before the internet, and she operated through the mail.
I close by repeating the initial adage with which I began this item, if it sounds too good to be true, ……….