"He says he's with the IRS?" she said.
"Hang up," I said. "The IRS doesn't have your phone number."
She hung up. He called back, so I answered the phone.
A 10 minute conversation with a scam artist ensued. His accent was terrible. He asked me why I answered the phone instead of my wife. "Because I think you, sir, are a scammer, and you are attempting to get information out of us for identity theft purposes. Goodbye."
"Do not hang up! There is a $5000 fine if you hang up. No no, I have your each and every information in front of me." (He used the phrase "each and every information" quite frequently.)
"Issat so?" I chuckled. "Fine. Then tell me my name. Tell me my wife's name."
"Sir, why would I tell you your name? You know your name, why would I tell you that?"
"So that you can prove to me that you actually know anything about us." I was laughing.
"Why is everything funny to you, Laughing Man? Why don't I tell you my name?" he said. And this is where I got a little weirded out: he said my name. I asked him to spell it, and he spelled a more common last name than mine. He also gave me his "employee ID number".
While I was stringing him along (but a little shaken by the name thing), I had well_lahdidah look up the phone number via Google. It was a Rhode Island number, and sure enough, the Internet was full of reports from people getting strange calls about insurance, banking, and other obvious scams.
"Sir, if you don't believe me, I have your each and every information. I will arrive at your house in 1, 2 hours, then you will see."
"Do you even know what state I live in?" I said. He seemed confused. "The United States is comprised of 50 smaller entities called states," I explained to the poor man, laughing all the while, "and you don't even know which one I live in. How will you come see me in 1, 2 hours? You are a scammer, and I'm going to report this to the FBI."
He finally gave up the charade. "You are right, you are only person to see that this is a scam. I will tell you, my real name is Gary Johnson."
"So how much money do you make when you con somebody into giving you their information? It must be quite a lot."
"One million, five hundred twenty-nine thousand dollars," he said.
I laughed again. The man was a king at making up numbers. "That's quite lucrative."
"Laughing Man, why do you laugh?"
"Because I enjoy the things I do," I said.
"So do I," he said, which, given the cheer in his voice seemed vaguely ominous. "But I tell you, your wife has been already scammed. You will find out in 6 months. But I like you, Laughing Man. I like to hear you laugh. So I will help you, if you will tell me your name...."
I hung up and he didn't call back.
I am amazed at his persistence, that even after finally admitting to being a scammer he would continue to fish for information. And although his attempt was pretty transparent, I can imagine that it would have been a lot more convincing if he had actually known our names. OK, if he had known our names and had sounded like a native speaker. I am often careless with my phone number, but then again, I am skeptical by nature. Imagine all the people upon whom this simple scam works.
I wanted to report it to some authority, but the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center doesn't appear to handle scam attempts via telephone. Eh, there's probably nothing they could do about it anyway.