By Wayne William Cipriano
It happened again. I do not know why I was surprised.
The first time, a guy with a very strong Indian accent, who said his name was Bruce called us, with a deal no one in their right mind could refuse. Bruce would send us “a gift card that we could redeem at any Wal-Mart or Cosco for $100 in cash.”
Sure, I was suspicious. After all, a complete stranger calls out of the blue and offers us cash “with no strings attached, no obligation, absolutely no fees or costs.” So, how can you go wrong here?
Since they had our phone number and both our names and could discover our address using any Internet search engine, I said, “Great. Thanks. Send the card.”
And the questions started: How old are we? What is our income level? Which credit cards did we prefer? And on and on.
We refused to answer any of Bruce’s questions but he kept right on asking, reading from a list we supposed.
When Bruce reached the end o his question list, we having told him nothing, he mentioned almost in passing that all we had to do to receive our $100 gift card was fork over one single dollar to “show our good faith.” What a deal! One dollar gets a hundred.
Again, how can you go wrong?
Bruce told us he had to have a credit or debit card number to collect that single dollar. We told him we did not have a credit or debit card but would send him a dollar in the mail.
“No,” said Bruce, ‘for your protection we can only accept credit or debit card numbers for payments.”
We asked if we could send a check, wouldn’t that be safe? Again, Bruce declined, insisting on a card number.
Understanding that we did not have any cards, Bruce asked if anyone we live with had a card we could use or “what about a neighbor or family member who would let (us) use their card?”
We were having a good time playing with Bruce, and did not feel at all guilty doing so. The chances that anyone who gives “Bruce” their credit or debit card information will receive anything at all besides a terrible shock the next time they get a card statement in the mail are vanishingly small.
Just as we were about to hang up, Bruce asked me how old I was –– “Are you over 60 years-old?” I said I might be, or I might be younger than 60, or I might be exactly 60. And then Bruce hung up saying, “Goodbye sir, you are very smart.”
The other day we got a post card that promised us a “$100 gift rebate certificate redeemable at Wal-Mart, Target, and many other fine stores.” I admit I called the toll-free number hoping, I guess, to see how Bruce was getting along. But this time it was Sheneesha (my spelling) with a very deep-Southern accent who told us not only did we have a $100 gift certificate coming to us but also qualified for an additional $25 in cash to be mailed to us immediately.
When I asked to speak with Bruce, Sheneesha was nonplussed but continued her bit underscoring what a good deal this was for us. We agreed and said, “Thank you very much. Please send us our gifts.”
Guess what? Yes, you are right except for the price. This completely free, no obligation, no tricks, no cost deal only cost $6.95, payable with whatever credit or debit card we preferred.
Rosalie got on me for wasting so much time playing on the phone so I just asked Sheneesha if she was out of her mind and did anyone really give up the key to their financial lives to strangers on the phone to get $125 in exchange for $6.95?
Before my question was finished, Sheneesha was gone.
Do I sound smug and self-satisfied? Sophisticated and invulnerable to such transparent hustles? Sure I do. And, so do you. Until IT happens.
IT? IT is when that hustler comes along with just the right voice that sounds like your Dad used to, or just like an old girlfriend. A hustler who has an offer, a lot like the one you heard a friend’s daughter-in-law accepted and received a $1,000 in two days. A hustler who has just the right rap that somehow tickles your verisimilitude while short-circuiting your jive detector.
A guy I knew once, who made a very nice living hustling (interspersed with short stays at a state-run “rest and rehabilitation center”) told me that anyone, ANYONE, including himself can be hustled. It only takes the right rap, the right mark, and the right con. If you believe, as I seem to, that you are just too smart to be taken in by such antics, just wait….
Want to take a chance on collecting many, many unearned dollars in the future for just a few dollars spent now? Buy a Missouri lottery ticket. The chances of winning are about the same as stepping out your font door and getting hit by six lightning bolts in a row, but at least you have some chance of coming out ahead.
Protect yourself by always saying, “No, thanks,” on the phone or in the mail. Yes, it will occasionally cost you bars of pirate gold just waiting for your personal information so the gold can be delivered to your door. And, yes, it will require that you turn your telephonic back on a sweet-sounding Nigerian princess who will pay you thousands of dollars if you will just help her get her millions of dollars out of a corrupt country, in which her life is being threatened.
Yes, you will lose those opportunities but by doing so you will assure that your money stays right where it belongs –– in your wallet, not Bruce’s!