I just got off the phone after spending an enjoyable 25 minutes talking with a spam caller. Before I picked up, my phone told me this was likely a spam call. He called twice, actually. The first time was when I was just pulling up to the pay window at my local Tims. I only managed a “hello” before I hung up because I had to use my phone to pay for my coffee. His realization that he got through to an actual human must have prompted the immediate call back from him. I was going to just block the number, but I was in a good mood so I thought I’d see what this was all about while I drove myself home.
Right away, I had been informed by John that I was the winner of $425,000, and he needed to know that I would be home tomorrow so UPS could give me the cheque. I spent the first few minutes after this query hemming and hawing about not being sure if I would be home as I didn’t know my schedule yet because my boss was in the hospital and wasn’t able to send me the work schedule. So I can’t say if I’ll be home tomorrow, and I hope that doesn’t mean I won’t get my winnings. John tried several different tactics to get me to state that I would be home tomorrow, but none of them worked on me as I remained unsure and uncommital about that.
“I wish I could be definitive about that, John, whether I’ll be at home at any point tomorrow, but with the situation with my boss, I just can’t.”
I asked John if there was a number I could call back to, once I knew what my work schedule was and whether I would be home tomorrow or not. He said what he could do was call me again tomorrow morning and at that time verify whether I’d be home or not. I agreed this would be a fine solution to that issue.
I asked John where he was calling from and he said “Saint John, New Brunswick, and you’re in PE.” I laughed out loud at this.
“What’s PE stand for?” I asked. He didn’t understand the question. After a couple more attempts from me to get him to say what PE was for, he caught on a bit and said “Like AB stands for Alberta and OH stands for Ohio, do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand perfectly. So what does PE stand for?”
After a momentary pause, “It’s your state.”
I spent the next couple of minutes chastising the Saint John educational system if it turns out students like John who didn’t even know that in Canada we don’t have states, and who couldn’t even tell me what PE stood for, even though PE and his home province of NB were neighbours. I felt a bit wary giving him this vital information regarding the difference between states and provinces because I was aware that he could probably use this newly-gained information on future scam calls. “Yes, ma’am, I’m calling from Saint John New Brunswick which is a province in our country of Canada, and not a state!” After a few more attempts to get him to tell me what PE stood for, and him not understanding and/or obfuscating his ignorance, he moved on to the crux of his phone call.
He said in order to receive the cheque from UPS, I’d need to go to WalMart or Walgreens or a similar store and purchase a $500 Vanilla Gift Card and have that on hand when the UPS delivery arrived. (I assume the scam is that I get another phone call on the day saying the delivery is postponed or something and then they ask me, over the phone, the serial code or whatever on the Vanilla Gift Card, which is how they make their money?) I said I didn’t understand why I needed to buy a $500 gift card in order to receive the package from UPS. He gave me a couple of vague reasonings like “It’s the way we have the contract set up with UPS” until he gave me the reason “It’s for the taxes on your winnings”.
I politely explained to him how I don’t think this is true because it was my understanding that in Canada we don’t pay taxes on prize winnings. I asked John if he could verify, for a fact, whether we in Canada do need to pay taxes on winnings, and if so, then I guess it makes sense that the $500 was to go towards paying the taxes on the winnings. He said that this was, in fact, the very reason for his need for me to purchase the $500 dollar Vanilla Gift Card.
I said “I don’t know. Something sounds a bit fishy about all this. Is this some sort of scam or something, John?”
He profusely assured me in no uncertain terms that this was in no way a scam, that it was legitimate, and he was just trying to make sure that I received my $425,000 cheque from UPS.
Stating that I guess I have no choice but to believe him, I then spent a few minutes trying to ascertain from John how it came about that I won $425,000 in a contest that I did not even enter. His explanation involved lines about how i should have received a notice in the mail, and did I ever hear about Clearing House, and since I hadn’t received a notice in the mail, he would send one to me right away once he went into the office first thing tomorrow morning.
But the one thing he still needed to know for sure was whether I’d be home tomorrow for the UPS delivery. I again expressed my uncertainty in that regard and offered to give him my boss’s private phone number so John could ask him about my schedule but I couldn’t guarantee he’d even answer because the cell-phone reception in the hospital is pathetic.
Before he could answer or respond I told him that I knew this was a scam call, I knew all along, that I was just wasting a few minutes in my morning playing along, and that he really needed to up his game and do a bit more research about the country he was pretending to be from.
He again profusely stated this was not a scam call, that I had won the prize, and that if I didn’t want the money there wasn’t anything he could do about that (he was getting irritated now) and reiterated how I needed to go to WalMart and purchase a $500 Vanilla Gift Card.
I cut him off. “Name one business in Saint John.” “What?” “You said you’re in Saint John New Brunswick, so tell me the name of one business that exists in Saint John.”
There was a long pause. I was willing to continue on with this phone call, as I was enjoying the experience, but at this point, Karyn came out to the car (I was now parked in the driveway), ready to take it to church.
So I hung up. And I guess I will not get the $425,000 I won from Clearing House.
This guy wasn’t the best at his job, but he had self-assuredness and enough answers to basic questions to sound like he could know what he was talking about. But he got quite flustered when he got caught out in obvious lies.
I can see how people get conned by phone calls like this. But please, please, please, if you do answer such calls, always go into them under the expectation that every word is a lie. Don’t give out any personal information. If the call is legit (it’s not. It never is. Never), they would make sure your safety and security is a priority. No legitimate organization will make you pay them money – certainly not in gift cards – in order to receive an unsolicited prize.
Do not fall for this shit!!