A CALL FROM A TELE-SCAMMER

  • Nicholas J Johnson

“Hello, this is Brian from FedEx Australia. Is this Nicholas?”

Nice try, mate, I think. If you’re really from a local courier company, why does the line sound all echoey, as though it’s an overseas call? And how many people aged under seventy are really called Brian?

“We’ve got a package to deliver, but there are import duties of $386.70 that need to be paid before customs will release it. You can pay by credit card if you like.”

Really, Brian? That’s the best you’ve got?

Don’t you know who I am?

I collect scams. I cross paths with swindlers like you every day. They call me the ‘honest con man’. I was on A Current Affair once. And only super-smart people get on A Current Affair. You’d have to do better than “unpaid import duties” to scam the likes of me.

You might have called saying you’d like to buy the car I’m selling on Gumtree. You could have spun me a tale about how you’re working on an oil rig and you’d like to ship the vehicle to Darwin via some unlisted freight company while you pay me with a dud cheque.

Or maybe you could tell me I’ve won a free holiday but you just need my credit card details to check my identity. Maybe there’s some kind of tax I have to pay to take the trip.

Or you could roll the dice and try the grandparent scam? Take a punt that I’m an elderly man who can’t tell the difference between a scammer claiming to be his grandson in need of a few bucks and the genuine article. Incredibly, thousands of elders are taken in by phone calls just like that every year.

Or why not the most popular telephone swindle in Australia. Tell me you’re from Microsoft and there you’ve been able to test my computer remotely and there is ‘something wrong.’ Hundreds of people still take the bait on that one every day.

“But, sir, if you don’t pay the import duties, your package will be returned to sender.”

Here’s the thing, Brian: in my line of work I see scams everywhere. I always cover my PIN, I never buy anything sold door-to-door and I give every fifty-dollar note a once-over to check it’s not counterfeit. It makes opening birthday cards from my nanna awkward, but that’s just who I am.

I trust everyone but I always cut the deck.

“Who was on the phone, honey?” my wife asks after Brian finally hangs up, exasperated.

“No one,” I say with a smirk. Just another swindler foiled. Another flim-flam man sent packing.

“Okay,’ She says, shrugging. ‘It’s just that I’m expecting a phone call from FedEx. Those blinds we ordered should arrive any day and we’ll probably have to pay import duties . . .”

This article first appeard in mX on 23 July, 2014

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Copyright © 2019 Melbourne Magician Nicholas J Johnson

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