On Friday, August 17, 2018, I decided to try to do something about a scam artist that called me. Here’s what I did:
I have had a number of calls from a scam artist to my cell phone about needing to call them so the arrest warrant is not issued for me by the IRS. I had three of them on that day. Well, there was an article recently about a guy who invented an audio response system that one could hook up to phone to keep people talking; it gives responses that will typically just carry on a conversation. The idea was to waste the time of the people on the other end of the line.
Without thinking about it too much, I decided to call and attempt the same thing myself. I did it once, and wasn’t so successful at it, being a bit too aggressive. I tried again, and was better, but then became sort of angry as I told them to remove my phone number from their list.
Well, I tried it a third time, and got someone who wanted to sort of string me along in conversation. I’ve never talked to people in those kinds of situations before, but I learned that they try to become your friend, and so he attempted to keep me talking.
I turned the conversation to talking about the kind of job he had, and that I thought it was dishonest. He said he could understand that, and asked if I could give him a job. I said I could offer him some job training, and suggested he visit LDS.org. He did, I could tell, and so I had him go to the Self-reliance manuals. I then talked about thinking about how one can give value to others.
He wasn’t being very serious about it, asking if he could come to America. I said he could come if he worked to earn the money and wanted a vacation. I then called him on not being serious in his questions to me, and he seemed to double down in trying to be square with me.
He shared that he has a degree in Chemistry. He wouldn’t tell me what country he was calling from, but did say he was in Asia. I suspect it was the Philippines. I could hear others speaking in the background, so I suspect it was a fairly sizable shop. He said he was twenty-two years old. He said he would like to be honest, but didn’t think he could earn as much in an honest job as he could in the job he currently has; he said something like it would require him to go back to the beginning, set him back 5 years. I suspect he has been doing this a while.
I told him that he might be earning more money now, but I said I could not imagine him doing this when he is 50; if he got an honest job, and grew customers or clients, at 50 they would continue to buy from him. He seemed to think only dishonest people earn a lot of money, and I explained that was not true. I told him about my experience on the Thursday before; the guy who came to fix the windshield wouldn’t take the full insurance company quoted price of $65 which was less than he typically takes, but which he agreed to. He was such a nice guy and did a good job, talking plenty of time to make sure it was done well that I tried to pay him a $10 tip. He took only $40, and handed me back $35. I finally convinced him to take another $10. Quinn noted I was negotiating him up, and he was negotiating me down. He seemed to be really listening, and said he wasn’t sure he could find an honest job.
I then explained to him who he was taking money from. I told him he was taking money from the poorest people in the US; it isn’t the rich that call these guys back; it’s the widows who are scared; it’s the disabled who don’t understand things so well. I said to go out of his office and look at the poor people, and that who he was taking money from.
There was a bit of a pause. He said, “You have cut me low. I did not know this. I did not know that is what I am doing.” I sensed some emotion in his voice. I think I really shook him about what he was doing.
I then tried to build him up, encouraging him, telling him he could make the changes, and that God would help him to do so. He wanted my contact information, but I said I could not do that because he was working at a dishonest company. He said he would change, and I said then I was sure God would help him find people who would help him as he made those changes. I suggested the missionaries, and to continue on that website to learn more about how to make the changes. He seemed to accept what I was saying.
We ended the call; there were a couple of calls back immediately afterwards, and one of them sounded like his voice but I didn’t accept the other call.
I kept thinking about it all evening. I think I really blew up his world; I felt sad for having done so, and yet it is so much better that he know what he is doing. This quote from Elder Maxwell comes to mind from his October 1991 Conference Address on Repentance:
There can be no repentance without recognition of wrong. Whether by provocation, introspection, or wrenching remembrance, denial must be dissolved. As with the prodigal son who finally “came to himself” (Luke 15:17), the first rays of recognition help us begin to see “things as they really are” (Jacob 4:13), including distinguishing between the motes and beams. Recognition is a sacred moment, often accompanied by the hot blush of shame.“Repentance” By Elder Neal A. Maxwell Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, October 1991 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
That was not an expected outcome. What a strange thing to have done.