Writing by Steve Van Auken

Being in lockdown mode due to the pandemic has hit me and my older friends hard. We crave human contact but have few opportunities. Some of us get excited when we hear from the one group that shows a powerful desire to talk to us:  scam callers. 

My neighbor, Susan, says she gets a lot of these calls.

“Hello! This is Tiffany from CardMaster Services. Press 1 now to review your credit card terms! Or you could be subject to imprisonment!”

“Tiffany, hello. What a lovely voice you have. You sound just like my granddaughter.”

“Tell me your credit card number, including the three numbers on the back.”

“Tiffany, it’s so good to speak with a young person who has a good job. I worry about all the ones who don’t.  Like my granddaughter, Michelle. She lost her job at the seafood restaurant. Do you like fish?  I do, but it gives me gas. Do you notice that?”

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“I’m not hungry. I need your credit card number now.”

“I know you do, dear. Now where did I put my glasses? But you know, it’s important to continue your education, too. Are you taking classes so you can move up in the company? You sound like you have so much potential.”

“Send me a photo of your credit card. I will read the numbers.”

“Can my phone do that? I’m hopeless with technology. I bet you’re good at it. Do you have a boyfriend, Tiffany?”

“I have to talk to my supervisor.”

“You say you’re dating your supervisor? Is he nice? But dear, are you sure about this relationship? It isn’t always wise to date someone you work with.”

“My supervisor is telling me this is your last chance to give us your credit card numbers and get the lower rate and avoid legal problems.”

“Oh, dear, it’s so sweet of you to worry about me. But there’s no need. I never used that card. It’s just been sitting in the drawer.”

“What? Then why…”

“That can be our little secret. Have you set a date? Will you have one of these Zoom weddings? I hope you’re enjoying your courtship. In my day we were expected to be pure, if you know what I mean, right up to the wedding night. But I’ll tell you a secret. Carl and I, well, we just couldn’t wait. His parents lived on the farm. I would come over and Carl would tell his parents I was going to help him with the chores. Well, honey, let me tell you it wasn’t a chore as far as I was concerned…”

“We’ve been engaged for three years. But he won’t commit. We talk and talk and nothing changes. I don’t know what to do.”

“Well, this sounds like a conversation that might take awhile. Let’s talk again tomorrow. Try not to worry. And dear, I don’t want to miss your call. When you call, be sure to say, ‘This is your last chance to stay out of jail!’ I’ll know it’s you, sweetheart. Sleep tight!” 

Some older folks, like my brother-in-law, Bob, like to take a bit of an attitude with their scam caller friends.

“This is your last chance to extend your car warranty! Press 1 now! Or your account will be closed!”

“Am I too late? I was eating dinner. Don’t close my account. I can explain.”

“My name is Frank. You will tell me your name and the number of your social security. What credit card will you be using?”

“I really appreciate you keeping my account open. Everybody else has closed it. Sure, when you enter the Witness Protection Program they make all kinds of promises. But they don’t tell you the downside. But listen to me, rambling on. It’s the loneliness. I know you need to take care of business. My name is… let’s see… Alexander. What’s your last name, Frank? Do you have children? What’s their address? I’m just curious. I’m sure I won’t need hostages. You sound like an honest businessman. Anyway, we’ve been on the line long enough now for me to trace your call. Well, I see your name isn’t really Frank, is it? No problem. I’ll give you that one. And I see you do have children. Not that I’ll need to know that, of course.”

“Are you… um… wanting a warranty on a vehicle? I wouldn’t want to detain you. I’m sure you have many important things…I am sorry I called at your dinnertime.  Really, extremely sorry.”

“No, I don’t have a vehicle  The people in charge of the Program give us rides. I’ve got to admit, their cars are good. Lots of armor around the chassis. But I want a car of my own. I see you live in a warm place. Do you drive a convertible? I like those.  But hey, I’m rambling again. So, when can you get my car to me? Tomorrow is good.”

“I, uh, think there is a misunderstanding. We do not have the car. The car is what you have. We only extend the warranty.”

“Hey, ‘Frankie,’ we’re not going to have a problem here, are we? You told me my account wasn’t closed. You’re not trying to back out on me, are you? Because I got to tell you, I’m getting a bad feeling from you right now. What time did you say your kids are due back from school? I’m sure you and I can work something out. What time do you eat dinner?”

“I, uh, usually eat dinner at 11 p.m. your time. Why… ?”

“Great. Here’s what we’ll do. You’ll call me tonight during your dinner time. I stay up late anyway. You will tell me your credit card number and I’ll just use that to buy myself a car here. Simpler that way for all of us. Oh, and ‘Frankie’?

“Yes, sir?”

“I’ll take the extended warranty, too. Hey, you know what? You’re a hell of a salesman!”

Steve Van Auken has now lived in Akron long enough to give directions according to where things used to be.

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