Desis targeting US-based desis in scam calls?

The other day I received a call from a man with a strong desi accent who identified himself as “Joseph from the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC”.

I have my strong suspicions that FCC officials don’t randomly call people soliciting Do Not Call registry sign-ups, but he had a desi accent, so I decided to humor him, and asked him what he wanted.

He asked for R, then went on to tell me that he is registering phones for the “Do Not Call” registry so that I don’t receive unwanted calls from telemarketers.  Did I want to register mine?

I told him that my phone was already registered, thank you, and if I did need to add any more numbers I would go to the website to do it.

“But ma’am if you do it through the website ma’am, it will cost some dollars, ma’am” he said.

Now I was certain this was some kind of  scam.  But hey, he was a desi, and  did I mention that he was calling me “Ma’am” at the end of every second word?

So I just told him I was pretty sure he had no idea what he was talking about, and ended the call.

A quick search revealed that, sure enough, there was such a scam. The FTC’s website warns that this is yet another identity theft scam, where he would have asked for my Social Security Number , date of birth and so on.  No doubt he would have opened a few credit cards in my name and bought himself some flat-screen TVs.  Unfortunately, my generosity towards fellow desis does not extend to buying them flat-screen TVs.

 

Pic courtesy Maryam/ Flickr

But later, I wondered if I had let “Joseph” get away so lightly.  Why was I so polite to him even though I knew he was a scammer?  Was it because of his multiple ma’am syndrome, or because he was desi?

I also started thinking about how “Joseph” made no attempt to disguise his Indianness.  It was not just the accent, but the way he framed his sentences and the words he used (which I may not have reproduced exactly above).  He was either from a call center with a severe shortage of  “accent reduction” training personnel, or he was targeting desis.

I have been the target of desi to desi scams before.  Typically, these involve desis trying to sell phone cards, and these people are quite persistent.  They don’t hide their accent, if anything they seem to exaggerate it.  Being on the “Do Not Call” registry doesn’t help with these guys, as they proudly tell you they are based in India and so the registry has no effect on them.

But phone card harassment is one thing, identity theft is quite another.

I’m sure there are some unsuspecting desis who might give out their social security number on the phone.   But there are lots more unsuspecting folks in the general population who will also do the same.  However, they *may* wonder at someone with a strong Indian accent claiming to be from the FCC.

So what do you think, was this scam targeted at desis?

Do you feel more indignant when you receive such scam calls from desis ?

 

 

 

 

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14 Comments

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  2. I get pissed off with any unsolicited calls because my number is ex-directory. And the sad thing is, I’ve not had anybody call who’s not got a suspiciously South-Asian accent and/or mannerisms like saying “Mam” every other word (not “Ma’am” with that nearly imperceptible pause to make two syllables). If they don’t accept a polite “no thank you”, I either put the phone down (gently) or hand it over to my husband who has no scruples about being rude to the persistent little buggers!

    • Now that you mention it, they do say “Mam”, don’t they? :) You’re right, it’s surprising how often a “No thank you” is coolly disregarded. Maybe I too shall have to shed my scruples about being rude :(

  3. My technique is to enter Zen auto-pilot mode, intone “Please put my name on your Do-not-call list” and put the phone down without listening to further blathering. It does seem to reduce these calls, over time.

  4. I’ve never received this particular type of call (i.e., desi to desi), but any kind of unsolicited call makes me annoyed. I cut them short as soon as they begin their spiel and hang up. I don’t care any more if I come across as rude or not. In my early years in this country, I would hear them through and very politely explain to them why I did not want whatever it was that they were offering, but now I’ve run out of the patience to do all that!

    • I try to be more patient to desi telemarketers because of the bad press they get. I used to think that the whole world is rude to them anyway, and atleast as a fellow desi I can be polite to them. But I’ve found, sadly, that being polite is sometimes equated to being a pushover :(

    • No shortage of new ideas in outsourcing, apparently.

      I suspect the only thing that’s still completely safe from being outsourced (to India atleast) is anything to do with sports.

  5. Well, if Mr. Kalmadi was given the opportunity to try and get sportsmen out for a price, am sure he would love the idea (even if there is no demand, he could just inflate the prices in here and send the sportsperson out for a short holiday and bill it to us taxpayers!)
    Wouldn’t be surprised if this was a legit call center that has been hired to scam people by any individual!

    • I wonder, if call centers in India find business declining because of slow demand from the US, will some smaller call centers be tempted to take on shady business like this? Indian companies are not subject to the FCC anyway..not a comforting thought :(

    • / I totally agree with you. I hated my paetnrs for the time they pushed me but now that I have a 5 year old, I am a little more understanding. However, a lot of what they do is unforgiving. Like the comparing part. Yesterday, I went to my daughter’s kindergarten open house and they specifically told us not to compare . I hope someday we learn to forgive their misgivings and embrace them for what they are. And someday teach them to accept us the way we are!

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