Yes It’s True: We cannot escape pesky telemarketers

I received yet another Spam phone call on my cell phone this morning, and all the memories came flooding back.

It supposedly was from some Police Officers Association of America, or a name similar, requesting funding to support to police officers who have been injured or laid up.

Two memories, specifically:

The first telemarking adventure I ever had occurred back in 1986, when a similar pitch from a similar group asked me to donate. I greeted this unasked for interruption that evening with confusion. I realized I’d be curmudgeon if I didn’t offer to help those who protect us from evildoers, but I also was keenly aware that never before in my life had I ever been solicited in this way.

My answer to the caller, after a great deal of hemming and hawing, was that I did not contribute to unsolicited callers, and if he wanted a donation he should mail me something or visit me at my home. I didn’t really want to endure the latter.

Because I was suspicious, I later asked a few police officer friends if they supported or benefitted from such campaigns. I was told they did get a percentage of the funds raised on their behalf.

The second memory was from earlier this month when I watched a three-part HBO documentary, “Telemarketers,” which exposed what the these groups do and why. It was pointed out that the biggest money makers for these telemarketers, particularly for their companies, were calls to ordinary people seeking donations for police, veterans or firefighters. Most folks support their local fire, police and veterans.

However, the vast majority of the funds raised, up to 90 percent, go to the telemarketing company. The percentages for firefighters, officers, veterans and even the callers actually are rather small.

So these are business operations that take advantage of public admiration of certain public servants to raise money for themselves.

Furthermore, the documentary suggested that a large portion of telemarketers are former prison inmates who were unable to find legitimate jobs after being released from prison. And some of these guys are pretty good at what they do, conning unsuspecting folks into using some of their money for causes that aren’t really what they’re cracked up to be.

I was once counseled never to agree to contribute to an unsolicited phone caller because they just scammers.

My wife made the mistake years ago of taking such a call and scolding the guy on the other line as a scammer, telling him never to call again. When she slammed the phone down for hanging up, it rang again and I offered to pick it up because she was so upset. After I said “hello,” the guy uttered just one word — “asshole!”

When we talk about the good ‘ole days, we have to include those simple, more natural times when we didn’t have to put up with scammers and telemarketers. And they aren’t going away.

Despite their unpopularity, they have found ways to continue to invade our homes and peace and quiet. And when we’re told we can block them so they won’t call again, they find creative ways to do end runs around our efforts.

From where I sit, telemarketing is advertising and marketing on steroids, a process that uses a formula that understands common everyday American folks are easily misled, distracted and they respond to phony emotional appeals. Just look at all the people who will buy things that are overpriced, such as food and drink at athletic events and T-shirts with corporate logos, and bottled water.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution. All I do is follow the lead of Pat Brewer from the Then & Now Historical Library in Dorr, who told me to answer all suspicious calls with just two words — “Peanut butter.” Though it can lead to misunderstandings, most of the times it results in the hilarity of a confused and disoriented scam caller whose intention is to take me as a sucker.

1 thought on “Yes It’s True: We cannot escape pesky telemarketers”

  1. Our “land line” number we’ve had for almost 30 years. We’ve always used a phone system with digital display and used either call blocking from the provider and more recently our newest home phone(s) have a call block feature.

    Most cell phones have call blocking features, regardless of carrier.

    Either of us recognize a number and the caller’s name shows up on the digital display we can answer. Otherwise, it’s straight to voicemail. If it’s important, they will leave a voicemail.

    A pause with no message usually means the caller is using an automated speed dial system that can sense your voice mail pickup and automatically hangs up.

    Because of “spoofing” software, a number that looks like it’s from a 269 or 616 area code could be from elsewhere in the US. Telemarketers/fund-raisers also buy or lease numbers in an area code to use with spoof software.

    Holidays are prime time for con artist fund-raising.

    Additionally, if you are 65 and eligible for Medicare, when the annual enrollment period arrives, you are now more popular than ever and are targeted by a lot of insurance companies competing to be the administrator of your Medicare plan. It’s a multi-billion dollar business. As soon as open enrollment ends your incoming calls will drop like a rock.

    And so it goes.

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