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.
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 ?