Most of my writing I do at home, where it’s usually quiet and with less distraction. Except for the onslaught of political robocalls during the recently concluded swing-state season, about the only robocalls we get are from “Rachel from Cardholder Services.”
If you’ve gotten these you know that it it works like this: “Press 1 to lower your interest rates now!” — and they connect you to a live person.
“Press 2 and your number will be removed from our records!” — which is untrue. I have pressed 2 at least 50 times. It does no good. These are wholly illegal operations, not only because they ignore the national “Do Not Call Registry” but because they’re also scams.
More than one blogger has written about this, and there’s a very good series of posts about how the scam works and the players behind it here. The bottom line is they’re seeking to charge you $1,000 to $1,500 to act as an intermediary between you and the bank that issued your card, to get the latter to lower the rates. Which you can often do all yourself for free.
Because pressing 2 doesn’t stop the calls, months ago I began pressing 1 to talk to the live operator. There were a few reasons. First, I wanted to find out who these people are and where they’re located.
Second, I decided to waste as much of their time as I could. These boiler-room criminals work on commission, and the more of their time you waste, the more money it costs them. (These boiler rooms can easily have monthly operating costs of $75,000 per month.)
Third, I wanted them to leave me alone. I reasoned that sooner or later they would wise up and remove my number so as not to allow me to waste their time any longer. More about that a bit later.
For those reasons I’ve endeavored to keep the reps on the phone as long as I can each time Rachel calls. This involves telling them fibs like 1) “Hold on, I have to go find my wallet, to get the cards;” or 2) “Hang on, let me go get my bills, so I can tell you the balance and current interest rates;” and 4 to 5-minutes waits on the phone.
If you tell them you have 4 different cards you want to reduce rates on, the reps tend to get excited and are more likely to stay on the line, because they charge $1,000 to $1,500 per card they “help” you with. This ploy works on their greed.
And with each call, if you’re skillful, you can learn a little bit more about their operation and waste more of their time. But that involves inventing fictitious balances, fictitious interest rates and fictitious credit card numbers, to play along with their game.
Once, I kept a lady on the line by claiming I couldn’t read the number on the card because “the light is bad.” I had her wait until I’d found a pencil, sharpened it, then found a piece of paper that I furiously penciled across, with the card underneath, to reveal those digits that I was having trouble reading.
Anyway, Friday I got another call from Rachel, and I pressed 1, and that’s how I learned they’re getting tired of me.
I got a gentleman who didn’t identify himself.
“You want to lower your interest rates?” he asked.
“Yes I do!” I replied.
“What is your balance?” he asked.
“Do you want the total of all four cards?” I asked. “Or the individual balances?”
“First, the total,” he said.
“It’s $29,000,” I lied.
“What’s your rate?” he asked.
“For which card?” I replied.
There was a pause, as if he was looking at something. And then he said this:
“Aw, man. Why do you do this?”
“Because I want to lower my interest rates,” I said.
“Why are you calling and bugging us? he said.
“Brother, you’re calling me,” I said. “I just want to lower my interest rates.”
Then he hung up.
What it told me is they’ve created some list of miscreants who accept these bothersome calls for the purpose of bothering these criminals right back. Suddenly, the months of intermittent effort I’ve put into this endeavor felt completely validated.
Now, I can’t wait until Rachel calls back again!