Scamming the scammer, additional adventures
Some of you may have read my account a few weeks ago of my text message conversation with “Zorayna” asking if I was Darlene and the ensuing ridiculousness that followed. If not, or if you’d like a refresher, click here or look for the opinion page (A4) in the May 3 newspaper.
More recently, I’ve added to the list of absurdities. While it is, of course, disgraceful that anyone would try to defraud someone, especially while pretending (albeit it very poorly) to be friendly, at least it wasted their time and kept them from bothering someone who might be at risk of falling for their tactics.
I, as well as my father, and likely many of you also, have received text messages that start out with “Hello, Gerald!” This and similar openers are common. When you say you aren’t Gerlad, they apologize profusely and suggest perhaps you can help them.
Specifics vary, but these are frequent aspects. In a recent conversation directed at “Gerald,” the person said they wanted to purchase property in New Hope and listed a specific address.
They specified “no fees” and “no games,” and gave “Ellena” as their name. “Gerald moved to Florida,” I wrote back. “He sends his regards.” One would think such a response would put an end to the conversation; however, they persisted, asking if the new owner might be interested in receiving cash for the house, noting they’d be glad to give me a “generous referral fee.”
I then told them a luxury umbrella company had just purchased it, and they proceeded to ask if I had any property I wanted to sell or knew anyone who might. Again, they said they’d love to offer me “a generous referral fee.” “There’s a lovely bridge with scenic views in Brooklyn,” I responded. “Might be on the market soon.”
Surprisingly, this did not end the conversation. They declared the information “awesome” and asked if I could provide the exact address or owner’s information. “My cousin Frieda said he’s her uncle, Sam, but she rambles a lot,” I told them. “Nobody’s ever seen him face-to-face.”
This latest absurdity prompted another request for a house number, to which I simply said, “1600 Pennsylvania Ave.” There were long gaps between many of the responses. They were likely working from some kind of complex script. I wondered how much they actually understood of what they were saying and how I was responding.
Eventually, “Ellena” returned and said she wasn’t sure the White House would be on the market anytime soon and thanked me for the information.
On a different occasion, I received a text that simply began by asking where I was, to which I responded by asking who was inquiring. “Colleen” said wasn’t I Angie? I said that I wasn’t and identified myself as Anna. She apologized at length, thanked me for my understanding, called the incident a “beautiful accident” and said it was always good to make new friends.
“That’s what the gurus say, when the umbrellas are open,” I responded, adding a smiley face emoji. She said it was nice to meet “in such a unique way,” again identified herself as Colleen, “from California,” and requested I respond in kind.
I said I was “Maude from Idaho” and agreed it was a happy accident. “Ellena” didn’t even notice I had changed the answer for my name from Anna to Maude. She said she’d heard Idaho was very nice and asked if I’d like to be her tour guide, adding I was welcome to visit California where there are “many attractive attractions and activities.”
This message ended with an animated GIF of an adorable baby sloth. I wondered how far I could take the conversation and whether they would continue if they thought I was a child.
“What an adorable hamster!” I gushed. “Is he your pet? I had an iguana once.” I told “Ellena” I didn’t know where my father had found him, that they didn’t live too well in Idaho, but that I’d had him for a couple of years all the same.
She said it wasn’t her pet, but she had a dog, immediately asking for my profession, if I “didn’t mind,” so we could “have more understanding of each other.” “Ellena” said she was an entrepreneur, 35, and worked for a company dealing primarily in printer production for trade export.
Such obvious attempts at fishing for private information to exploit, yet it must work sometimes or they wouldn’t keep doing it. I responded that cats were much nicer and said I mostly ran lemonade stands outside my mom’s business when it wasn’t too cold outside, when we could buy enough lemons and sugar, and I sometimes sold drawings in the diner.
“I don’t know what an entrepreneur is,” I added. “I guess you must be French.” She then explained the word, said she was from Hong Kong, had lived in the United States for five years, stated her age again and asked my age again.
“But you know what they say, don’t you? He whose dog has no umbrella has very little indeed. That’s what my Aunt Janet says every Tuesday when I go over to watch her cat while she practices the trapeze,” I responded quickly.
“Ellena” agreed it was interesting, and I said it was the “very best,” adding I was going to travel in the circus with my aunt one day, explaining I was training to be a clown but really wanted to be a lion tamer, at which point she asked yet again for my age.
I said I didn’t like numbers much, noting my teacher said age was relative, but I would be 9 on Thursday and wanted a pink parasol for my birthday. I rambled about how they were hard to afford or even find in Idaho, lamenting how complicated everything is and explaining it made me sad.
“Ellena” said she was sure I could do it, but it might take a while, adding “People are honing themselves through step by step, go!” After this, she said she couldn’t quite believe I was only 9 and asked for a picture.
I said my “friend Brenda” said I wasn’t terribly patient, noting that was probably true and adding I should probably practice more. After a couple other short messages, there were no more responses. Perhaps “Ellena” actually had some shame thinking she might be talking to a child.
On a different recent occasion, “Trish” sent me a text, starting “Hello, Gerald.” I don’t know how many Geralds they think there are in this country. Maybe a lot for all I know, but I certainly haven’t known it to be common around here. She said she was interested in buying a piece of land I presumedly owned in Madison and wanted to know if I was taking bids on it.
“Gerald moved to South Dakota,” I stated, after which she apologized and stated a desire for “off-market properties,” adding she had a “great referral program.” So many similarities in these conversations… “Only Herald’s House of Happy Hedgehogs, but the owner’s not selling,” I wrote back.
For once, the conversation ended before it could really take off. What’s the craziest conversation you’ve had with a scammer? I’m curious to see what happens next. Time will tell.