These Scammers Are Just Sick

, , , , | Legal | May 25, 2020

I’m at my grandma’s house one day, helping her go through some stuff. While she’s not very tech-savvy, she’s still pretty smart and knows when something’s up. She also has no problems wasting someone’s time if she knows they’re up to no good.

The phone rings, and she answers. I can hear the caller on the other end.

Grandma: “Hello?”

Caller: “Yes, this is [Caller] at Microsoft. Your computer has a bug.”

My grandma rolls her eyes.

Grandma: “A bug? But I’m not sick!”

Caller: “No, not a sick bug. It’s like a glitch. We can fix it for you, though.”

Grandma: “Really? How can you fix it?”

Caller: “Are you at your computer?”

We’re both in the kitchen, with the closest computer halfway across the house.

Grandma: “Yes, I am.”

Caller: “Can you open the start menu? It’ll be the icon with the squares in the bottom left corner.”

Grandma: “Okay, it’s open.” 

The caller then gives instructions on what commands to enter. If done, it would allow him remote access to the computer. When it comes time to actually input the final steps:

Grandma: “Actually, can you hold on? My show’s about to come on.”

Caller: “Ma’am, it’s very important that we fix this now. This bug could ruin your computer.”

Grandma: “Really?”

Caller: “Yes, ma’am. You could lose everything on the computer.”

Grandma: “Huh, because ten minutes ago I ran [Security Software], and it came back fine. I also know Microsoft doesn’t call about computer bugs. Do people actually still fall for that? Next, you’ll be some prince trying to send me millions!”

The caller is silent for a moment and then hangs up. My grandma puts the phone down.

Grandma: “Bug, my a**.”

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You’d Have To Be Blind To Call Again

, , , , , | Legal | May 22, 2020

I have been getting many, many calls over the past several months telling me my vehicle warranty is about to expire. Usually, I just hang up, but last week I had enough and decided to call their bluff. 

Me: “Hello?”

Robotic Voice: “Hi, this is [Name] with the vehicle warranty department. Our records show your car’s warranty will expire soon. Press one to speak to an agent.”

I press one.

Scammer: “Hello, can you please verify the make and model of your vehicle?” 

Me: “A 2019 white cane.” 

Scammer: *Confused* “What, miss?”

Me: *Repeating* “A 2019 white cane.”

Scammer: “Uh, what was that?”

Me: “Let me help you out. I know this is a scam. I do not own a vehicle. In fact, I am completely blind and have been my whole life. Therefore, I am not able to obtain a driver’s license, let alone buy a car.”

Scammer: *Absolutely shocked* “Uh… Um… Really?”

Me: “This is the fourth call from you I have received this week, and I have all the different numbers you use in my phone’s history. I will ask you once to remove me from your list. If you contact me again, I will file a complaint with the FCC.”

Scammer: *Click* 

The next day, they called me again! As promised, I hung up and filed a report with the FCC. I wonder if they would actually give me a warranty on my cane, though!

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Not Always Legal (Aid Clinic)

, , , , , , | Legal | May 19, 2020

The law school at my university offers a “legal aid clinic,” where students can get free legal advice. This story does not take place there. It takes place in the philosophy department with a philosophy professor.

Professor: *Answering phone* “Hello, this is [Professor].”

Long pause.

Professor: “Oh, you must want the legal aid clinic. Let me find you their number.”

Longer pause.

Professor: “So, you want to know if there’s an ethical argument here before you consider a legal one?”

Very long pause.

Professor: “No. It’s not ethical to sue your mother because she gave your dog an unoriginal name.”

He hangs up and turns to a colleague.

Professor: “How do I make this an unlisted number?”


This story was featured in our May 2020 roundup!

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Insuring Instant Karma For One Dirty Agent

, , , , , , | Legal | May 16, 2020

I work in Medicare insurance, getting people coverage through part C and part D. My job has many, many rules, and serious consequences for breaking them. One caller’s situation stands out.

She called in the middle of February, distraught, because another agent had called her and signed up for a new plan. 

This — in the first minute of the call — was my first red flag. It is illegal for a Medicare insurance agent in Wisconsin to cold call anyone, as well as to enroll them in a new insurance plan on an outbound call; agents can only ever enroll people who called them.

After sign-up, she’d run into trouble getting her prescriptions refilled, so she’d wanted to talk to her agent again. She’d spent more than a week trying to get in touch with him and had eventually found my number, thinking that my office was Medicare itself.

My office’s name does have Medicare in the title, but we always immediately clarify that we do not work for the government.

My workplace has an unusual approach to callers: no matter what they called about, spend at least ten minutes helping and continue to help for as long as they need. We are a sales office, but we’re paid hourly and our commission is negligible in order to support this behavior.

I start asking questions and track down the plan she’s been signed into. My first bit of good news is that it’s a plan that I’m contracted with; I can pull up the full contract and can figure out the answers to every one of her questions, but with every question she asks, my internal alarm bells chime a little louder.

Insurance agents are supposed to be responsible to their customers. Whoever this other agent was, he left her not knowing most of what she needed to know; he’d effectively bullied her into changing and then left her high and dry.

The medicine issue was actually coincidental; I told her what she needed to tell her pharmacist to clear things up but asked her to stay on the line and answer a few more questions, and I checked to make sure her family doctor was in the network of her new plan.

He was not, and the other agent had not even told her that changing plans would have restricted her from seeing him. This could have cost her thousands of dollars!

That medication issue that sent her to me saved her from an untold amount of hassle. The plan change could only go into effect at the beginning of the next month; the new plan wasn’t in place yet, and we could overwrite or cancel it just by submitting the paperwork.

I did one last piece of digging. Election periods are the times of year that a person is allowed the opportunity to change their coverage. If this other agent had submitted a change, what had he used? He hadn’t mentioned this to my caller at all. A quick rundown of options left only one answer. The other agent had used an election period called OEP to change her coverage.

OEP is effectively an emergency exit at the start of the year for when someone finds out that their plan is not suitable to their needs. Agents are prohibited from advertising or even mentioning OEP on calls; the customer must request a change or express distress before OEP can be brought up. Using OEP without the customer knowing or even understanding what was being done? Egregious.

So, I go through the paperwork with her and get her signed back into the plan that she had originally, and I give her the appropriate phone numbers to check up with her plan to ensure that she won’t have any trouble. But before we disconnect, I have one final errand for her.

I give her the phone number of the Commissioner of Insurance of the State of Wisconsin: the regulating body responsible for cracking down on bad insurance agents.

Let’s run it down, shall we?

Cold-calling a Medicare insurance customer, uninvited? $25,000 fine. Per person, if he’s called others.

Enrolling her on an outbound call, willfully signing her up into an unsuitable plan, and abusing OEP? Forfeiture of license, along with twice the value of any money they hoped to gain by doing this, plus a $5,000 fine and up to three years in prison. 

That’s three counts of it, mind you, so up to six times the money he tried to make, a $15,000 fine, and nine years in prison, and probably being banned from insurance work in the United States for life.

If he’s done it to one innocent old woman, he’s probably done it to others. I will never know the fallout from the case, but knowing the tools at the Commissioner’s fingertips, I’m reasonably confident I got a swindler his comeuppance.


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A Pregnant Pause In The Middle Of Their Ride

, , , , | Legal | May 13, 2020

I’m pregnant with my second child and I begin to feel a few contractions. I call my doctor and she wants me to get an exam before the upcoming delivery, so I take a rideshare to the hospital. I know, from my first birth, that I’m still hours away before the baby comes out, and the contractions are still manageable without much more than a grunt, but car rides are very uncomfortable under those conditions.

We get stuck in traffic a few blocks from the hospital, and I suggest the driver turns on a different street that, from what I can remember from the last time I went to that hospital, will get us there. But I’m wrong and the driver makes a U-turn to get us back to the right path. It’s a little residential street, and several streets just like this one are two-way streets in this area. But this is not one.

We come out, going the wrong way, to find out the cause of the traffic jam was a police block. The cop is very excited to bust my poor driver for going the wrong way.

Cop: “You are going the wrong way; what were you thinking?”

Driver: “Sorry, I—”

I know all this is my fault, and I feel awful, so I open my window to intervene.

Me: “Sorry, officer! It was my fault!”

I feel a contraction coming and I let out a roaring scream like in the movies. I catch my breath and continue.

Me: “You see, I’m having a baby and we need to get to the hospital—”

I point to the hospital, just a block away

Me: “—and I thought this street got us there.”

The officer gets very alarmed and tells us to follow him.

I’m very happy he let the driver go without a ticket, especially since cops here are notorious for asking for bribes. But my driver is almost freaking out.

Driver: “WAIT! YOU’RE IN LABOR?”

I let out a very relieved laugh and explained to him that, well, technically, I was, but the baby was still hours away. 

The cop got in his car and escorted us the short distance, sirens blazing. It was all very cinematographic and completely unnecessary since there was no traffic past the police block.

We got there in minutes and all was well with us. I even went back home and then back to the hospital — no wrong roads this time — before having my baby later that day.

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