The call started in the usual way, with the usual heavily accented voice: “Hello, am I speaking to Roger Morris?”
“Good morning, my name is Alex. I’m calling from TalkTalk. We have identified some problems with your router. Your router is constantly downloading malicious malware which is considerably slowing down your computer. I need you to go to your computer now and follow some steps that I will tell you … Are you in front of your computer now?”
I’d had two identical calls on Friday. The first time, I very nearly went along with it. They knew my name. They knew I was a TalkTalk customer. They even said they had details of the direct debit used to pay my account to prove they were legit. And hadn’t I had a letter from Dido Harding, CEO of TalkTalk, reassuring me that my personal details had not been accessed by the hackers who had stolen data from TalkTalk in 2015? Surely it couldn’t be a scam? Could it?
Well, yes, it was. And on Friday, after the first call, I phoned TalkTalk to report it. They reassured me that they would never call customers to tell them about ‘router problems’. They always wait for the customer to report a problem and then do something. Of course. It’s absurd to think that a company like TalkTalk would have the time to monitor all our routers and give us a friendly call about problems we haven’t even noticed.
The advice I got from TalkTalk was to hang up immediately if they ever rang again. But when I got my third scam call on Monday, I decided to have a little fun instead. And make them log up a massive phone bill in the process.
First up, I wasted a few minutes by saying “I don’t understand” to everything the guy said and getting him to repeat every sentence over and over again ever more slowly. And every time he finished I would say, “But I don’t understand”. And make him go through it all again.
I thought he’s bound to get bored of this. But he didn’t. Well, not before I did.
I came clean with him. “Look, I know this is a scam.”
“You think this is a scam? It’s not a scam.”
“It’s a scam. I phoned TalkTalk and asked them do they ever ring customers and tell them about router problems and they said no.”
“You phoned TalkTalk?” He seemed slightly outraged.
“Yes, the company you say you work for. They said they never ring people like this. They said it’s a scam. You’re a criminal.”
“You’re saying I’m a criminal?”
“I’m not a criminal. This is not a scam.”
“It’s a scam. I know it’s a scam.” Surely he would hang up now that I’d rumbled him? But no, he was still on the line, thinking over what to say next.
Eventually it came. His admission: “It’s a scam.”
“You’re admitting it’s a scam?”
“Yes, it’s a scam. What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. What do you think I should do?”
“You could call the police.” This seemed to be a challenge. He was daring me. Testing me. He knew I wasn’t going to call the cops.
“I could. Do you think I should call the police?”
“It’s up to you.”
“Maybe I will then.”
Long pause, before: “Do you want to come and work for us?”
“Do you want to work for us? You could earn £3,000 a week.”
I pretended I didn’t quite hear him right. “£3,000 an hour?”
“No. £3,000 a week. Not £3,000 an hour. £3,000 a week.”
In my head, I compared that to what a professional footballer would earn. I guessed it was less. Whereas £3,000 an hour would be about the same. “I thought you said £3,000 an hour.” I made my voice sound disappointed.
“How much do you earn?”
“I’m not going to tell you that.”
More aggressively: “How much do you earn? You don’t earn £3,000 a week.”
“I’m not going to tell you.”
“Do you want to work for us?”
“I thought you said £3,000 an hour.”
“Do you want to work for us? You can earn £3,000 a week.”
That ‘can’ sounded a bit weasely to me. Plus, as I pointed out: “It’s illegal. And immoral.”
“Do you want to work for us?”
Weirdly he still didn’t seem at all inclined to hang up. Maybe he really thought he could persuade me to go and work for them. Or maybe he was lonely and appreciated having someone to talk to.
I remembered I had a guy measuring up for a new carpet on the landing. I wondered what he was making of this conversation.
Besides, I didn’t think working for scammers was such a good idea. I’d have to give them my bank details.
I hung up.