By George Capsis
I got a call: a young-sounding male voice that said he was my grandson, had been in an automobile accident the night before, his hands and face were hurt, and he needed my help.
He admitted the accident had been his “fault,” and instructed that I needed to bring cash to his “lawyer,” whose name and telephone number he gave carefully. All through the call he kept repeating, “Don’t speak to anyone, don’t speak to anyone.”
When I called his father (my son), my grandson Teddy was sitting there right in front of him. Teddy had not been involved in an accident and it was not Teddy who had called.
Still breathing hard, I called the fake lawyer and let him have it, searching for words to castigate him, until he became defensive and offered something like, “What’s a crook supposed to do to make a living?”
I checked with the FCC and was informed that this is a classic rip-off: the grandparent ploy.
But that is not all: I received an e-mail from someone who claimed to be the president of a Japanese company that manufactured building materials: “Hello, we wish to contract your services as an intermediary representative in North America. Email us for more information about job description, salary & commissions. Thank you, Kenichiro Adachi, president.”
Oh, boy. I was so delighted to receive this email from the president of a Japanese company asking me to represent them in the U.S. and Canada to (I presumed) sell their products. But I was taken aback when the next email explained that they only wanted my assistance in their efforts to collect outstanding invoices from delinquent companies. They offered that I would be paid $4,000 a month plus commissions.
Oh my, this seemed suspicious. I called the Japanese Consulate (Consulate General of Japan in New York) and asked them to check on the company. A very sympathetic Japanese-speaking American council staffer enlisted native Japanese-speaking specialists to laboriously try to find out if I’d indeed received a legitimate inquiry from a real company; after a two-day search they found that the company is not “real.”
This was the second computer con I’d been exposed to in just a few days. Considering the usual three or four robo calls I get every day, that so often start with a recorded American voice and then offer one with an Indian accent asking, “How are you today sir,” I became anxious—was I getting too old to use a computer?
The internet has opened the door to global thieves and nobody is doing anything about it. Every once in a while, when I don’t want to work, or get too fed up with the sea of computer fraud that laps at my phone and my ancient Apple, I call the press office at the Federal Communications Commission and ask, “What is the FCC doing to stop robo calls?” More often than not, I get a nice intelligent gentleman who agrees with all my complaints but falls silent when I suggest any solutions (including prosecution of English-literate Japanese con artists). The only response offered is a well-practiced, “We are thinking about it.”
Evidently, the wide-open global playing field that the computer offers cannot be constrained by identifying and prosecuting a Japanese crook (or anyone else, for that matter) who writes English very well.
Every phone, by law, should have a record key connected to the FCC computer in Washington that can advise a robo bandit they are building a case and suggest, “Why don’t you make another robo call? You can become the number one crook and make the front page of the New York Times and WestView News.”