14 March 2008

Curiosity killed the cat

Yesterday I almost fell for a vanity scam. So here's the warning to other vane people. :-)

A week ago I got a mail from something called the "Madison Who's Who" register. Apparently I had been recognised by my peers as worthy of inclusion into this register, but had to report my interest by following the logon link. I did, and was presented with a page to submit personal details. While I could feel my neck hairs stand on end, curiosity got the better of me and I submitted my name and telephone number. The website was quite professionally made, though, and so far there was no indication of rip-off intentions.

Yesterday I got a phone call from USA. Alledgedly from NYC, from Madison Who's Who. A young guy with good telemarketing skills talked directly to my vane side, used whatever he had scraped together of info on me from the profile and used it to affirm with me the impression of them knowing I was a valuable professional within my field. Since I try to keep my paid job well apart from my photography, I shall not explain why he has a point even beyond my personal vanity (how's that for rhetorical ego boosting, eh?). Trust me that it could have been legitimate for a particular field of expertise. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that something was not quite right. The slickness factor was just those notches too high for my liking. There was a lot of verbal social grooming, like "what do you consider your most essential talent in your profession", "what would you say is the main reason why you have reached your level of expertise", etc.

Then, after a 15 minutes conversation (wonder how much that cost from USA to Norway), he got to the more salient points. He was selling extended memberships. His voice fell into reciting mode, speaking monotonely and very fast, listing options I had. By subtle intonations he toned down the one important fact; every alternative came with a "small fee to be paid up front".

Ha! The guy thought he had me warm and lulled into confidence. I said I was confused by the alternatives and had him repeat it. Still "confused", I asked for the info in an email. Unfortunately, he told me, the company had not equipped its call-center with computers because then they would "listen to internet radio all day". Yeah right.

I figured this was interesting enough to do further investigation, so I told him I couldn't make any decision right away. He is to call me back on Monday. Meanwhile, I've found plenty of references to this being a archetypical "vanity scam". Here are
some of the links:
Exposing the Who's who racket (AOL video) - This video is of a phone conversation almost identical to mine.
Leoni's blog on RedBubble
Try a Google search for "madison who's who scam" for a bucketload of links.

So, the main question is now. What to do when they call on Monday? Play them? Trash them? Or just dismiss them without ado?


Tim said...

It is way past next monday now. But my favorite trick towards phone sellers is replying "hang on a moment please". Then my next move is to leave the phone at the table and move to another room. They are usuallly gone when I pick up the phone half an hour later :-)

For some reason they never call back.


Alunfoto said...

I should have updated this post of course. Thanks for commenting, Tim.

You're right. They never called back. Probably clever enough to understand I would have been prepared for them.

I have employed your trick some times too. It gets even better if you periodically pick up the phone and mumble "be with you in just a couple of seconds now".