A CON GAME
This file describes an encounter I had with a sleazy con game
operating thru the mail & using a 1-800 number to lure people
into paying out $$$ for supposedly 'free' magazines offered as
a reward for answering a phony telephone survey. I provide it as
information to protect others should they encounter this ploy.
I recently received a postcard with my address on a
computer-generated label and no return address, postmarked
Erie, Pennsylvania. On the reverse side was an apparently
handwritten message saying:
"I've been trying to reach you! Please call me at your earliest
convenience. Monday through Saturday 9 am to 9 pm,
at 1-800-231-9777. Ask for extension 28.
Puzzled by who was trying to reach me, I called the number, and
was told the line was busy but they'd return my call. I gave them
my phone number with some trepidation, and asking what company
they represented, I was told, "an answering service". I asked
another time, and got the same response "an answering service".
No company name to this answering service, evidently.
About 20 minutes later I got a return call. An individual calling
himself Pat Murphy said he was conducting a survey on people's
magazine reading habits as a reader's service. I reluctantly
decided to go along, having been suckered into calling this guy.
The 'survey' contained worthless questions such as "Are you
between the ages of 21 and 61?", "Do you prefer romance or mystery
novels?", and in all, had only maybe a total of 7 questions, that
apparently were directed towards housewives, and had no value for
any sort of real-life survey.
I went along & answered the questions, and was then told that
for participating in the survey I would receive FREE subscriptions
to TV Guide, Us magazine, Working Woman, Lady's Home Journal, for
..60.. issues each (I think he said 60 months, but whatever it
was, it was a ridiculously large number). Smelling a con game,
I listened further. The fellow continued his slick speech about
how useful these magazines were, how they contained many valuable
coupons I could use at the grocery store, and I did use coupons,
didn't I? He then began explaining the weekly monetary value of these
magazines, and started to ask for money to offset the 'operating
expenses' of providing this 'free service'.
I was totally convinced at this point that this was a con game,
because the survey was of no use to anybody, they were making an
offer "too good to be true", and the reticience of them to tell me
the name of their company. Without a doubt if I gave any money to
this guy I'd never see a single magazine promised for my cooperation.
I would not have been surprised if he had tried to finagle a credit
card number out of me, had I let him continue. I told him I wasn't
interested in paying for magazines I didn't want, and he quickly
terminated the conversation.
Outraged by being lured into a con game operating thru the mail
and using a 1-800 number, I decided to register my disgust by
calling them back 8 times with my modem (allowed within current
FCC regulations), with the small pleasure of knowing I'd run up
their phone bill by 50 cents each time by calling their number.
I called one last time by voice telling the operator that a
con game was being run thru their number. After a little thought,
I decided my actions had been useless as it had just aggravated
the poor operator, and I decided to inform the authorities that an
apparent interstate con game was being perpetrated, and I was almost
a victim of it. I spoke with an FBI agent who said they get lots
of calls about companies using these tactics, and it may indeed
be a con game, but unless there was evidence that the company had failed to
deliver services or had taken a customer's money, there was nothing
they could do. He added that the company may have been legitimate,
although using sleazy business practices in luring people to call
them. So until somebody gets ripped off, there's nothing the law can do.
I want people to be forewarned about this scam should they receive
a similar postcard in the mail. Please don't take matters into
your own hands or violate FCC regulations, by the way. Contact
your local FBI agent if you too, are targeted by this scam.