Press 1 to Be Caught Red-handed

by Tom Swift

I am a fugitive from justice. A renegade. A stone-cold criminal with no regard for human life.

Or so you might believe if you listen to the voicemails I have been receiving.

At least four times in the last week I have gotten robocalls alerting me that I face some serious allegations. I simply need to press 1, the non-human caller says with wordsthatruntogether, and if I do, I could avoid the legal action that is about to be taken against me.

Since I have not answered any of these calls I have not be able to ask the non-human what they got me on — racketeering (whatever that is)? Espionage (think I couldn’t?)? Serial jaywalking (OK, I plead guilty to that one, officer, but isn’t my dog cute?)?

What we know is such scams are working on at least some people or else they would not continue. Those of us blessed with educations and connectedness can sniff at those who might fall prey to these kind of scams but we shouldn’t.

First of all, I get it. The tone of the call, the threat of legal action, the naming of authorities and courts — after you get a few of these over a few days, you second guess whether or not it’s real. It’s understandable you might panic or at least take measures so that you can be sure.

Second, some people (more than a few), fairly or unfairly, correctly or falsely, do have ongoing legitimate legal issues with which to contend. That is the intent, presumably — to target the vulnerable and play on their fears.

Our disdain, then, should be squarely on laws and systems and inadequate investigation of such scams and not those who fall victim to them.

Of course, the whole thing does strain credulity. When you step back and remove your fear for a minute you think: is this how we’re catching criminals these days — with strongly worded voice mails? The police aren’t knocking on your door; they are speed-dialing instead.

Fugitive No. 1: “Clete, we gotta turn ourselves in.”

Fugitive No. 2: “What are you talking about, Jerry? The money from the bank we robbed is right here for safekeeping [Clete holds up stuffed pillowcase and tap-taps the side, smiling]. We are free as birds, buddy.”

No. 1: “Not any more. We gotta give it back.”

No. 2: “What do you mean we have to give it back?”

No. 1: “Afraid so. I …. I got a call.”

No. 2: “Don’t tell me: Did they — did they ask you to press 1?”

[Jerry nods]

No. 2: “And you pressed 1?”

[Jerry looks at his feet]

[Clete shakes his head, starts taking money out of the pillowcase]