Home Life Bits and Pieces ‘Congratulations! You’ve won a four-day luxury cruise for two!’

‘Congratulations! You’ve won a four-day luxury cruise for two!’

Stock photo: Fotolia

I am being stalked by a gal named Heather. No kidding! This gal begins calling mid-morning through early evening. The first time she called was over a year ago. She got my attention with, “Hi”… (Pause) “I’m Heather from account services.” Naturally, I followed the prompts and guess what? Heather was, in fact, a man who was trying to sell me a service. I politely declined. You’d think that would be the end, right? Wrong!

Heather is very persistent, even though I had her number (no pun intended), the calls continued even after I blocked her. Heather is a crafty chick — she changes her number and uses my area code and that of my neighboring communities.

Have you ever won a free vacation? I’ve won quite a few — bogus, of course! However, I was tricked the first time around. Holly (these robo gals are partial to names beginning with the letter “H”) left a message on my answering machine stating that I was selected as a winner in a raffle. I was instructed to call back pronto. I didn’t recall entering a raffle and ignored her call. The next day, Holly left another message informing me that I would forfeit my prize if I didn’t call back.

OK, sucker that I am, I called the number and yes, a gal (probably Holly), told me I won a Bahama deluxe vacation with a suite in a five-star hotel. There was one catch: I needed to pay a prize tax of $300 for my vacation. Guess where the money goes?

A friend received a call from an IRS agent attempting to collect back taxes. My friend is an accountant and had her number immediately. My feisty friend told the “agent” in no uncertain terms where to go and how! Fraudulent IRS agents netted $54 million from unsuspecting victims since 2013 according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

There was a consumer alert warning folks about the: “Can you hear me” scam. Scammers are calling victims asking if they can hear them. Eliciting a “yes” during a recorded conversation, scammers will use the “yes” to authorize unwanted charges on credit card accounts! These calls are aimed at the elderly.

I asked a consumer credit agent, why I was getting so many robo calls. I had followed the instructions and pressed the number on the phone that was supposed to stop said calls. She said: “That’s your mistake and the scammer’s ploy.“ Scammers use this trick to identify and target live recipients. By pressing the “I don’t want to receive a call” button we are put on the fast track for solicitations. Imagine?

At one time, these intrusive calls were confined to my home number. Nowadays, my cell phone number is out there too! I have subscribed to the “Do Not Call Registry” and have filed numerous complaints. The registry employees may be on vacation, out for an extended lunch, or have burnout. Perhaps it’s the latter. Scammers change their phone numbers in a New York minute; it’s probably near impossible to keep up.

And here is my pièce de résistance. I totally freaked out on a scammer—and he freaked out listening to my unintelligible rant. My Sicilian temper got lost somewhere — finding it and calming it down was not an option.

On September 14, my daughter-in-law Cassandra went into labor. Because my son Jeffrey and Cassandra live 13 hours away, it was near impossible for me to arrive for in time for Luca’s birth. During this period, her sisters who live in closer proximity were sending me minute by minute text messages. My phone was on fire!

During these anxious hours, the phone rang. I answered by reflex; the unfamiliar area code didn’t faze me. My brain was on high alert for the birth of my first grandchild.

I excitedly answered: “Did he arrive?”

Caller: “This is your lucky day, you’ve won the grand prize.”

“What?” I was befuddled.

When I realized he was a scammer, Oh Boy! — My editor cannot possibly print the words that I screamed at this poor man! But here’s a hint: They were mostly incoherent expletives. That unfortunate caller may live to tell his great-grandchildren about my unorthodox and probably insane behavior.

But, it turned out to be my lucky day after all: At 9:30 a.m. Pacific time, my first grandchild Luca Geoffrey Marszal made his much anticipated, star-studded appearance into this world.

When I saw the first photo of Luca, all of five minutes old, I was reminded of the poet Max Ehrmann’s words with which I have taken some poetic license — “With all its sham, scammers, robo calls, drudgery and broken dreams it’s still a beautiful world.”

Yes, indeedie, it is!

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Celia Marszal-Iannelli
Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.