I get these phone calls. I don’t mind them to much. I’m an old man, retired. Not much going on these days. Sometimes it’s nice to have somebody to talk to. So the phone rings. It’s a cell phone, but I have practically unlimited minutes. And, like I said, sometimes it’s nice to have somebody to talk to:
This is Rachel with Cardholder Services.
Rachel goes on to explain that the rules have changed. It is now possible for me to reduce the interest I pay on my credit card balance to as little as 6%. This is great news. I know, because this is about the 50th time I have received this call from Rachel.
Rachel advises that if I want to learn how to reduce my interest rate I must press 1 on my phone pad. This I eagerly do, because, like I said, I’m an old man and retired. If Rachel didn’t phone me several times a week I would’t get any phone calls at all.
After pressing 1, I wait for a moment to be connected to a live operator. He starts by asking some questions:
- How much is my credit card debt?
- What interest rate am I currently paying?
- How many accounts is this debt spread over?
Regarding the first, I step neatly out of character. I lie. See, if I told the truth the live operator will immediately hang up. They are only interested in people who have massive debt. $500 is too small potatoes for them to bother with. If you want to talk to the live operator you’re going to have to tell him you owe $11,000 or something like that. Just lie. Jesus will forgive you.
Next there’s the matter of the interest rate. Rachel’s live operators only want to deal with people paying high interest rates. Again I lie. I say something like 11%. Truth is, I really don’t know what rate I pay, because I never pay it. The good wife and I charge so little on our cards we just pay off the bill when it comes due, and there’s never any interest. Again, I think Jesus will forgive you if you tell Rachel’s live operator you’re paying 11%. 18% and you may have to answer to the Big Guy after you die.
I tell Rachel’s live operator the debt is only on one account. This isn’t much of a lie, and it keeps the dialog simple. Who wants to get involved with talking about multiple accounts when all you want to do is have a conversation with somebody in Pakistan.
About this point, things are going to get sticky. Rachel’s live operator is going to ask you for your credit card number. Do not, I repeat, do not give Rachel’s live operator, or for that matter anybody who calls you up on the telephone, your credit card number. What I do at this point is say that I need to look at my credit card. This is true, and Jesus would approve. I have no idea what my credit card number is. I tell Rachel’s live operator I need to go get my credit card. I ask him to hold on for just a minute. I tell him my credit card is in another room. What I do not tell him is that the other room is in another state.
I make sure Rachel’s live operator is going to wait for me. Then I put down the phone so I can go into another room and look for my credit card. Then I hunt for the cable remote to find out what’s on The History Channel, while Rachel’s live operator cools his heels waiting for me to get back to the phone.
This may sound cruel, but it’s not. What is really cruel is when I come back to phone periodically and ask Rachel’s live operator to hold on a little longer while I hunt for my credit card. There really are some good programs on The History Channel.
Think that’s cruel? Please be advised.
What I like to do before asking Rachel’s live operator to hold the phone is to get him to explain as much as possible about the kind of deal he’s going to give me. How’s this going to reduce my interest rate? Is it going to cost me anything? What does he think about the new Republican administration. At this point it’s important to be careful. You do not want Rachel’s live operator to get the idea you’re stalling just to keep him on the line. This takes some skill. You need to practice this several times to get it right. I’ve had the practice.
All of this would not be so much fun if Rachel owith Cardholder Services were the only game in town. Fortunately for me (old, retired, lonely man) there are more. For instance, there’s Life Alert. I’ve had the most fun with Life Alert. It went like this.
How does this work?
You have an emergency (fallen and can’t get up), and you press a button. The system alerts the proper authorities.
What if I’m not at home?
No problem. Your remote device can contact the system from just about anywhere.
Sometimes I’m up in the mountains in Utah.
Can’t do that.
What if I’m just out on the street somewhere?
It can do that.
How does it know where I am?
It uses GPS.
Really. How does that work?
The GPS sends your location to the proper authorities.
If I’m in a car?
I don’t think the GPS signal will penetrate the metal body of a car.
Sure. We’ve tested it. It works.
What if I’m in a tunnel? I don’t think the GPS unit will receive satellite signals inside a tunnel.
I don’t know about that. I can check.
Who there can tell me?
Over-reach! The Life Alert operator must have had an egg timer running, because something told him he needed to get on to a live body. He disconnected the call. He didn’t even tell me to have a nice day. Or say goodbye. They’re so cruel.
I think maybe I overdid it that time with Life Alert. Thereafter I would get a call that said, “Hello, seniors.” And then the caller would tell me that I was qualified for a Life Alert system that wouldn’t cost me anything and that I should press 1 to speak to an operator. Now when I press 1 I am informed that is not a working number, and the call is disconnected. They don’t even tell me to have a nice day. Or say goodbye.
Rachel with Cardholder Services appears to be getting tired of me, as well. Not too tired of me to quit calling me on the telephone. I just a few minutes ago received another call from Rachel, advising me, as always, to press 1. I pressed 1, and the call was immediately disconnected. They didn’t even tell me to have a nice day. Or say goodbye.
A little research shows what I’m missing:
If you are one of the legions of consumers who suffered through those annoying robocalls from “Rachel with Cardholder Services,” you could have money coming your way.
That’s right. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer watchdog, has reached a settlement with a collection of companies it says used that ploy. And now a special administrator is preparing to mail out checks to victims.
The total amount available to repay consumers is $700,000. The FTC says it is mailing out 16,590 checks this week. Each check will be for $42.95 and must be cashed within 60 days.
Here’s how the scheme worked: Robo-Rachel called you and claimed she could help with your credit card interest rate. If you asked to be connected with a real operator, the company then claimed it could get your credit card interest rate reduced for a fee. Credit companies are not supposed to guarantee you credit or a particular interest rate in exchange for an up front fee.
So… does this mean Rachel is dead and gone and you won’t be hearing from her again? Maybe. When a robocalling scheme works, other companies often copy it. In fact, after the FTC took its first action against “Rachel,” investigators were frustrated when the calls continued, likely placed by other sketchy companies.
If Rachel is gone, other robo-calling schemes will probably take her place. So report them! Robocalls are now illegal without your written consent and the same is true with political robocalls to your cell phones. As these payments prove, the FTC does investigate them.
See what I missed. This could have been so much fun.
Goodbye, Rachel. Though we were destined never to meet, keep thinking of me. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.