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DAVID ROSMAN: Lesson No. 1 — be wary of scams

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 | 10:20 a.m. CDT; updated 12:13 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Twice in one week — twice! — I called the cops. Here are the stories.

Last Thursday, at about 7 p.m., there was a knock at my door. Looking out the peephole, I saw a young man in a logo shirt with an ID badge and a clipboard. He at least looked official.

He said he represented CenturyLink and was looking for a “Cathy Smith.” Kathy is my better half, but her last name is not Smith. The last residents living here were not the Smiths. Yet he insisted there was a “Cathy Smith” living in my home. 

I told him that there was no soliciting in our complex, and I asked him to leave the property. He became “pushy,” which is the best I can say because this is a family newspaper.

He told me he was not selling, but wanted to show “Cathy Smith” some new services from CenturyLink. That, by definition, is selling and, therefore, soliciting.

He eventually left, but I found something kinky about him and his attitude. A lot of older residents live in our complex, and he was just aggressive enough to cause worry. Also, he did not leave by the closest exit but walked through the complex.

I caught up with him in the parking lot and said I wanted him to call so I could speak to his supervisor. Now, any good sales professional knows that when someone is angry enough to want to talk to your supervisor, you let them. He didn’t, and his language became a bit abusive.

As his voice rose, I called the Columbia Police Department to report that the guy was violating the policies of our complex.

The second incident happened Monday. It was a telephone call from someone with a heavy accent identifying himself as “John Packson.”

The accent did not belong to a John Packson. He told me I had been awarded a $5,250 federal grant and he needed to verify information.

Like Gunter the Robot from "Lost in Space," a voice in my head said, “Warning, David Rosman. Warning!” I heeded the voice.

While I had “Mr. Packson” on the telephone, I called the number that showed up on caller ID. It was not a working number.

I asked “Mr. Packson” to hold, but he had no fortitude and hung up. Imagine that.

I am telling you all this for two reasons: To commend the Columbia police and Joint Communications for not regarding my 911 calls as simple problems, and also to thank the officers who responded for taking my complaints with the level of seriousness I believe they deserved. Neither knew I wrote a column for the Missourian.

For the record, the CenturyLink guy was not cited for soliciting, but I didn't push.

The Columbia Police Department is there to serve and protect. Yes, some do not agree with me on that, and I am aware of incidents where the cops have been wrong. However, if you question the motives of a sales or home service person, listen to Gunter's voice and close the door.

If you feel something is really wrong, call 911.

Second, CenturyLink’s spokesman Greg Gaffke told me the company was appalled about the conduct of this outside sales representative. His company is investigating the incident, and he said he would get back to me later this week.

CenturyLink and Mediacom want their representatives to treat customers or prospects with care and respect. Both companies want to know if you have an incident like mine. Call them. This type of behavior is not acceptable.

Police officer Melvin Buckner told me that, unfortunately, there is little the police can do about the kind of telephone call I received Monday night. But you can. Don’t give out personal information.

With the economy in the doldrums, scams and schemes are a growing problem. If you are a student and think you are too smart to be taken, think again.

If you are the parents of a student and think you taught your child well, teach again.

If you are older and think you taught your children and your grandchildren better, take a refresher course.

Don’t ever give out your bank, Social Security, driver’s license or any other information to anyone unless you initiated the telephone call. “Thank you, goodbye” (SFX: Phone slamming onto cradle) is the best response.

The simplest lesson here is conveyed through Rosman Safety Rule No. 1:  Hang up the phone. Close the door. Call 911.

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and NYJournalofBooks.com.


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Comments

John Schultz August 17, 2011 | 11:09 a.m.

Well, I'm not so sure a 911 call was needed since neither situation sounded like an actual emergency. Maybe the non-emergency number for Joint Communications (442-6131) should have been used instead?

(Report Comment)
Blake Nelson August 19, 2011 | 10:53 p.m.

I agree with you John. I find it hard to believe with all thats going on right now that Mr. Rosman could not find something a little more read-worthy to write about. I had someone come to my door from CenturyLink to inform me of changes they had made, sounded good to me and I signed up. I since have been installed and everything is great. I find it hard to believe that this writer did his reporting on this story..... did he not verify that Centurylink had people out doing this? I mean come on.... And he calls 911 about a phone call???? If I called 911 every time I received a phone call like this, I would keep the cops busy. Mr. Rosman, think before you do sir! what if someone was in a REAL emergency and the cops got there late because of your pitty patty.... Thanks for costing us tax money over nothing. The editor of this paper needs to look at this stuff before its printed

(Report Comment)

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