Tech Review – Telephones
This blog is about technology, business and security, and even though telephones are older technology, they are still technology.
Earlier this week, I received a phone call. As I was busy, it went to voice mail. Upon checking it, I heard the following:
Hi, this is Travis. Calling about full time and part time work. 555-555-5555.
First of all, I do not know Travis. Secondly, I do not know if Travis was looking for work or looking to hire. Third, I have no idea what company Travis is representing (or if he even is). I returned his call and left a message with my name, company, reason for calling and a contact number.
This morning, my phone rings and the following conversation ensues:
- Phone: Ring Ring
- Me: “This is Josh”
- Note, I deliberately answer the phone this way, because many of the automated systems listen for a “hello” or a “yes”. It’s also a good way to put people off their guard and give me the upper hand in case they’re trying a scam.
- Phone: Pause
- This indicated to me that I was being called by a machine.
- Travis: “Yes, I’m looking for Josh”
- I just told him who I was. This tells me that he’s not listening.
- Me: “This is Josh”
- Note, making me repeat myself is not a good way to start a conversation or a relationship.
- Travis: “I think I received a call from this number looking for part time work”
- OK, first of all, his message was full or part time work, so he’s changed his story. Second, he clearly doesn’t know who he’s calling. Third, I have some doubts as to whether he’s actually listened to my message.
- Me: “May I ask who is calling?”
- Travis: “Travis”
- Uh huh. Either this guy is utterly clueless or there’s some sort of scam going on here.
- Travis: “Are you looking for part time work?”
- Yes, as a matter of fact, I am. In fact, I don’t even care what the work is, where it is, when it is, or how much you pay.
- Me: “Um, what kind of work?”
- Travis: “Well, we’re in the health care industry”
- Right. Are they a hospital? Are they looking for nurses, doctors, janitors, receptionists? Maybe they do health insurance. Maybe they run around breaking people’s kneecaps and then driving them to the ER. So many options, so little time.
- Me: “I work in I.T.”
- Travis: “Umm, err”
- At this point, I decide to let him off the hook, as I’m busy and have real work to do. Even if he is trying to scam me, I don’t have the time or legal authority to set a trap for him.
- Me: “I suspect that you have the wrong number. In the future, it would be useful to know which company you represent and what sort of work you are referring to.”
- Travis: “Thanks for the tip!”
- Phone: Hang Up
The telephone is a form of electronic communication, much like email, blogging, IM and Twitter. As with all forms of communication, there is a minimal standard of etiquette as well as a layer of etiquette that is technology-specific. In this case, were Travis a legitimate caller, he should have given me his company name and a reason for his call in his initial message. That would have given me the information necessary to return his call and leave a message indicating that he had dialed the wrong number. That would have much more efficient for everyone involved.
Also, were Travis a scammer, he should have researched me before calling me (I’m not difficult to find) and constructed a scam that would have appealed to me. Odds are “I need help with my computer” would have sufficed. At that point, we could have had a conversation about the type of work I do, which would have enabled him to better tune the scam at getting either free work or money out of me.
By not following the appropriate form of social etiquette for the communication medium, he tipped me off that there was something hinky going on. Much like misspelled words in email, poor (or perfect) grammar in spam, or letter-abbreviations in instant messages, a variance from established social convention is often the first tip we get that a security violation is taking place. Watching for those is the best way to protect yourself against scams and shady business dealings. It’s also a good way to recognize business errors before they start to take too much of your time.