On my most recent bi-annual trip to Costa Rica, we had dinner one night with David and his family. David is an American who’s spent the last 20 years in Central America, has a Costa Rican wife and two Costa Rican-born children.
Davito, “little David,” is 18 years old and had just gotten his first real job. He was hired on the basis of his flawless English, a benefit of being raised by an American father.
“So what exactly are you doing?” we asked the newly employed Davito.
“I work in a phone room and talk to the people in the States all day,” he replied.
A few minutes more of friendly chitchat got what radio announcer Paul Harvey used to refer to as “the rest of the story.”
Davito, Dave on his phone calls, used a Vonage line with a 702 area code — we all know where that suggests he was calling from — to sell vehicle warranties. Working from a telemarketing list compiled from vehicle registrations, his job was to let owners of 2011 automobiles know that their factory warranties were already expired or were about to expire.
He’d then quote a very realistic cost for a bumper-to-bumper warranty extension. The name of the company was very similar to the name of a well known (and real) American company and Davito’s challenge was to MAKE THE SALE and get a credit card number from the customer on that first phone call.
He was paid on commission — 5 percent. So if he sold a $700 “policy,” he picked up $35. Pretty good money-making opportunity for an 18-year-old kid mostly reading from a script.
The reality of this job was there was no actual warranty company. It was a foreign scam and “customers” never knew it was a scam until (and if) they had a claim.
Sometimes my job is not fun. Telling Big David that Little David was a pawn in an illegal enterprise was not my finest moment.
There was no joy in letting him know that such companies were all too common and often worked from far outside the U.S. borders.
Why am I telling you this dinner-time story? Simply to illustrate two things:
1. There are generally no incoming telemarketer “ticking clock” deals (“You have to buy it now”) that are legit. If a deal can’t wait for a call back, meaning YOU call THEM, in a day or two or three, it’s NOT A DEAL. Hang up. You are always better off when a purchase is YOUR idea, not a stranger’s.
Call your dealer or your auto insurer and get a contact number for a real company.
2. A local area code is no guarantee that you are dealing with a local company. It’s 2014 and area codes don’t mean much anymore.
Drop by the Pahrump Valley Times offices, 2160 E. Calvada Blvd., for a copy of Leslie Kim’s latest book “123 Main Street … the Scamming of America.” Only $19.95 while supplies last.