Everyday Ethics

images.jpgComeuppance: a deserved rebuke or penalty.

Well. I certainly got mine.

I think I can safely say I’ve never intentionally been patronizing or condescending in my quest to solve my own, and others’, ethical dilemmas. However, we often forget that intentions are all well and good until we get our own comeuppance.

Telemarketers —that’s where I’ll eat my words.

Once upon a time, I disagreed with Hillary on a post, when she asked if being mean to telemarketers was unethical or understandable. I commented on the post and said, “Well, I get pretty irritated as well, but…my mom worked for a call center when my father was too ill to work….And it breaks my heart to think of people being mean to her when she was just trying to do her job. “

To be fair, the incident I’m about to share wasn’t so much about telemarketing. This was straight-up terror tactics. Being a reasonably intelligent woman, I am still surprised at my naiveté and gullibility.

During an already stressful, busy week when I was exhausted and borderline-ill, I received a voicemail at work – an attorney’s office. Curious, but not yet worried, I called “John” back.  After identifying myself and explaining that I’d received a call from their office, I was told that I had a lawsuit pending against me for an unpaid debt/loan and that they needed my attorney’s information in order to file the court paperwork.

Instant nausea, fear, lightheadedness. I tried to stay cool. Debt? What loan? Lawsuit? Why didn’t I know anything about this? The man on the line explained to me that as they represented so many loan associations, it would be a conflict of interest for him to tell me who was bringing this lawsuit against me.  Sitting here now, with a clear head, I see this for the outrageous statement that it is.

However, I am admittedly the most absentminded person in the known universe when it comes to paying the bills.  I’m often forgetful, I’m often late, and I’ve worked hard to train myself in every way possible to compensate for this deficiency (Google calendar reminders, phone reminders, automatic deductions, etc). I’ve certainly made strides, but on top of past “ohcrapIforgottopaymyphonebill’s” I’ve also had about 4 different addresses in the last year – one of which was in a tiny corner of Thailand. As I quaked in my shoes at the thought of an imminent lawsuit, I thought it completely possible that I’d never received the final notice on some random payment and some unknown other was about to sue my pants off.

Again, I tried to stay calm. I explained to the man that I would be happy to pay whatever I owed (approximately $1000) but I needed some assurance that this was a legitimate request.

That’s when he got threatening.  He told me I would lose my job once the lawsuit was filed. I would lose my house. Best yet, he told me they would take my children away. I am baby-free at the moment, but I can only imagine how scared and angry I would have been if I had children and some stranger threatened to take them away!

This went on for a while; I missed a meeting at work, I was at the end
of my rope, my hands were shaking. Finally, I was ready to say, fine,
here’s my card number, I’ll pay this off, whatever this is.

I went back to my desk (I’d been trying to keep the conversation away
from my coworkers) ostensibly for the credit card in my wallet, but really for computer
access. I asked him to spell out the name of this so-called company for
my records, and typed it into Google. The screen immediately filled
with scam/fraud alert warnings, top to bottom, all describing my
situation almost verbatim.

“Um, sir,” I said into the phone, “I just Googled you? And yeah, this is a scam.” Click.

Illegal? Yes. Unethical? Hell yes! 

From what I’ve gathered doing my detective work online, these calls are
originating from some sweatshop in India. And yes, my own Indian
ethnicity probably made me a bit more susceptible in believing that
this was a legitimate paralegal from a legitimate legal office. I don’t
tend to believe that something is a scam simply because the person I’m
speaking with has an Indian accent. Half the people I know have Indian

 In the immediate aftermath of the call, I was all about reporting the
company to the Attorney General’s Office, Federal Trade Commission, and
Better Business Bureau. Then I really got mad. Not so much at this
faceless company, but at “John”. Who was this man? Why did he think it
was ok to terrorize people to make a buck? How could he do that to me?

This is why, two days later, much calmer, I say I got my comeuppance. I
was once so quick to pooh-pooh Hillary’s frustration with
telemarketers…“You don’t know who these people are…their personal
lives could have driven them to this…don’t judge.”

This is a different situation (scam vs. telemarketing) but I’m eating
my words for breakfast today. I know who this person is – scum. I don’t
care what is going on in his life – it was completely unethical for him
to take part in this scam. And judgment? Yep, I judge him.

For your reference, the name of the company is Federal
Legislation of Unsecured Loans
. Be warned. (I feel completely
ridiculous for falling for a scam with a name so obviously bogus, but I
guess the words “Federal” and “Loans” got to me.)

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