Hello, Mr. Gerald
An exploration of the 2022 BossLady Text Scammers
Est. Read Time: 5 minutes. Read Time brought to you always by the Ashburton Energy + Hair Logistics Group, in association with the Bradley Hills Bureau of Corrections.
Europeans and wanderlusty Americans! Buy tickets to my show with Mike Glazer at Edinburgh Fringe Fest!
NOTE: This SternJourn was written on the phone! Apologies for any formatting inconsistencies!
Ciao, Sternal Journalists!
I’m writing from Rappalo, Italy after attending a wedding in Milan this weekend. The time difference is allowing me to write this at 2:30pm on a Monday and still eke out my unofficial deadline of “before most people I know wake up in LA.” Which is nice.
Also, it looks like this:
Which is nice.
That coffee I’m cheers-ing you with is from some foreign version of a Nespresso machine, and is really delicious despite or perhaps because I somehow spilled a gallon of water while making it’s roughly six total ounces.
More on my feelings towards international travel next week—I think I actually like it as much as your average person, but the inevitable stresses do loom larger in my mind during the run-up than the inevitable Profound Lifechanging Experiences—but this week, a slightly shorter joy-rant:
What is with these coy, aspirational spam texts and why do they make me happy?
I think it was about May when I got my first of this new batch of spam texts. It was on WhatsApp and said:
I did not respond. But I took note. There was something so breezy in its confidence. Even though I knew this was absolutely a spam text, I did get a jolt of “Ah yes! It’s been so long. I *am* Mr. Charles and it has indeed been quite some time since I’ve talked to this old compatriot of mine.”
But I thought it was an anomaly. And then more rolled in. They included:
“Kevin, this is my new number. Do you remember when we were supposed to play golf and talk about working together?”
“Hello, this is Kelly. I saw a number on the phone without remarks. Did we know each other before?”
“Hello, is this Kevin? I don't know if I have the wrong number”
“Hi Eli!I'm not sure if it's the wrong number”
“Sorry, friend, do I want to make sure that you are Mr Roger?”
“How are you?”
“Mr. Kevin, how is the renovation of my store going?”
Some of these stayed on WhatsApp, but others rolled in on standard texting as well. As I read more, I clocked the breeziness more clearly as attempts at flirtation (this was underlined by the super catfishy profile pictures of 20/30-something women on all of the WhatsApp profiles).
And scamming via promises of seduction is nothing new, but what tickled me was the regular mixing-into-the-fray of no-nonsense business savvy.
We’re going GOLFING and talking about a deal. We’re a CONTRACTOR renovating someone’s BUSINESS. Every time I’ve engaged (of course I have), the person says they live in Manhattan (BUSINESSTOWN USA) and are just looking for friends. It’s like someone put “Boss Bitch Looking for Love” into that Dall-E AI art thing and these texts are what popped out?
I assume the target for this spam endgame is the same target for most digital scams: old people. Specifically, it seems based on the catfish profiles, old men. So what does it say that these scammers think those old men will be more lured by a woman who owns property in Manhattan and goes on golf outings to talk financing of expansion of her retail business? It’s probably not less sexist, but some 2022 evolution surely.
And is there a style guide for this on the other end? Are the scammers taught buzzwords? Do they compare notes? Feel a sense of fulfillment when they knock out what they deem a realistic hook?
Ultimately, what I want to know is: who came up with this? Who can I talk to and say, “Congratulations, you rose above the classic Scam Likely, ‘We’ve been trying to reach you about your car insurance’ scam scum. You harnessed the power of story to create character and tension and stakes. And it’s clunky, but you did it. Now, what is the damn scam????”
Maybe, chillingly, there’s nobody on the other end. I have a friend who thinks there may be no financial gain endgame, they just want to see if the number is real so they can use *your* number to scam others. So it could just be some clunky AI learning from responses about what most quickly garner a response and letting the bored, inept septuagenarian iPhone users sculpt her into the Bond-suave businesswoman she is today.
But I decided to engage one specifically to test whether the responses felt too rote, too clean.
Sooo I’m pretty sure these are real people. And I don’t know why I’m so fascinated with them.
Reply All finale episode: Goodbye All. Podcast. I have many feelings about the end of this beloved and tarnished podcast, but loved finally hearing an interview with Breakmaster Cylinder.
Spagliato. Cocktail. This is the Italian word for wrong or mistake and was created (supposedly) because someone grabbed Prosecco instead of gin when making a Negroni. Cocktails and etymology AND bloopers? Come on, it’s a lock for me.
Only time for two recs this week! Hope it’s wonderful!