Everyone hates robocalls, those computer generated phone calls that interrupt you to sell you stuff. They are almost immediately recognizable and so you can hang up at once unless you are feeling lonely and want to hear the sound of a voice.
While I have no compunction about hanging up on a computer, I still have reservations about doing that to a real human being, even if they are being a pest. So if a human calls, I usually interrupt them as soon as they begin their spiel and say something like, “I am sorry, I am not interested.” If they insist on trying to persuade me, I then say “No, sorry, I am really not interested” and hang up.
I suspect that I am not alone in not wanting to be rude because the people calling are usually some poorly paid people, often abroad, working for some giant corporation doing a soul-killing job. So those same corporations have modified their pitches to take advantage of this reluctance and are getting more sophisticated, making detection harder.
Recently I got a call that began in a conversational way and when I interrupted the voice, it paused, as if listening to me. When I stopped speaking, it continued again. Again I spoke and it stopped to ‘listen’. I then asked, “Is this a robocall?” which I later realized was a really silly thing to say. When it did not answer the question, I realized that it was a computer and hung up.
But now it appears that they have raised their game even more.
The phone call came from a charming woman with a bright, engaging voice to the cell phone of a TIME Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer. She wanted to offer a deal on health insurance, but something was fishy.
When Scherer asked point blank if she was a real person, or a computer-operated robot voice, she replied enthusiastically that she was real, with a charming laugh. But then she failed several other tests. When asked “What vegetable is found in tomato soup?” she said she did not understand the question. When asked multiple times what day of the week it was yesterday, she complained repeatedly of a bad connection.
You can listen to audios of the call at the above link. It is pretty impressive though now that we have things like Siri it is perhaps less so. (Actually, since a tomato is technically a fruit though referred to as a vegetable when it comes to cooking, her saying that she did not understand the question is kind of reasonable.)
But if ‘Samantha’ calls you, be warned.