For over two years now I have been taking calls for a Mitchell Basta, or Vasta. Who is he? No idea. Why am I taking his calls? Because, somehow, my mobile number has become his.
At first, because the messages were pre-recorded with a pleasant female, foreign accented, voice and there was no one to talk to, I simply hung up. I assumed she was a scammer.
Then, one day, a living voice, and so I told the voice in no uncertain terms that she had called my phone, the one with my number, which it had been, always, since the beginning of mobile time, and no such person as Mitchell Vasta or Basta had ever existed here, or in the immediate vicinity.
It would be reasonable to assume that the voice would record such information on a computer and thus end the calls. No. They kept coming. I kept asking who they were and who they were working for. They did not say and repeatedly asked for my date of birth and other details to confirm my identity. I refused to give and kept hanging up. They did not stop.
I decided on a new tactic.
On guard, I began to answer all calls with a slow deep voice. The next request for Mitchell, I responded slowly and with, what I thought might be, an Eastern European accent: “Yes. What is it to you?”
“Mitchell, it is important that you pay the $1457 you owe Telstra or we will have to take the matter before the courts.”
I hung up and went to my Telstra account to confirm that I owed nothing and that all my past payments had been on time and fully paid.
The next call, with the same accent, I threatened.
“I don’t think you know who you are dealing with. I know where you are. I can do something if you do not stop calling me.”
There was a lull, but they returned. I adopted a new tactic with my own voice.
“I’m sorry. It’s a bad time. I have cancer. Just one week to live. Please, forgive me.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that, Mitchell.”
I burst into tears and hung up.
They came back.
“No, Mitchell is not here and he will not be paying the account. This is his father. [sobbing noises] He was killed last week … in a car accident.”
The next call I screamed: “Fucking leave me alone.” And screamed. And screamed.
With the virus onslaught, another lull.
Recently they returned, this time with a new and distinctly Australian voice. I felt sorry for the caller. Maybe he was legitimate? Maybe he didn’t know, had no idea he was working for a scamming mob? Or was it? Perhaps it was a legitimate business and it had the wrong number? But why weren’t the previous calls recorded, or the details of the conversations recorded? Why didn’t they engage in some rudimentary research?
It lasted two years and I never paid the money.
I, for example, researched Mitchell Basta and Vasta. This is what I found.
Louis Mitchell Basta (1934-1994) – Find A Grave Memorial
http://www.findagrave.com › … › Sandy City Cemetery
published in Deseret News, June 12, 1994 Louis Mitchell Basta, 60, died June 10, 1994 in Sandy, Utah. Born May 12, 1934 in Leadville, Colorado, to Steve and …
Mitchell Basta http://www.ancestry.com.au › search › categories › name=Mi…
Results 1 – 20 of 504597 – … as Birth Info, Death Info and Location—even a guess will help. Edit your search or learn more. Louis Mitchell Basta found in 24 trees
Avanelle A Mitchell VASTA: Voice And Speech Trainers …
http://www.vasta.org › professional-index › profile › avanelle…
New History of Voice Pedagogy Book Published by VASTA/Routledge. 10/23/2019. New History of Voice Pedagogy Book Published by VASTA/Routledge
That’s it. And when you put my mobile number into Google, up comes my name and a range of sites mentioning my work – novels, public speaking and comedy careers. Of course it does – my number is on the net, on my website, I do not hide my mobile number.
Maybe that was it, some bloke calling himself Mitchell Basta/Vasta had put my number to his name and then done a runner. But a simple net search would have revealed the above information.
The next call came from Barry. I was in a bad mood that day and not helpful to Barry, and so he offered to send me a text. Which he did.
Here it is.
Hi Mitchell Vaster, it’s Barry from Credit Corp again. Is there a better time I can contact you today? If this is left outstanding, this will unfortunately proceed through the collections process. If you would prefer to self-manage your account online, please go to http://www.creditcorp.com.au/selfservice#/register. Barry 02 8651 5085.
At last a name – Credit Corp. I didn’t call him back. Why would I? I wasn’t Mitchell. But I did load up the Credit Corp web site.
If you’ve heard from us it’s likely because Credit Corp has been assigned your account from a bank, finance, telecommunications or utility company. This means that you now owe the outstanding balance to Credit Corp.
Falling behind can happen to everyone and we’d like to help you get back on track. We’re Australia’s largest debt buyer and collector and we’re committed to working flexibly with customers to help them repay their outstanding balance.
Credit Corp is Australia’s largest debt buyer and collector. We are committed to providing sustainable financial solutions, like longer-term repayment plans, with the goal to improve our customers’ financial situations.
Credit Corp is publicly listed on the ASX with an impeccable record as a sustainable and responsible service provider. We were established over 25 years ago and continuously work on refining our approach to make sure that we deliver the right outcomes for our customers.
Did I laugh? Yes. It seems Credit Corp is a legitimate business that suffers, either from scammers, or incredibly incompetent management and staff and has, if I may say, a reasonably decent share price: 14.120 on 18 May 2020
Then next time a young Australian voice called, this is what transpired.
“Good morning. My name is Andrew and I’m wanting to speak to Mitchell Vasta regarding an overdue payment?
“Who is calling, please?”
“Is that Mitchell?”
“Who are you, Andrew, and who are you working for?”
“Is this Mitchell?”
Assuming Credit Corp really does conduct its business ethically, it ought to train these people to be open and transparent, so an honest conversation can eventuate. For example, given the profusion of scammers, a legitimate business should reveal itself.
“Andrew, you called me, this is my phone, you tell me who you are and who you are working for?”
“I have to confirm I am speaking with Mitchell.”
“No, you tell me, Andrew, you have to confirm who you are and who you are working for? You called me. I didn’t call you. You prove who you are? I don’t have to prove anything.”
“Is this Mitchell’s number? Do I have the wrong number?”
“Delete the number, Andrew, delete it!”
I’m not sure who hung up first, or if we were in unison.
Two things came to mind. The first – will that be the last? Second – Will I miss Mitchell if I get no further calls for him?