Last Word: Just call it telemarket research

I love my answering machine. Skippy comes to work every day without complaining. Best of all, he screens my incoming calls for telemarketers.

I recently decided to audit the last 100 calls taken by my trusty voice mail assistant. About one third of calls were from telemarketers. Like you, I’d rather experience childbirth without anesthesia than talk to these salespeople.

My caller I.D. log broke down the list geographically. These purveyors of useless services originated in 13 different states. Since I consider telephone sales pitches to be the equivalent of scams, I decided to explore each state’s scam activity by Googling the words “(name of state) scams.” By doing so, I’d at least have some idea of the great opportunities I was missing by letting Skippy take messages.

Sometimes a name appears with the phone number on the caller I.D. screen. I received a call from a Helen Fang located somewhere in area code 917 in New York. Oddly, a Google search of Helen Fang tied her to a UNH web site. My ex-wife’s name is Helen. Has she remarried into the famous Fang family? Time to update my address book.

A second Helen Fang is a member of Meetup, an online community of people sharing similar interests from pugs, knitting and poker to ghost tracking. Maybe Helen wanted to sell me a DVD that could teach my pug to play poker like you see on that velvet painting called, “Dogs Playing Poker.” Experts claim only border collies are better card players than pugs.

Speaking of fangs, I received a telemarketer call from the 415 area code in California. My research uncovered a dental scam there, where 20 dentists were nabbed for billing insurance companies for fabricated office visits. Perhaps authorities took notice when these geniuses billed Blue Cross for 20 teeth-bleaching procedures for Marie Osmond.

Got a call from area code 954 in Florida where travel scams are on the attorney general’s radar. I should’ve taken that telemarketer call. I’ve been looking for time share property in Florida. I hear July in Fort Myers is fabulous.

Even though I get 10 credit card solicitations from somewhere in Delaware every month, the phone still rings from area code 302, where credit card scams are in the news. Hundreds of millions are lost by banks every year by such activity. You gotta wonder about an industry that routinely sends unsolicited credit card pitches to babies, pets and dead people every year.

Skippy recently took a call from area code 406 — Montana, home of my favorite scam. Remember the 1974 song, “Come and get your love,” by the group Redbone? Turns out Redbone was hired for $6,500 to play the Butte-Silver Bow Fair last August. Problem was, the guys claiming to be Redbone members were imposters. Even worse, a couple of the bogus musicians never showed, citing “mumps” as the excuse for their absence.

Memo to Skippy: If Helen Fang calls, tell her I’m still waiting for my dog poker video.

You can hear Mike Morin weekdays from 5 to 10 a.m. on “New Hampshire in the Morning” on 95.7 WZID-FM. Contact him at