The home phone rang Saturday afternoon. The caller display showed “International – Unknown”, so straight away I knew it was going to be something dodgy.
I answered it and was immediately greeted with two seconds of silence, before an Indian voice told me his name was Dilip and he was calling from the Accident Claims line. I was quite pleased, as I haven’t had one of these for quite a while.
Below is a (very much) shortened transcript of our two conversations, which lasted about 45 minutes in total.
Hello, my name is Dilip and I am calling you from the Accident Claims. Our records show that someone on this telephone number has had a vehicle accident in the past three years.
Yes. That was me. I was stationary at a traffic light in town a couple of years ago when a car ran into the back of me.
[Now, that piqued his interest!]
Well, you are entitled to compensation from the other driver. If you will give me a few details, we can process this. What road did this happen on?
It was on George Street. You know that bit at the top, where it goes from three lanes into two, just before the lights? Just there. I’m confused though: why am I entitled to compensation, when his insurance company has already paid to have my car fixed?
Because you have been inconvenienced. Can I have the vehicle’s licence plate, please?
I wasn’t inconvenienced at all really. They gave me a courtesy car and everything. I can’t remember what make it was, but it was blue, which is my favourite colour. And I was amazed at how quickly they paid up with no quibbling.
Yes, but you are still entitled to compensation. Can I have the vehicle’s licence plate please?
Surely, you already have that information in your ‘records’?
No, we just have the phone number.
Just this phone number? So, when I had my accident and handed all my details over, all I actually gave them was this ex-directory phone number? I really don’t remember doing that. Not at all. Maybe I was drunk.
Er, yes, maybe. It is my job to get you this compensation money and close this file. Do you have the licence plate number please?
Not on me. It will be in my insurance folder in the filing cabinet. Do you mind waiting a minute whilst I go and get it?
[I put the phone on the desk and went to make a cup of tea. Amazingly, when I came back, he was still there.]
Sorry, I can’t seem to find it. Anyway, I was thinking about it and I’m not really interested.
Why would you not be interested? I can get you up to 2000 pounds compensation.
Two thousand pounds? That’s nothing to me; I’m fabulously wealthy you see.
Everybody needs money, to pay for their mortgage and their bills.
Not me. I’ve got money coming out of my ears.
If you don’t want it, you could give it to somebody else or to charity.
I already donate to charity. Thousands each year. I’ll probably get a knighthood before long. Tell you what, Dilip, you seem like a nice chap, you have it. Two thousand quid will go a long way in India, I’m sure.
I’m not in India, I’m in Birmingham. And I cannot take…
Yeah right.. [click - I cut him off. A moment later, he rang back. I answered but didn't say anything]
Hello? Hello? Is there anybody there? Hello? [click - I cut him off again. And again he rang back. I did the same again]
Hello? Can you hear me? Hello? [click - I cut him off again, only for him to ring back again a moment later. This time I answered properly]
What happened there, Dilip? We got cut off and I couldn’t hear you. Are you OK? I was getting a bit worried. I was going to call India and ask them to go and check on you.
I’m in Birmingham.
No you’re not, you’re in India. Now, look, you’re quite a persistent little bugger, aren’t you? But before I give you any of my details, I’d like to check this out with my lawyers and make sure everything is on the straight and narrow. So can you ring me back another time?
[He agreed to do so and - having wasted 30 minutes of his time - I thought that would be the last I'd hear from him.]
[But then he rang back today.]
Hello, this is Dilip from the Accident Claims. I have been trying to call you all week [ I later checked my call logs to see that he had indeed called twice a day, every day, whilst I was at work]
Sorry about that. I was skiing.
Yes, just a few days away in the French Alps. It’s what us rich people do, you know.
Oh. I would like to get this compensation for you so that I can close your file and then you will never receive any more calls from the Accident Claims.
OK. Well, my lawyers said to find out exactly what information you have in this file of yours.
Our records show that in 2012, you had accident in George Street that was no fault of your own.
But that’s just what t I told you on Saturday. Is that all you’ve got? Doesn’t this file have my name, or my address, or anything useful?
No, that is all we have. It is my job to get the details from you so that we can close the file and get your compensation.
Ahh yes, the compensation. How much are we talking about then?
About two thousand pounds.
Make it ten.
I don’t get out of bed for less than ten thousand.
I, er, I don’t think we could get that much. Two thousand is a lot of money.
Not to me it’s not. That’s just small change. I sometimes spend that much on my weekly shop in Sainsbury’s. Did I tell you I was fabulously wealthy?
Yes. Look, if you don’t want the money, you can give it to someone else, but I need to close your file. It is my job and you would be helping me. Also, if you do not claim this compensation then the other driver can make a claim against you.
Whaaat? Now you’re just talking rubbish! How can a driver who has admitted liability and who’s insurance company has already paid out to get my car repaired, then make a claim against me?
No, no, he can. It has happened many times. Leaving your file open will allow him to make a claim against you.
OK Dilip, I’m losing interest now. You’ve tried every tactic you know into trying to scare me into giving you my personal details, but you have obviously run out of ideas.
Sshh, I haven’t finished. This has been fun but I’m going to admit something to you now. Are you listening?
I made it up.
I made it up. All of it. I’ve been joshing with you. I never had a car accident. In fact, I don’t even own a car. So your ‘file’ is complete bollocks, isn’t it?
No. Our accident book details that someone with this number… [click - he hung up]
Oh well. I then popped to the shops for half an hour and when I returned, I was annoyed to notice that he had rung again, and I’d missed him. Bugger.
I hope he does ring back sometime, as I do enjoy our little chats.