As more and more Indians get used to faceless conversations over the phone, confidence tricks like phishing are getting common: someone gets sensitive information from you under pretense of asking a legitimate question. There’s also a lot of help on how to avoid getting tricked. While reading Earl Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason potboiler, The Case of the Sunbather’s Diary, I found the perfect example and explanation. The conversation highlighted in pink is the example of how to deal with a possible phisher. The later section, white text on a dark background, is the explanation.
Mason picked up the phone, said, “Hello,” and heard a cautious voice at the other end of the line saying, “Yes, Hello. This is Dr. Candler speaking.”
Mason said, “This is Perry Mason speaking. I am very anxious to get in touch with Miss Arlene Duvall, Doctor. She told me that she could be reached through you.”
“Am I to understand that you are Mr. Perry Mason, the attorney?”
“May I ask why you wish to get in touch with her, Mr. Mason?”
Mason said, “Miss Duvall told me that I could confide in you, that you were a friend of the family and were like an uncle to her.”
“Miss Duvall consulted me earlier in the day.”
“About a certain matter,” Mason said, “on which she wished me to take immediate action.”
“I would like to tell Miss Duvall that the action has been taken and has resulted in at least a partial success.”
“I’m sorry I can’t give you an address,” Dr. Candler said cautiously, “but I can try and get a message through to her. How long will you be in your office, Mr. Mason?”
“Will thirty minutes be satisfactory?”
“I think so. If you’ll wait there I’ll try and get a message through to her and then she can call you back.”
“Thank you,” Mason said, and hung up.
That’s a cautious conversation, as Mason’s secretary Della Street remarks. Perry Mason then explains. It is the perfect example of how to deal with a phishing attempt and not give out sensitive information.
“Playing them close to his chest,” Mason said. “However, you can’t blame him. How does he know that I’m not a detective calling up and assuming the identity of Perry Mason, the lawyer? After all, he doesn’t know me and is not familiar with my voice.”
“I see, and by having her call back he would –“
“Verify the number,” Mason said.
I’d never read the Perry Mason books before, but I liked the modern twist that the HBO serial gives them. If they are willing to drag the characters into the 21st century while pretending that they live and work in the 1930s, then maybe the stories are interesting, I thought. Goodreads told me that Sunbather’s Diary was the highest rated in the series. The mystery is nicely spun out, but the solution becomes obvious before the beginning of the courtroom drama. One thing that the serial got right is that the courtroom is the focus of the story, and the solution of the mystery happens as an addendum.
I read an ebook. The Bezos Corp seems to have produced it by scanning a printed version without editorial inputs. The digitization has resulted in many other such errors strewn through the text. For example, “are” has become “axe” in several places, “all” become “iill” once, and so on. There are chapter headers in the text, but the Bezos’ Beautiful Bookreader cannot interpret them, and treats the whole book as a single chapter. If you have a choice, read the paperback.
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