AUDIO: In creepy recording, robot telemarketer insists it’s a real person

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(Photo: MGN Online)

WASHINGTON — Telemarketers can be persistent, but they’re still people just like you and me.

Or are they?

In an unsettling new article, TIME Washington bureau chief Michael Scherer recounts a series of conversations he had with a telemarketer named Samantha West.

After a while, Scherer realized he was probably talking to an automated calling system. So he started joking around.

But when the reporter asked her if she was a robot, she laughed and said, “I am a real person, can you hear me okay?”

Throughout the conversation, “Samantha” denied she was a robot and kept trying to steer the reporter back to her sales pitch.

Scherer and his colleagues called her number back multiple times and made some recordings. In one they released (see below), the machine insisted it was Samantha West and even tried to banter with callers before getting back to business.

Even more bizarre, an Atlantic reporter who tried to track down the origins of the technology was told by experts that no software currently exists that could create the conversation heard on the call.

Which leads the Atlantic reporter to speculate that while the voice is automated, a live person is someplace on the call, telling the machine what to say.

Funny or creepy? Listen and decide for yourself.

14 comments

  • Sean

    The tech for this has been around for a while, I’m surprised it took this long to be implemented. All I want to know is how will it reply if it’s asked to remove my phone number from it’s call list?

  • Lindsay Myers

    When working as a telemarketer you have to respond by scripts. Even if you are asked a question there is usually an answer that is scripted. It may be a real person pausing to find an answer and has been instructed to not say the word robot or loose points on a QA. The thing that makes it sound like it is not genuine is that the laugh is exactly the same length each time. It sounds like a nervous laugh, but oddly never changes in pitch, volume, or frequency. That is the only thing out of place to me.

  • Ted

    It may be the same system a deaf person used the phone, the person types his/her response and a robotic voice converses for them. Then when the person talks back it converts the message into text for the deaf person. I believe it is called TDY.

  • Anonymous

    I have worked several phone support jobs and have been quality control in call centers before, she sounds like a lot of the people I used to listen to that I knew to be real people, Note we never did telemarketing we were in tech support, I have used TDY while on the job also and the caller (TDY agent) is also a live person. I am sure if I were on a call and somebody asked me to say I was not a robot I would take offense to it as a childish prank and ignore them as she did.

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