NEW YORK—In one of the few public appearances since his 1986 death, the reanimated corpse of actor-comedian Scatman Crothers held a press conference Monday to decry telemarketing offers which are misleading or downright fraudulent.
"Consumers were bilked out of almost $300 million last year by bogus phone solicitors," said the rotting, ant-infested carcass of Crothers, who appeared in such films as The Shining and Zapped! "Consumers need to be more aware of the methods and tricks of these scam artists—especially the elderly, the most frequent targets of telephone fraud."
Pausing momentarily to stuff his entrails back into his stomach cavity, Crothers recounted the sad story of Coral Gables, FL, retiree Edna Kalter, who was swindled out of her life savings of $19,000 by a phony sweepstakes offer. "Like many Americans of her generation, Edna was extremely trusting of these friendly-sounding phone solicitors—a fact that they counted on and exploited."
"Any phone notification that you have won a contest you never entered should send up a serious red flag," Crothers said.
Speaking in a raspy shadow of a voice that, even in life, was famously husky and gravelly, the onetime voice behind cartoon superpooch Hong Kong Phooey urged consumers to use extreme caution when approached by phone solicitors. "Never purchase anything over the phone unless you: a) initiate the call yourself; b) know who you are talking to; and c) believe the seller to be reputable," Crothers said.
Another sign that you are dealing with a con artist, the lurching, blue-gray cadaver of the veteran funnyman said, is when a phone solicitor pressures you to make a quick decision. "Ask for a name, address, and phone number where you can reach the caller later, after you've considered the situation," the putrefied, festering Crothers said. "And ask for the complete offer in writing. If they stall or make excuses in any way whatsoever, don't worry about seeming rude. Just say, 'No, thank you,' and hang up."
"And don't be afraid to ask for a financial report if a caller requests a charitable donation," said Crothers, his left arm falling off. "Reputable charities will always be happy to send you this information if you ask."
His flesh sliding off his skull as he spoke, the popular character actor then gave his "absolute, most important" piece of advice: "Never, ever, under any circumstances should you give your credit-card number over the phone. People have lost their entire bank accounts making that mistake."
Crothers then made a plea for live brains.