Meet the Robot Telemarketer Who Denies She’s A Robot

Our encounter with an all-too-convincing robot.

  • Share
  • Read Later
Getty Images

The phone call came from a charming woman with a bright, engaging voice to the cell phone of a TIME Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer. She wanted to offer a deal on health insurance, but something was fishy.

When Scherer asked point blank if she was a real person, or a computer-operated robot voice, she replied enthusiastically that she was real, with a charming laugh. But then she failed several other tests. When asked “What vegetable is found in tomato soup?” she said she did not understand the question. When asked multiple times what day of the week it was yesterday, she complained repeatedly of a bad connection.

Over the course of the next hour, several TIME reporters called her back, working to uncover the mystery of her bona fides. Her name, she said, was Samantha West, and she was definitely a robot, given the pitch perfect repetition of her answers. Her goal was to ask a series of questions about health coverage—”Are you on Medicare?” etc.—and then transfer the potential customer to a real person, who could close the sale. You can listen for yourself to some of the reporting here:

If you want, you can call her too. Her number is (484) 589-5611. This number, if you Google it, is the subject of much discussion online as other recipients of Samantha West calls complain on chat boards about the mysteriously persistent lady who keeps calling them. “A friendly sounded woman on the other end claimed I requested health insurance information,” writes one mark. “She doggedly refused to deviate from her script.”

After answering her questions, one TIME reporter was transferred to an actual human who did not promptly end the call, as others had when asked about Samantha. Asked for the company’s website, the real human on the other end of the line said it was premierhealthagency.com, the website of a Ft. Lauderdale company. “We’re here to help. . . because we care,” is the company motto on its homepage. A TIME reporter called the company directly, identified himself and said TIME was doing a story about the robot who calls people on the company’s behalf. “We don’t use robot calls, sir,” said the person who answered the phone, before promptly hanging up the phone.

When the number was called a second time, a real live employee of Premier Health Plans Inc., who gave his name as Bruce Martin, answered the phone. He said he was not sure if Samantha West’s phone number, mentioned above, was one of the company’s numbers. “First of all, we use TV, we use radio, we use Internet,” said Martin. He described the company as selling life insurance, health insurance and dental insurance. He asked that TIME publish the name of his company, the website and phone number in the article. “If you are going to publish this in the magazine, I’d like to get something out of it,” he said. The TIME reporter agreed to do just that.

Martin also said he would inquire internally about whether Samantha West worked for the company, but would not be able to respond to the request Monday night. TIME will update the story with any additional information he provides.

UPDATE: As of Dec. 11, one day after this story published, the phone number listed above was no longer answered by Samantha West. Rather, it diverted callers to a busy signal. Also the website, premierhealthagency.com, had been taken offline.

With reporting by Michael Scherer, Christopher Wilson, and Jessica Roy.

150 comments
AnthonyClaiborne
AnthonyClaiborne

I had a very similar experience (different product/service).  These bots almost pass the Turing test.

AerinS
AerinS

I just heard from this robot, or one very much like her — didn't catch the name. She's pretty good! Didn't stop me from hanging up on her. However, a couple weeks ago, I got a telemarketing call for home security systems from a guy who sounded way too slick, but turned out to be real. When he paused after his opening pitch, I didn't respond at first because I was sure he was a robot! After a long pause, I asked, "Are you real?" and he was very taken aback and gave clearly non-robotic responses. 

Frungi
Frungi

@AerinS Different responses from “Oh-ho-ho, do I sound that bad? We must have a bad connection”?

nancyjordan23
nancyjordan23

Ready Virtual Center,


The mission Ready Virtual Center of CSCBeyond where our motto is Affordable Excellence. Our mission is to help you reach your target audience and expand your market base by offering you superior service at the lowest rates in the market.

Telemarketing: We offer the best agents that are well experienced in the field of marketing and will provide the best results for any telemarketing campaign.

We provide all types of Appointment Setting for both Business and Consumer prospects. We have the biggest country database that is 99% accurate to contact.

Customer service: We have 24-Hour stand-by agents that are always ready to assist any customer needs.

We have a large center that can provide all types of chat and ticketing system to help track your consumer needs.

Contact us at 919-324-6505 for More information

greebo.watkins
greebo.watkins

These robots are sounding better and better... Why the crap does Hawking still sound like something out of the 50s?!

dk2852
dk2852

@greebo.watkins Actually he has been offered many times to upgrade the voice unit, even to one with a British accent like his original voice, but he declined. He thinks of that as his voice now. 

ChristenCoulon
ChristenCoulon

I figured this our very quick. All you have to do is throw them a curve ball. Ask them a specific question that is unrelated to the call. Math works great. I asked the telemarketer to divide 4 by 2. She couldn't do it and only responded with why are you asking me this like four times in a row. 

Any specific question will work... Can you name a pro baseball player, What two colors combine to make purple or What do dogs walk on (paws)?

enatu
enatu

CAN  ANY ONE HERE PLEASE READ ME AND HELP OUT

Sir, My name is Enatu Aminant I AM VERY PRETY, SEXYi won the best model 2005 , I'm 26y/o, from Australia but resident Czech Republic. I'm undergoing some emotional imbalance and depression since death of parents. I am suspecting my uncle and his associates to having a hand in the death of my parents just to gain access and control over his wealth. I was brainwashed and persuaded by uncle to sign late father's fund release documents involving huge sum of money with Citibank of Vienna, Austria. And he said the money was met for foreign investment but later I noticed he use fund to sponsoring terrorist. I would need your kindest assistance to receive incoming payment refund of $4,243,326 for safety purpose to avoid Uncle used it again to support terrorist activities. The situation is unbelievable but I can explain further if only you will be kind to assist me to fulfill my purpose. I promise to offer (20%) as the money is refunded. Thank you. Enatu Amiannt

Write me on my email: Enatu.aminant@gmail.com

Facebook name: enatu aminant

am waiting for honest person to contact me email:enatu.aminant@gmail.com

enatu
enatu

ST ANY ONE HERE PLEASE READ ME AND HELP OUT

Sir, My name is Enatu Aminant I AM VERY PRETY, SEXYi won the best model 2005 , I'm 26y/o, from Australia but resident Czech Republic. I'm undergoing some emotional imbalance and depression since death of parents. I am suspecting my uncle and his associates to having a hand in the death of my parents just to gain access and control over his wealth. I was brainwashed and persuaded by uncle to sign late father's fund release documents involving huge sum of money with Citibank of Vienna, Austria. And he said the money was met for foreign investment but later I noticed he use fund to sponsoring terrorist. I would need your kindest assistance to receive incoming payment refund of $4,243,326 for safety purpose to avoid Uncle used it again to support terrorist activities. The situation is unbelievable but I can explain further if only you will be kind to assist me to fulfill my purpose. I promise to offer (20%) as the money is refunded. Thank you. Enatu Amiannt

Write me on my email: Enatu.aminant@gmail.com

Facebook name: enatu aminant

am waiting for honest person to contact me email:enatu.aminant@gmail.com

xavier.gonzalez.murillo
xavier.gonzalez.murillo

Es increible, la verdad es que por es acento cuesta diferenciarlos, aunque si en este caso por las respuestas.


Xavier Gonzalez Murillo

Call Center Barcelona

EvanCollins14
EvanCollins14

lol Yes its a robot, a lot of telemarketers companies are prerecording their voices with answers in response to common questions asked. A few years from now you wont be able to tell the difference between robot or human. I currently work for a company like this, not many people catch the difference now until it glitches and calls them 3-4 times in a row. 

ChrisHennick
ChrisHennick

Some offshore call-center employees can't pass a Turing test in English either.

Line_Bet
Line_Bet

New use -- my son, a high school senior, just received a call from "Jason" at the University of Arizona admissions office, less than 24 hours after we signed up for a tour.  My son asked me why the phone line was so bad and why there was a delay after each response to "Jason."  I told him that he was probably speaking with a robot.  He said, "no way" ... until I played the two sample calls that were part of this story.  He then agreed:  he had met Jason, the recruiting robot.

smthincleverhere
smthincleverhere

I am posting this everywhere I can, your story above sounds exactly like what just happened to me!


I keep receiving calls from this number! 404-400-1192!

When I finally answered it was a computer programmed to sound like a human! I said, " you are not a real person." It laughed, creepily, and said, " Yes I am, we must have a bad connection."  I responded with, " NO, you are not real, What the heck is this." It REPEATED itself EXACTLY. I was so scared.


I said, " Take me off your list, stop calling me." It laughed and said, " NO."


This was the WORST experience I've ever had with telemarketers. I cant believe it is legal for someone to create a computer program that sounds human that calls people!!


My caller id said it was YOUR HEALTH!

CathyvonHassel-Davies
CathyvonHassel-Davies

I am sure this has something to do with the Do Not Call Registry. If the call is from a computer - not a live person, then the number can be reported to the registry.

reidelliott95
reidelliott95

Am I the only one that noticed that it answered the question "What vegetable is in tomato soup?" correctly? Tomatoes are fruit. 

01rurc
01rurc

The actions of everyone involved prove that they are being sneaky and illusive. These are trates we cannot tolerate in anyone that has dealings with our government let alone sanctioned and practiced by our government. It is the outright lyng by these people to their own potential customers that I find repulsive. I dont mind the technology but the twist words to misrepresent exactly what they are doing is 100% not acceptable.


TIME you should have this on the cover of your magazine not burred deep in it.When someone hires a company like this it is a direct reflection of them.

maduceone
maduceone

Odd that Samantha is the same name used in the movie "Her" about a guy that falls in love with his computer generated assistant, "Samantha", no doubt inspired by Apple's iPhone assistant, Siri. Hope you get to the bottom of this. So far it's the best sounding robot I've heard. I guess that someone will develop a similar robot for phone sex. Ha!

JoetheSFRepublican
JoetheSFRepublican

 I think the whole group behind this story are total a**holes.  The kind of elitist who poke caged animals with sticks. You harass a young telemarketer, and most likely got her fired.  Anyone who has ever had the displeasure of doing telemarketing work knows how torturous it is to get a caller like this.  For those who don't, a few facts:  telemarketers work with a script, some companies are so rigid, if you veer off the script you lose your job.  They provide you with only a few responses to get conversation back on track, but they are useless when you have an a**hole like this who has no intention of talking about the intended subject.


All this for the amusement of some east-coast liberals.  And for for anybody who wants to respond, "it's just satire", you can eat sh*t, too.  Because it's pretty obvious the girl wasn't in on it.



Read more: Samantha West The Telemarketer Robot Who Swears She's Not a Robot | TIME.com http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/12/10/meet-the-robot-telemarketer-who-denies-shes-a-robot/#ixzz2o3OzzLxI

ACMESalesRep
ACMESalesRep

@JoetheSFRepublican Nice try, but you're far too subtle for your comment to be effective satire. People might think you actually believe that “east-coast liberals” would target a telemarketer for no reason. I mean, that might be something a self-proclaimed “conservative” would do in a fit of questionably motivated pique, but what would a group that really doesn't even exist except in the mind of such a “conservative” gain from such a thing?

NSbenjamins
NSbenjamins

I think it's not really a robot.

I believe there is a person (probably in India) on the other end playing a prerecorded sound bytes depending on what you say.

It sounds too intelligent to be a robot.

AlessandroMachi
AlessandroMachi

So I scooped Time Magazine by 10 months regarding this story on my own blog... http://alexlogic.blogspot.com/2013/02/i-was-fooled-into-thinking-i-was.html

My next scoop is the January Cosmopolitan smut laced cover being sold in at least one Target Store, maybe all of them. Is the January 2014 Cosmo magazine cover to smutty for Target Stores, especially during the holiday season. It looks like Cosmo is really out to taunt the Holiday Season and family values. Don't believe me? Check out the Cosmo cover.  http://alexlogic.blogspot.com/2013/12/holiday-wishes-from-cosmopolitan-lauren.html

AlessandroMachi
AlessandroMachi

So how do we protect ourselves from callers who simply hit buttons to keep us occupied? At least with television I can change the channel without anyone trying to make me feel guilty. Uh oh, coming soon, guilt surfing TV.

maduceone
maduceone

@Gumaer Didn't try the website, but Double D sounds like a porn site or maybe the "outsourcing" means that it's an escort service. Just a guess.