We all get spam calls, and most people hang up on them. But one of those relentless phone scams led to an unlikely friendship.
Stephen Ira Adams, who owns an insurance agency in central Louisiana, answers his phone constantly — even anonymous calls because that’s just part of the business. In 2016, he got a call that unexpectedly moved him. He heard a pain that he knew all too well.
“Something in that young man’s voice, I felt like I could hear him through the phone that he was a broken person,” Adams told “CBS Mornings” lead national correspondent David Begnaud.
The man on the other end was at a call center in Ghana, Africa. He asked Adams to purchase a gift card.
“I said to him, ‘What you’re doing right now is a scam. You know, you are targeting elderly Americans and it’s not right,'” Adams said. “And I said, ‘When you get off, call me.'”
The man called him back.
“He did not ever ask me for any money ever again. Nope, he did not. He asked me for mosquito nets, malaria drugs, educational things,” Adams said.
That man was Prince Anderson, who is from a small village in Ghana. As the oldest son in the family, he took on the duty of caring for his sick mother and supporting his younger brother through school after his father died.
It’s now been five years since Adams and Anderson first spoke and they still keep in touch via FaceTime.
“The kind of love he showed me, the things he sends me, the money, and the care and love with my mom and everything — the love he showed me, it’s overwhelming,” Anderson said.
Adams, a 41-year-old father of two boys, said he sees himself as a father figure to 25-year-old Anderson.
“I told him to quit that call center, and he never went back because he found out what it was about,” Adams said. “Some of the people working there, I found out, don’t even know what’s going on. His next job after he quit that call center, he was washing windows at the airport.”
Anderson is now working for a private security company in the capital of Ghana.
In a twist of fate, his brother, Isaac, got a scholarship to Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he recently started his freshman year. When the dorms closed for winter break, Adams invited Anderson’s younger brother to spend Christmas with his family in Alexandria, Louisiana.
“I see him to be my father, of course, the kind of things he’s doing for me, care and all that. He’s a top man, like really top,” Isaac Anderson said.
They may look like an unlikely family, but Adams says he learned early on as a boy about the enduring power of kindness from strangers. He was born to young parents and says he had a tumultuous childhood that included abuse, abandonment and poverty.
After a brief time spent in foster care, Adams was raised by his grandmother and grandfather — a U.S. Air Force veteran, who he says instilled in him a profound love of country, leading him to serve his country himself.
“I think about when I was younger, the different random people that helped me. Everything from neighbors to people I met on my bicycle, to the janitors at my high school, to the lunchroom lady, give me some extra food to bring home with me,” Adams said.
He said he wanted to be reliable to others because they were reliable to him when he was in need.
“You never know who you’re going to be able to help out there. If you’re just open to it,” Adams said. “We are our brother’s keepers. It’s our responsibility to make sure, you know, our neighbors taking care of our children, our family. And if we all do that for each other, then we’re going to be fine. I think what the world is missing is love.”
The FTC has tips on how to spot and report a phone scam. Read more here.