Mua ha ha ha
May 19, 2012 5:57 AM   Subscribe

How to play a hilarious prank on phone scammers?

I keep getting phone calls from 1-607-527-8802, and both times I've talked to them they say they are from Microsoft and that they want to protect my computer from having a virus or something.

It's kind of hilarious because I spoke to the same guy twice, and the first time he said his name was "Shaun Blaine" and the second time he said "Kevin Jones", but he has a really strong east indian accent and I highly doubt that either of these are even close to his real name. And if they are, that in itself is hilarious.

After searching online, I found this which shows that this is a well-known scam.

So now I have to opportunity to play an amazing trick on this Shaun/Kevin fellow when he calls me back on Monday. What should I do?

My first idea was to try to get him to "Let Jesus into his heart". I think this could be really funny, but it needs a twist.

mefi, this is urgent. I need your help!!!!
posted by costanza to Grab Bag (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Any ideas for cryptic questions I can ask him a la Socrates which will lead him to some ridiculous conclusion?
posted by costanza at 6:00 AM on May 19, 2012

People have done lots to bother them and one common idea was to take up as much of their time as possible. Ask him if it is the computer on the left or right of the desk. Pretend you're in an office and have a hundred computers, which one is he referring to? Pretend to be having an awfully hard time getting the computer turned on, not understanding his commands, that sort of thing. Eventually he will get to the point where he asks you for remote access to fix your computer. At that point, some people have set up a virtual machine bogged down with so much crap that it runs excessively slow.

Take a look in the comments for what others have done.
posted by sarae at 6:02 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's some information on this particular scam.

Honestly, you're wasting your time, they've heard it all, they don't care, they will just hang up on you, or play with you.

The other part of this that you want to think of is that, often, these are minimum wage or less jobs being done by people who are probably very poor. You're not getting back on the person running the scam, but the flunkies that they've hired...
posted by HuronBob at 6:02 AM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

wasting my time? no way! this could be so fun!
posted by costanza at 6:07 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

To address HuronBob's comment, one of the reasons that people choose to take up as much of their time as possible is to limit the amount of time the scammers have to target someone who will not know better. I am not sure if this is effective because we don't know how these people get paid.
posted by sarae at 6:09 AM on May 19, 2012

Set up a spare machine with any virus you can catch. Be glad he calls back and can finally help you with that mess. You were only searching a birthday gift for a friend who is straight edge, and typed in "xxx" in a search engine and know nothing about computers.

For the moral side of things... Yes, maybe these are poor people. But they decided to work for a scam company and get out of their own misery by screwing others over. I don't feel bad for them at all. Believe it or not, there are other ways to make money. Most of them are just a lot more draining and contain more hard work than lying to people on the phone.
posted by MinusCelsius at 6:12 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

sarae, we do know how they get paid: they get money when they charge a mark's credit card. At the very least, tarpitting them will drop their productivity down.

I always use cold callers to practice my skills at boundary setting ("No, sorry, you're being unreasonable", "I'm a little disturbed about how you just lied to me", etc). It's probably silly doing it just to be nasty to people, but if you can develop skills that are otherwise hard to practise, then why not?

And they're definitely inured against nastiness, but if you're pleasant and cogent and reasonable? You may actually make them think about better ways to spend their time.
posted by ambrosen at 6:22 AM on May 19, 2012 [9 favorites]

posted by flabdablet at 6:23 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

and mine didn't call back afterwards.
posted by flabdablet at 6:25 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

i should mention i'm a luddite and don't know how to install anything on anything.
if possible i'd like to mess with them simply through conversation.
posted by costanza at 6:28 AM on May 19, 2012

What I have done at work is to pass along another number "for someone who could help them ". It was the number for the state attorney general. The scam line to be precise.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:52 AM on May 19, 2012 [24 favorites]

Rephrase everything they say as if it applied to them. "We need to check for viruses on your computer." "Okay, how many viruses do you have?" "We need your credit card information." "I'm ready; go ahead and tell me your number." etc.
posted by michaelh at 6:53 AM on May 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would tell them that what they do is stealing and lying, and is wrong, and they should stop.
posted by theora55 at 6:55 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've had the same guys call me. If you veer from their script too far, they just hang up on you, and quickly.
posted by mochapickle at 7:13 AM on May 19, 2012

Also, report it to the Attorney General's Office.
posted by theora55 at 7:40 AM on May 19, 2012

I would tell them that what they do is stealing and lying, and is wrong, and they should stop.

I've had these jerkoffs call me time after time after time. At first I tried to waste their time, but they really are stupid individuals.

I've also asked why they are wasting their life trying to scam people, but they just get all huffy.

So, I'm learning to say "you're a motherfucker" in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, and Bambaiyya.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:28 AM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

"Can you hold on a moment? I'm getting my credit card."

It's a very long moment.
posted by desjardins at 9:48 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Actually, keep telling them you're trying to find it so they'll hang on longer.
posted by desjardins at 9:49 AM on May 19, 2012

What the deal is, is that they don't want your credit card in most cases. They want you to download a malicious program. I have no idea who falls for this stuff.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:55 AM on May 19, 2012

Oh dear, I get these calls too (from "Bryn", "Siân" etc. which makes me slightly admiring of their googling to find local sounding names).

I've tried:
- hanging up immediately;
- saying "Which computer do you mean, we have 2300 on site?" then asking them to hold until they eventually hang up (but I don't like tying up the landline like this);
- claiming to have no computer;
- claiming to own a Mac, no Windows machines.

Blah, blah. And yet they still call at least twice a week. I don't have the chutzpah to do a Tom Mabe so I think St Alia's suggestion is the best and I'm off to find the relevant UK numbers for the next one.
posted by humph at 10:08 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I got the call after reading about this particular scam so I was prepared and willing to waste their time.

I'm an all Mac house but I feigned appreciation that -- at last -- someone could fix my machine. I went on and on about problems I was having and how glad I was that they could help. I hardly let him get in a word edgewise.

Once the first dude established I was a rube he passed me on to 'the closer'. This is the dude that would attempt to get access to the computer/install malware/get my credit card number. He asked me to do some Windows-specific things so it was hard to give convincing answers to string him along (again, we're an all Mac house). He'd ask to type some things in and I'd clack away at the keyboard. When he asked what some certain messages were I indicated the message didn't make sense to me and if I could spell it. Which I did:

F - U - C - K    O - F - F    A - S - S - H - O - L - E

I did it again in case he didn't quite get it.

There was an awkward silence and, when it registered I wasn't really a rube, he told me to stick it up my ass. I'm not sure what he wanted me to stick up my ass, but there you are.

I asked him if anybody actually ever falls for this. His response: 'Idiots like you!' (touché, but strictly speaking I didn't actually fall for it). I asked him how he could sleep at night knowing he was scamming people. He told me once again to stick it up my ass.

I said I was going to report him. Caller ID, of course, had no listing. I threatened that I was going to call the cops and keep him connected on the line in a three way call.

I may have even meant it. I think I have this feature on my phone but I have no absolutely no idea about how to actually do it.

He was completely unmoved by this. I repeated my empty threats of connecting to the cops and he continued to command me to stick things up my ass.

Having no other recourse, I just lay the phone beside me and continued on doing other things. At some point he hung up.

True story.
posted by mazola at 11:20 AM on May 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


(The older posts are usually better.)
posted by SpiralT at 11:45 AM on May 19, 2012

I always have this idea of turning around on telephone sellers (of whichever persuasion), a bit like this:

"Okay, [listening to blabla] okay, okay: Well hang on, what was your name again you said?
Right, no, no, sorry, hang on, lemme check that in my database first.
Hmm hmm, what? Hmm. This is weird...- Sorry, I can't see you over here. Hmmm....we don't seem to have you in our records at all...
No. I will need a few things here from you in order to proceed with your
Are you a PC or a Mac owner?
No sorry no can do, I really need this information first before we can deal with your little problem.
[interrupting] No, you don't understand, I'm not even having you on record here, so I can't even access your user information, you first need me to answer a few basic questions...
What's your social security number?..."

And So On, until he leaves.
posted by Namlit at 12:02 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd really reconsider 'playing' with them, if I were you. Why? Because I've had one of these calls. But only one call, unlike other people who are more polite than I and get called regularly.

I was having a really bad day. A REALLY bad day. I was not in the mood to be treated like a fool. So, after Kevin - with a very thick Indian accent - told me he was from Microsoft and my computer had a virus, I said, "Is that right? IS THAT RIGHT? I HAVE THREE COMPUTERS IN THE HOUSE, ALL OF THEM HAVE UP-TO-DATE ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE, I KNOW FULL WELL THAT YOU CAN'T DETECT A VIRUS ON MY COMPUTERS REMOTELY, I DON'T APPRECIATE BEING TREATED LIKE THE FUCKING IDIOT YOU OBVIOUSLY THINK I AM, FUCK OFF!".

Then I sat the phone on the table without hanging up. They've never called me back.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:48 PM on May 19, 2012

I've done all this and more. The calls don't stop.

I'm pretty convinced that the various organizations that manage these scams ("Final notice to reduce your credit card rate", "Answer this survey and receive a free cruise *sound of boat horn*", "Hey, we're Microsoft, and we're trying to fix your computer") take them all from a standard template of the scam listed somewhere. They set up rented office space, either use hacked VOIP access, or just buy up a bunch of Skype lines, and then start calling people until they get a sense that the police are about to arrive.

I've had pretty convincing conversations with the front-line temps that don't know what they're doing where I've pointed them toward pages on the site explicitly describing their scam-du-jour. I had one guy suddenly get really quiet and confide in me that he's off to take a smoke break and not come back.

But, they still call. I'd block them if I could, but with the VOIP-based calling, they can mask their caller ID, or flip it around to whatever they want. Someone, once, managed to hack into their accounts so that their Caller ID read "PHONE SCAM". I was delighted to relay that information back to the rep.

So, basically, you can tarpit them if you'd like, but I think if you want to be productive about this, you should interview them with repetitive questions until they show some glimmer of information that resembles the truth, jot it all down, and then report it to the proper authorities.
posted by thanotopsis at 4:53 PM on May 19, 2012

What about doing some guilt-inducing routine like "This isn't a scam right? Because my uncle was victimized by a phone scam, and he lost everything! We were so close! And now he's dead!"

And then when you agree to let them "help" you, just use the aforementioned stalling tactics. But also keep finding ways to mention your uncle. And maybe how they caught that scammer and he's doing time now. And how it's a good thing the guy you're taking to isn't a scammer...
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 5:50 PM on May 19, 2012

Wow, you guys are awfully mean. You do realise that the guy on the phone a) probably lives in India/Pakistan/wherever the accent is coming from, and is forced to take on a Western name because Westerners won't understand or be able to say his name and b)is probably making a lot less than minimum wage and c)may not even realise that this is a scam rather than a legit operation and d)has really shitty working conditions and e) there may theoretically be other ways to make money but if you're hungry you take what you can get and f)all you have to do is politely tell them to take you off your list a few times and they'll do it.
posted by windykites at 12:35 AM on May 20, 2012

You do realise

Yeah, I thought about it.

Here's the thing, though: if I'm being scammed by somebody I'm quite sure knows they're scamming me, I feel no obligation at all to make that process more pleasant for them. Does that make me a bad person? I don't think so.

Also, I have heard enough stories from enough people who have been repeatedly targeted using this exact same script to convince me that (f) doesn't work on fake IT tech support scammers. These people are total bottom feeders; I doubt they have the infrastructure to maintain a do-not-call list.
posted by flabdablet at 12:48 AM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's no way for HerOrHim Who Gets Called to make any assumptions (optimistic or pessimistic) about the life circumstances of who's calling. The only thing you're seeing on the receiving end is that it's a disruption, possibly a scam, always un-called for. If a prank relieves pressure, I'd say go for it.

[Practices vary per country. Where I live, telephone callers (including the scammers ), tend to be native (i e Westerners), and do not likely live in shitty conditions at all. Still they call...]
posted by Namlit at 8:45 AM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

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