Why would an army of spoofers hammer my cell phone?
April 6, 2015 1:08 PM   Subscribe

I've gotten 30 spam phone calls in the last 7 hours. Why? How do I make it stop?

A solicitor called my phone this morning around 9 am, asking for "Dorothy." I told them wrong number, and they hung up. 10 minutes later, a different number and voice calls asking for Dorothy. I snap at this guy that they just called. He gives me some sass about having to make 6000 calls that morning. We hang up. In the 7 hours since then, I have received around 30 phone calls from a variety of phone numbers asking for "Dorothy" (once they switched to "Georgie.") I've tried answering. I've tried ignoring, I've tried engaging the caller. Same result- more calls.

1. when asked to remove my number from their list, the caller always pleasantly agrees. (The calls continue.)

2. When asked who is calling, the caller says this is a follow up in reference to a health insurance inquiry. When I ask which company is calling, they hang up. I only engaged the first four times, each time a different person.

3. There are 8 (so far) different numbers rotating calling my phone. The couple I looked up appear to be spoof numbers:

4. I have filed a complaint with the FTC. The site says there's not much they can do.

5. I have used VZW's call-blocking feature to block up to 5 of these numbers (VZW max), but they just switched numbers (to my own area code) and hammer away.

6. I have installed aFirewall on my phone, and that works well except that when ever I make or answer a legit call, the call waiting beep interrupts the call as these people keep calling.

7. I have sent a complaint to VZW, but have not yet heard back.

While this has been an entertaining day trying to stay one step ahead of the borg collective, this is really getting to be a nuisance. I have two questions. Short of getting a new number, can anything be done? What does the organization calling my phone hope to gain? I've made it clear I'm not Dorothy, and I've made it clear I'm not going to give any information, so why God why?
posted by reverend cuttle to Technology (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Did you piss off 4chan / Anonymous or something?

You could turn off your call waiting so the bleeps don't bother you on legit calls...
posted by TreeHugger at 1:15 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Man, you're going to have egg on your face when Dorothy calls to ask if she has any messages.

It's probably that someone made up a number when filling out a mortgage loan form or something on a please-send-me-offers web site. If you have an Android phone, you can install a call blocker app that has a whitelist functionality that sends anyone not in your contact list to voicemail, where you say "No solicitations please. Add me to your no-call list. ... [regular outgoing message]"
posted by cmiller at 1:21 PM on April 6, 2015 [7 favorites]

Connected to treehugger's suggestion - possibly someone else pissed off some internet troll but had previously given them a false number that happens to be yours. cmiller's idea - that someone was one one of those "sign up for free stuff" sites and gave your number as a false number - is also plausible.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:31 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Does that trick of putting the "Not in service" tone on your outgoing voicemail announcement still work?
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:35 PM on April 6, 2015

When asked who is calling, the caller says this is a follow up in reference to a health insurance inquiry. When I ask which company is calling, they hang up.

I would surmise that "Dorothy" was looking for some sort of product or service, possibly health-insurance-related, and had to give a phone number at one point, but felt that the website or salesman or whatever felt like a scammy-scammy-scam, and so gave them a fake number. Which happens to be yours, and she happened to be right.

At this point if the calls are coming from all sorts of numbers, it sounds like your number got sold to some sort of "sales leads" list and bought by several different organizations who are legitimately not connected to each other - so there really is no way for any ONE of them to COMPLETELY take your number off (all copies of) the list.

I doubt there's much you can do. Maybe try requesting, once per unique number, that they remove you from the list, then ride it out for a day or 2, and see if it stops.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 1:36 PM on April 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

I've been in a similar situation. In retrospect, I suspect it was a "pissed off someone online" deal, but I can't be sure. It does sound a bit different from your calls in that mine had my correct name, were from people in different fields, and they seemed genuinely surprised when I told them I hadn't signed up. (Like, you could tell they had a script for the call, and my saying that broke it down.) Yours sounds more like there's dishonest intent from the callers themselves.

Basically, I answered the calls and told them to stop, and they did (though it took a couple of days for everything to clear out). I still do get the occasional spam call of this sort, though, even years later.

I've seen (and written) a couple of similar Asks and I still don't feel like I have an answer that explains what this scam, or attack, is all about.
posted by thesmallmachine at 1:38 PM on April 6, 2015

Oh and just in case you didn't do this, since I don't see it mentioned, is your number on the National Do Not Call list?
posted by Wretch729 at 1:53 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is there a way to turn off the call waiting beep on your phone? Then you'd be blissfully unaware of the firewall thingy doing its work and could return legit calls at your leisure. (On preview, what Treehugger said!)

I second Joey's advice "Maybe try requesting, once per unique number, that they remove you from the list, then ride it out for a day or 2, and see if it stops."

This sounds terrible. Good luck.
posted by purple_bird at 1:55 PM on April 6, 2015

Best answer: There are six different VoIP/SIP providers among those eight numbers.

Callerid4U, Level3 VoIP, MCImetro Access, Flowroute, PhoneFusion and CoreTel.

I'm seriously doubting that any legit business that respects the do not call list would be hiding tracks so thoroughly.

Not sure what firewall app you are using, I know there's at least some that maintain blacklists of known robo-callers, but I don't have enough experience to recommend one over another.

Have you tried nomorobo.com?
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:35 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is a little bit obscure, but I had a similar situation with one of my phone numbers, and what I tracked it down to was some "lead generation" site that was scamming their users. It's been a few years, so I don't remember all of the details. But basically there was some site (I totally forget the name) on which people could go, and pay for some number of "qualified" leads for whatever they were selling. Perhaps predictably, most of the people who purchased such a service were selling things of dubious value. Shady mortgages, "make money from home" schemes, etc. But, they wanted to get their money's worth from the lead gen service, and if they didn't get enough leads in a short enough time period, I guess they complained or something. So this service would send them completely fabricated leads, to make it look like it worked. Unfortunately for me, one of the fake leads they gave out contained my real phone number (with a completely unrelated name and email address). I got a LOT of calls from people trying to sell me stuff, fully believing that I had requested information about their service.

In the end, I only figured this out because I actually ended up talking to one of the "victims" who explained the whole setup to me, and together we figured out what happened. I was never able to make it stop through any action of my own, but it did eventually trail off...
posted by primethyme at 2:36 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Can you just say you're Dorothy, listen to their spiel, and then tell them you're no longer interested? If they're all from the same organization it might help, if they're calling from different places it certainly won't.
posted by jabes at 2:43 PM on April 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I get a handful of spammers on my work cell (currently an iPhone running iOS 8.something, but this worked on my previous phone, an Android Thunderbolt), trying to sell me travel services.

I created a contact called "Spammer" and assigned all the phone numbers I get to that contact. The contact is blocked, and I assigned a silent ringtone to the contact in case the block is disabled somehow. Every time they send a new number (which in my case is with my area code as well as my exchange, so I think they're just wardialing), I add it to the Spammer contact. Both my Android phone nad iPhone seemed to have no limit (yet) for adding numbers to the contact.

If I hit a limit, though, I'd start a new contact called Spammer 2 and keep on trucking.

Can't help you with making the calls go away, but failing to bite should do it.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:45 PM on April 6, 2015 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Since you're on Android, you can block these numbers right on the phone. They won't even ring. They may go to your voicemail, however. This page shows you how to do it on a bunch of phones.

On my Samsung phones, I go to the call log, long-press on number in question, which on older Android phones may make a menu appear that has "add to reject list" but on Android 4.4.4 and older, you'll find that choice in the settings menu.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:50 PM on April 6, 2015

Response by poster: Update:
VZW said "Get a new number"

Call blocking app is working well.

I doubt this is several organizations, since all the different numbers are spoofed and all want the same thing (ostensibly to sell Dorothy health insurance).

Just turned off the call blocker long enough to talk to one of these people. I confirmed that I was indeed Dorothy W. (I am a 35 year old man). They started to ask to confirm my address so they could match me with a health insurance agent. Told them I had changed my mind and was no longer interested in health insurance. They asked me to confirm that, I did. No calls for 12 minutes since then. Fingers crossed.
posted by reverend cuttle at 6:07 AM on April 7, 2015

Response by poster: Damnit. Nevermind. Just got a new call from a different number.. Oh well. It was worth a shot.
posted by reverend cuttle at 6:09 AM on April 7, 2015

Best answer: I know these guys, they hassled me for a while. I think they get bored & choose somebody to harass, relying on their CLID spoofer to protect them from the consequences of their actions. Your best bet is to work with your phone company's security or fraud department to put a trap on your line to capture the real originating number through ANI which is much, much, much harder to spoof. There's also some services that route your phone number through their systems to achieve the same result. I haven't used any of them so I'd hesitate to recommend one, but the concept of them is valid.
posted by scalefree at 4:07 PM on April 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Since you're on Android, you can block these numbers right on the phone. They won't even ring. They may go to your voicemail, however. This page shows you how to do it on a bunch of phones.

The problem is they generate new (fake) phone numbers to spoof with every call. You need somebody that can peek behind the curtains past the CLID spoofer & get to the real originating number using ANI, Automatic Number Identification. Either your phone company or a specialized service would be able to do that for you.
posted by scalefree at 4:13 PM on April 8, 2015

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