What happens if you actually listen to a scam call?
February 7, 2019 4:53 PM   Subscribe

So today I picked up an unknown number with a local area code (I rarely do this, but every once in a while I feel the need to take a sample and see if they're still all scams) and was treated to a lovely recorded message by Amy From The Healthcare Center. (My coworker got one earlier today about his extended auto warranty.) I am fully aware that this is a scam, but it got me wondering: if I hadn't hung up, what would have happened next?

The thing that I don't understand is how this play actually works. Like OK, they always use a high-quality recording that initially sounds as if it could be live, and the recorded person always sounds lively and sometimes uses a giggle or an "um" to give it a bit more verisimilitude. But as soon as you try to talk at it and it just keeps rolling along, it's crystal clear that it's a robocall. Moreover, it's a robocall that was trying to trick you into believing it was real, which is pretty fucking suspicious right off the bat, right?

Anyway, all I've ever done at that point is just hang up, about four seconds in. Sometimes I'll say something in hopes that there's a live scammer on the other end who I can curse at, but it's always just a recording. How long does the recording typically roll for? How does it end? Do you eventually get a real con artist on the line, or do they just try to get you to type in a bunch of personal information using a fully automated system, or what?

What is the gambit, here?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
By answering and engaging, you're probably getting moved up on the suckers' list.

If they don't transfer you to a live person ("press 1 for x"), they will try to get you to call "their number." Or else send a money order or prepaid card to some address.
posted by praemunire at 4:56 PM on February 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

There was a recent podcast by Reply All about this very scam call -- #135 Robocall: Bang Bang

The healthcare ones actually transfer you to a real company, Health Insurance Innovations, that does big business as a health insurance broker. The podcast link above has a transcript, so search for "Healthcare Holdings LLC" in the transcript to find out more. The company denies being a scam or robo calling people, but there are class action lawsuits about them misrepresenting the products they offer and the claim no knowledge of the robo calls that many people receive.
posted by gaelenh at 4:57 PM on February 7, 2019 [6 favorites]

Yep, I came in here to recommend that Reply All episode. It's fascinating.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:41 PM on February 7, 2019

When I'm by myself in the car in a certain 'tude and fall for one of the chinese spammers I shout back in bad fake mandarin, nothing happens, pretty sure it's a recording that would need a fluent speaker.
posted by sammyo at 6:22 PM on February 7, 2019

Agree with praemunire. One of the things robocalls are looking for and tracking is "willingness to engage." By staying on the phone, you likely would get moved to a list for ramped-up, more aggressive calls.

Basically, they would think you're a prime sucker if you didn't hang up.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:48 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Never answer those calls. It just makes them call more often. But when I don't answer, they do something that triggers my answer phone, but there is never a message. That's a PITA, deleting all those empty calls.

I get more fake/bogus/scam calls on my landline then I do actual real calls. What I don't understand is how do they know what area code/number sequence to use that would make me answer the call? Just recently I started to get calls from a number that's connected with my GP's office (same area code, same exchange). Other times the caller ID will have a number that's similar to a friends in CA, or my brother's, my sister's, my old work place etc. How do they do it? Is my provider selling that info? This goes beyond nuisance calls, I feel it's a privacy issue.
posted by james33 at 7:29 AM on February 8, 2019

They're just using area codes/exchanges local to you.
posted by praemunire at 7:55 AM on February 8, 2019

At work I answered one today. When they guy with an accent claimed to be from the “credit department,” I yelled so loud and so long that people all over the building asked if I was OK.

I hope that guy was wearing a headset.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:53 PM on February 8, 2019

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