866-662-3339: The “Equifax” Verification Fraud as Illustration of Pervasive Scamming in the US

As they say in Dune, we need a naming. In this case, it’s of the pervasive scamming that employs far too many resources in the US that could be deployed to just about any better use. I’ll turn to the Equifax 866-662-3339 offense in short order. I am sure it and other grifts mentioned below will be all too familiar to Americans. I wonder if our readers in other countries are subject to anywhere near the level of low level cons that we are.

What has gotten me frosted is that an unconscionably large amount of our economy is participating in attempts to rip off others. One bit of evidence is every week, I receive at least one scam mail piece.

And I now have little sympathy with the people who work in these jobs. The economy is strong enough that there’s no need to work for a business where you are on the front lines of preying on others.

The cancerous growth of this sort of cheating results from toothless laws meant to combat it, like “Do not call” lists and the CAN-SPAM, meant to fill the void left by the effective extermination of class action lawyers. Those bounty-hunters were in the business of going after enterprises that ripped customers off on the pennies to hundreds of dollars each level, but in volume.

John Kenneth Galbraith coined the bezzle, or “an inventory of undiscovered embezzlement,”which is the apparent increase in wealth a victim enjoys after investing in a scam before it collapses. Think Theranos investors.

Common scams have names, such as bait and switch, kiting, Ponzi schemes and of course spam. But there’s a wide-spread type of abuse where the perps get in your face on a fraudulent basis, by misrepresenting their relationship to you, and then seek to extract cash or information.

Moving to Alabama has exposed me to a vast range of commercial chicanery of which I was largely ignorant in my cloistered life in Manhattan. Mind you, I am excluding the barrage of Internet spam I get every day, from the many new improved version of the Nigerian scam, to SEO shysters, to bait and switch ad brokers, to politicians I never heard of hustling me to give to their dipshit campaigns, to publicists pimping for interviews of fourth-tier experts on (mainly not) hot topics, to never-ending “Do you accept guest posts” and “What is your price for a link?” Oh, and dangerous phishing: all sorts of designed-to-generate-panicked clicking of links and documents with God only knows what spy or malware, anything from “Your e-mail account is about to be cancelled” to various supposed fraud or overdraft or big charge notices from financial institutions, to supposed overdue invoices, to tracking information from shippers I never use, to fake order requests. I tune all this stuff out even though I get at least 200 messages like that a day.

The most widespread low level grift seems to be the auto warranty scam, which is so pervasive that it’s become a meme:

The fraudster calls or writes telling you your auto warranty is about to expire and you must must renew pronto. I now get both phone messages and letters despite never having owned a car. I can’t fathom what list they bought to get my coordinates, since I was not on their radar in Manhattan.

Another is water line insurance. My mother gets letters almost every month, designed to look governmental, from a Birmingham Water Authority, advising her that her insurance for her water lines (as in the ones on her property, not the municipal pipes) is about to expire. Again she’s never had any such policy.

In New York City, I’d get the electricity scam. A few times a year, from a 718 number, I’d be pitched that I could get my power cheaper if I went from Con Ed to whoever this power provider was. This was a bait and switch; the initial rate is lower but then it jumps to a much higher level, and you are locked in for long enough to come out way worse. But I wasn’t a Con Ed customer; my electricity was included in my rent.

I have also received pitches for veterans’ insurance, which is obviously bogus. My mother gets “renewal” solicitations from charities to which she has never given.

My mother gets so many phising calls, easily ten a day, that she never picks up the phone. One of the worst is “Toll Free Call,” which rings typically three times a day. They never leave a message and keep calling from different numbers, so they can’t be blocked. I left the phone off the hook for days running. That seemed to deter them but they resumed harassing her about ten days later.

Yet another scam is supposed charities calling for donations, most of all police charities. I tell them to send their information in writing. They never do.

Readers have reported more conventional scams. One was being pursued for a debt that had been paid in full seven years ago by his insurer. It turns out the statute of limitations in his state for consumer debt was three years. I told him to write a nastygram telling them to pound sand; sadly you can’t simply ignore that type of abuse. You need to paper the record that you told them their claim is invalid, otherwise they could go to court and try to get a default judgment.

The Equifax fraudsters have me particularly annoyed because they are so persistent. I’ve been getting 2 to 3 voicemails a day, with plenty of red flags that they are up to no good:

The most obvious: false premise, seeking “an employment and income verification for one of your employees”

Use of multiple numbers from different area codes for the same robocall. Legitimate enterprises don’t spoof

False urgency: “the request is very time sensitive”

Fraud-connected callback number. Punching 866-662-3339 into a search engine reveals that this number has been depicted as representing Citibank, Wells Fargo, and other financial institutions and racking up complaints since 2008, such as “vague answers, computer prompts on phone in st louis very tedious, and un easy to use.. somebody fishing for info…BEWARE!!!!”

No relationship to Equifax. Equifax lists its “workplace solutions” providers who do income verification. 866-662-3339 is not an Equifax number nor is associated with any of its authorized verification services

At a minimum, they are phishing for business listing information to sell, since they want an e-mail address for “someone authorized to complete the verification”.

A few days ago, I was in a sporting mood and decided right after one of the robocalls to call 866-662-3339, since it had become clear that if I let nature let run its course, I could be in Toll Free Call terrain, getting 2 to 3 rings a day from these louts for the foreseeable future.

866-662-3339 recognized my caller ID. An automated voice double down on the fakery, even said they had two employment checks waiting. Then I was patched over to a live rep. I quickly said I was on a do not call list, they needed to remove my number from their database and stop calling.

I got three calls the next day, but all from the same number this time, so I blocked it. Then a day of no call. Then more calls.

So I tried calling again to tell them I was on a no call list. This simply generated more proof that these guys are con artists.

The person on the other end was clearly not listening and kept pressing for my name and confirmation of my business name. By contrast, nearly all bogus callers will back off fast if you tell them you are on a no-call list, particularly if you sound annoyed.1 You’ve self-identified that you aren’t buying what they are selling, and they will drop the call to try to find a better prospect.

I got angrier with their persistence in not listening and talking over me to extract information. This was another indicator of fraud. Literally every other time in the past five years when I have lost my cool with a call center rep giving me non-responsive bullshit, they’ve either hung up on me or gone into PMC scold-y “you can’t talk to me that way” mode. These people were instructed to keep trying to get the caller to answer their questions, no matter how ugly the caller got, which is a classic sales trick (once a respondent answers a single question, they’ve conceded the other party is in control and that person can start steering the conversation).

Oh, and they mentioned the name of a supposed employee, predictably a name I’d never heard of (and I didn’t say so, I was not giving them any information beyond hearing my voice and my demand).

I hung up, called again, and engaged in a shorter repeat, to confirm the fraudster relentlessness in trying to get me to follow their script.

I tried a new tactic. I called again, intent on having only a one way conversation. I said:

I told you you are making fraudulent calls. I told you I am on the Do Not Call registry. I told you to stop calling me. I am putting earplugs in my ears. I am going to read to you until you hang up.

I then started reading the Declaration of Independence (I had considered The Waste Land).

They hung up almost immediately.

I repeated three times with three different reps.

I am keeping this up until they quit calling me. It’s time these goons have someone waste their time for a change.

Other readers who have have messed with abusive callers, please tell us about your methods.

And I trust those of you in civilized countries aren’t subjected to indignities like scammers who don’t even have the commercial sense to take “no” for an answer.


1 Mind you, that does not mean they have actually taken you off their list, but they won’t try soon because they have ascertained the only way they might get what they want is if someone else answers.

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  1. BeliTsari

    Believe, I’d suggested a Green Acres meets Dukes Of Hazzard type expose? As sporadically driving from the UWS down to Birmingham is even more hilarious, if you bank, work, use Signal & GPS smartphone, or use debit cards? Coworkers from Mexico, India & Europe found the stereotypes quaint, at first. Discovery, that Equifax verified our existence upon applying for Social Security, was kind of icing on the cake? Now that nothing fundamentally will CHANGE, us po’ folks simply assume, it’s just part of The Great Let ‘er RIP?





  2. Robert Hahl

    It’s telling that these calls stop in the evenings. Presumably they know that some kind of effective government action would shut them down if they called late at night.

    My preferred method of dealing with scam calls at the moment is to have the answering machine announce who is calling, and answer after three rings. Friends and family know that they should start leaving a message and I will then pick up.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Just so you understand, I don’t answer if I don’t recognize the number. But what stuck out about these bogus Equifax voicemails was their frequency, multiple times a day, every day. This is not the behavior of legitimate operators, who wait at least a day before a follow up. The persistence plus the obvious phony basis for the call got my dander up.

      1. vlade

        You know, the thing which gets me is that so many of these frauds are so obvious, so unsophisticated *), yet they must rake in the money..

        *) compare and contrast with the no-hang-up fraud in the UK few years back, which was using the fact that a land-line needed the _originator_ of the call to hang up for the call to be disconnected. Which was cleverly used to allow a “verification with the bank”, which the receiver believed they dialed on their own will, using the correct number, but in reality was still the original call.

      2. LL

        Equifax employment verifications is legitimate. The number they provide to call comes to their inbound team. Yes they call a lot. There are many reasons they do. Sometimes the volume is low, sometimes the auto dialer is having issues and because it truly bud time sensitive. It’s time sensitive to Equifax because if they complete it they paid by their client. A lending institution. The lender wants it done so they can accept or deny the loan and the potential borrower wants it so they can get their loan.
        Yes it comes from different numbers because it comes from a call center.
        If they are not calling the correct business or not a business at all tell them that and they will invalidate your number. If you are an actual business or an owner and ignoring them you are putting your employees at risk for not getting their loan.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Don’t challenge me, particularly when you clearly did not read the post in full, as we require before commenting. You are way way off base.

          The call for loan verification is utterly bogus and I stated so in the post. You are effectively talking over me to defend a fraudulent operator.

          As I stated in the post, the phone number in the headline is NOT an Equifax number or for any of its “Network Solutions” providers listed on its site. Their caller ID uses “Equifax” but if you put that name into the search field at Equifax, it comes up with zero hits. It’s not one of their operations. Either Equifax finds them too small to bother chasing or legally they can’t stop it, the same way Apple can’t stop a business from calling itself Apple Electronics.

          In addition, if you put that number into a search engine, you find numerous complaints of the same number being used supposedly for other lenders like Regents Bank, Wells Fargo, Cit Mortgage, etc. And the people who called the line found the questions to be inappropriate, basically phishing.

          Moreover, I called them six times and told them my number was a private number, on a Do Not Call list (that ALONE means they should have stopped calling immediately) and their call was invalid. They kept pressing to get information from me despite that.

          And they kept calling.

    2. greensachs

      Obama, Geithner and Holder’s accountability agenda just keeps on bezzling.

      The trickle down we’ve come to see every single day.

      1. greensachs

        More accurately, a long period of deregulatory market worship, desupervision and corporate capture, administration after administration…

  3. vlade

    Had a plenty of the like calls on my UK mobile (which I now keep turned off most of the time, anyone who needs to call me can use other means). Usually to sell a perfect investment, or tell me I had a car accident etc. etc.

    How I dealt with it depended on my mood and time.
    Usually, I asked them to clearly state their name and company, then where they got my name from, as it’s on a ‘don’t call, don’t share’ list, and that the call is recorded by the way (it used to be true, as at times my work phone, which was the one they called, was recorded). That, usually, lead to them dropping the call pretty damn quick, and not calling for some time.

    Recently, when I had time, I also asked them whether they realise that as employees of fraudulent company, who may be either committing a fraud of inciting to commit a fraud, like a fraudulent insurance claim; they will be criminally liable too, and that most likely their employer has done enough CYA to be able to claim it’s the employee who’s the bad apple and will end up in a jail. If I was able to get through all of that, it was usually with sort of stunned silence.

    In the CZ, most of the fraud is against pensioners, in person – I guess it has to do that most pensioners are way more susceptible to in-person persuasion than on the phone (where they tend to be mistrustful).
    Every few years then a pensioner goes and shoots dead some of the fraudsters *) (not recently, I guess covid limited the in-person meetings), which also kept the fraud down a bit.

    *) As one of the commented “when you’re 70 year old, getting ‘a life’ doesn’t scare you anymore”.

    1. vlade

      oh, but one thing I forgot – in the last year I started to get tons of texts on my UK mobile with “we tried to deliver your parcel, but you were not at home, click on this link to reschedule delivery”.

      Hard for it to work on me, as I know I don’t have any UK deliveries, but can see how it could work on some unfortunate soul who is actually waiting for a delivery on that day.

      1. Objective Ace

        If anyone cares to watch the Dissenters documentary, that appears to be how Jamal Khashoggi’s phone was hacked–UPS text

  4. Tangled up in Texas

    It got so bad on my land line that I finally resorted to changing my outgoing message to the sound of a fax machine. It took a few months, but the calls finally stopped – including the annoying auto warranty extension scam.

    Unfortunately, anyone who called that did not know I was scamming the scammers thought they had gotten a fax line and did not leave a message.

      1. Tangled up in Texas

        Yves, I recorded the sound of a fax machine on my cell (sound obtained via the internet) and then recorded it into the outgoing message of the land line when prompted.

    1. doug

      That is clever. Thanks for sharing.
      On my cell phone, I set default ring tone to ‘no ring’. I use three ring tones in my phonebook: friends/medical/business. This works great. If you are not in my phone book, all I don’t even hear the call, and I know what kind of call is coming in if it rings.

      1. Tangled up in Texas

        Great idea! I am going to have to use that one. It will save me the futility of blocking the number.

        I normally do not answer my cell if I dont recognize the number. And, of course, the caller(s) NEVER leave a message.

      2. Mantid

        That reminds me that when I was a kid in a large household (9 siblings) our family had a “code”. Because we got so many calls from teen friends and others, if you “really” wanted to contact the house, we’d ring once, hang up and then call again. It was amazing how none of us gave away the “secret family code” after countless years.

        Also, for a while, my loved on was getting abusive calls: heavy breathing, dirty words, etc. (what was the term for those type of calls? I can’t remember). We hung a coaches whistle by the phone and if the person started that, we’d blow as loud as we could into the receiver. It was a hella racket and the calls stopped. To this day, I pick up the phone and initially hold it a few inches from my ear to avoid the loud attack if someone wants to retaliate.

        Lastly, my dad got us all laughing ’till we peed. He’d say “hold on just a second and I’ll get him for you” then set the phone down. We’d be laughing so quietly as he’d pick it up after about 45 seconds …… “hold on just a bit more, he’s almost here”. I’m laughing right now. It ties up their line and I’ll bet today with AI and all that crap, they’ll figure out it’s a lost cause and stop – but I somehow doubt that.

        1. FishingForFishies

          We used to do something similar to ‘hold on for a second Ill get him’ at my old job. We would get a call from a marketer and whoever answers would say “Oh, you need to speak to person X, let me get them.”
          We would then wait 45 seconds to a minute then have someone else pickup and go “Oh, actually you need to speak to person Y, we’re very interested, let me get them.”
          Wait 45 seconds to a minute or more before a third person repeats the game. We would go around the office like this until we ran out of people with phone lines who weren’t too busy to join in on the fun or until the telemarketer hung up.
          Always good for a laugh around the office.

    2. BeliTsari

      We’d tried, “20th Precinct, Lieutenant — speaking.” My last partner was German, in the Poconos. We’d lots of visiting scholars and ethnic hillbillies up so the idea was to scream inebriately, in outlandish and threatening tones? With PASC, we’d suddenly downloaded MyChart for diagnostic visits. You can guess the rest? Any use, whatsoever, triggers spam (where algorithms send you PhARMA snake-oil, or spooky inaccurate shucks, jives & phishing attempts, which we’d have laughed at PRE brain-fog!) BS Better, cui bono?


    3. Sue inSoCal

      That’s exactly what I did also. There’s no way to leave a message. And I unplugged my real fax line. No more landline craziness! Cell phone has a flag that’s it’s a scam call. Sometimes, like Yves, I’d hide my caller ID and call them back out of curiosity. It would usually be “this number is out of service.” Don’t get me started about the text messages. “Pick up your UPS package.” (Doug’s idea about his cell phone rings is very good!)

  5. Jeff N

    My parents got a call last week “Grandma? Grandma?” (They’ve never been grandparents, so it immediately seemed fishy) Caller briefly convinced my mom it was my cousin, who had been arrested for riding in a taxi with drugs in the trunk, and a bribe to the police would spring him free. My mom kept asking him questions my cousin would have been able to answer, then hung up.
    And I was like “I just read about this scam in NC!”

  6. CG

    Don’t forget the ones who call claiming to be from the Social Security Administration. You first get an automated message that claims your Social Security number is suspended, and when you get through to an actual person they tell you, in an oddly thick Indian accent, that you’re SS number was connected to drug running, your SS number has been thus suspended, and that you’re in big trouble with multiple federal agencies if you don’t work with them to sort everything out. Easily the type of thing that could scare someone pretty badly who doesn’t know that the government will not conduct business with you like that by calling you on the phone, but via mail. And unlike the example below, when I tried messing with the last caller I got running this scam within the past few months by giving a fake name and address they somehow knew both my real name and address.


    I can understand barely the legal/constitutional issues that arise from a blanket ban on these types of scams, but surely the feds have a basic and fundamental state interest in working to shut down people who are running around ripping people off by impersonating federal agencies?

    1. YankeeFrank

      Some DHS agents I am friendly with spend their days and nights trying to hunt down international drug shipments/dealers that send poison that kills people here in the US. They say its like shoveling water from the ocean, but they keep on at it.

      My wife’s phone has this built-in feature (must match the numbers against a database somewhere) that scam calls appear with a “scam likely” identifier, which is nice. Its the only name that comes up most days.

      The fact is there are so many legal scams out there — anyone take out the dealer warranty on a new/used car and try to use it for anything — and that’s just one off the top of my head — and so much that’s supposed to work is breaking down… I think we’re reaching the end for the current two party system very soon. They have overseen this collapse of everything while the only thing that’s reliable is the money spigot for the rich, and people have had it.

      1. Susan the other

        I agree that the two-party system does not function anymore. When our democracy was established, a party system where everything was deliberated in Congress worked well enough. But those times were primitive politically to what we have today. Today the 2-party system is just a log jam. And both sides are too ideological, venal and ignorant to give an inch. If we had an open parliament for deliberation at the national level, at least the facts could come through to the end. Everything could be weighed in terms of money. What will bring us the most good? For the longest term? But now with the parties controlling everything that does or does not reach the table, the only things that are voted on are things that are either bribed or extorted. Which is hardly good for the future of the country. And this is only possible, in turn, because of how expensive elections are and how critical to elections the media has become. It no longer matters who gets elected. By the time they run the election gauntlet they are all vetted corporate stooges to various degrees of corruption. It’s different out in the states where political squabbles do get addressed by party; different because it is at the state level where poverty and dysfunction take their toll. Somehow when it gets to Congress it just goes through an incomprehensible process whereby what is necessary is ignored; what is frivolous is embraced.

  7. Phil

    We used to get these scam calls around 5pm in the office, when it was mostly empty. The callers must have had a list of our numbers, as a phone would ring at one desk, then the next and so one till they rang a desk someone was still at. We would try and see who could come up with the most ridiculous answers, my best one was ” is that you Osama? Yes this is the Saudi embassy, your package has been delivered, and the geese fly south for the winter”

    1. Wukchumni

      I often inform the caller that the person they are looking to talk to, has been deported to North Korea, and then ask just exactly what it is they know about this person and if they’ve been contacted by the state department, and I mention that the interrogation wasn’t that bad, i’ve had worse.

      To spice things up, i’ll mention a forwarding phone # straight out of the 50’s, something like PYOngyang-4628, if they want to get in touch with them.

      1. flora

        Too funny. At my uni research outfit, in my research office suite we will get calls from a clearly recorded Chinese speaker that’s somehow obvious as a robo-call to even a non-Chinese speaker. I’ll answer, or a co-worker will answer and then hand phone to me with a puzzled look on their face, and I answer the call with a “Hi hi!” (The only Chinese word I know.) Thus begins a long, stern voiced, Chinese language whatever is the calls point. No idea what the whatever says. I lay the phone receiver down on the desk and walk away. If I still hear something on the receiver a few minutes later I pick up the receiver and again and say “Hi hi!”, and again walk away, until I hear a dial tone on the receiver. Too funny.

  8. upstater

    If I’m not busy, when the recorded preface for the expired auto warranty starts, I press “1”, then I get a live operator (most seem to gave Filipino accents). In my best imitation of a 90 year old with COPD, emphazima and speech impediment, I then dutifully tell the screener I have a 2009 Chevy Cruze with exactly 61,293 miles and please, please let my extend the warranty. Then I get switched to another more skilled operator that asks for account information. I offer up everything with bogus numbers… and ask them to repeat the questions until they give up. At least I’ve wasted several minutes of their time, which can’t be used to scam others.

    These scams are relentless and far worse the before the do not call list was established. Of course illegality is tolerated more and more, another symptom of a failed state.

  9. John Beech

    Recently been getting calls with legitimate local business names, like Sam’s Club and Costco, which have no reason to call me. Curious thing is, when I pick up, it’s a pitch for Spectrum, the cable provider. Are you kidding me, legit business are resorting to this? Say it ain’t so!

    Anyway, my tactic is to pick up and say nothing. Automated callers hang up after a few seconds (and are immediately blocked) and a live person will invariably soon hesitatingly ask, ‘Hello?’, thus allowing me to quickly determine whether it’s in my interests to proceed.

    With these, I again hang up (and without an ill word for what is with certainty, a low level employee). After all, why make them feel bad when needs, must, when seeking employment? Anyway, I then promptly block that number, also. I can almost do it in my sleep!

    Why answer at all? I operate a business, so I have little choice.

    1. YankeeFrank

      Ugh. When Spectrum (actually Pioneer) took over from Time Warner in NYC, I knew it was gonna be bad. In 5 years I’ve gone from paying $55 to $75/mo just for internet access, with no increase in speed or service. Spectrum was recently threatened by the state with a forced sale due to their chicanery, but nothing changed as far as I can see.

      New York used to have solid enforcement to protect us from monopoly scammers (are there any other kind). Not anymore.

      1. Huey Long

        Yeah, and Scab-trum basically nuked their union in NYC, IBEW Local 3. They’ve been out on strike for several years now while Scab-trum just rakes in the monopoly dough.

        And what has the great friend of the working man Andrew Cuomo who all the NYS AFL-CIO unions have supported for years done to squeeze their testicles and make them come to the bargaining table?

        Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

        …and liberal Democrats wonder why a lot of union members vote GOP! When you suck this bad WHY NOT give the other guys a shot? Not all of are Charlie Brown, LUCY!!!

  10. Dave

    I just don’t engage. Just picking up the phone and saying “hello” lets them know it’s a live line. Unless the number is very familiar, I just don’t answer. If it is important, they will leave a message. So, a phone is just a pager. Phones are generally useless and rude. People should email.

    For decades phone companies have permitted scams to continue because it increases usage. But they destroyed their business with some customers, like me.

  11. Hank

    I got a call from someone pretending to be my son, saying he’d been in a car accident and his blood alcohol was said to be just over the line. The caller was sobbing and told me he’d broken his nose and lacerated his lip, all making him harder to understand. He asked me to speak to his lawyer, saying “here he is” and on came some guy whose oral grammar was incompatible with a law degree (from most jurisdictions). He said I needed to get $25,000 in $100s in order to make bail.

    Upset as I was at the thought that this was true, I decided on a confirmatory step.

    I told the “lawyer” I had the money in hand and wanted more instructions, and, oh, could I please talk to my son for just a moment. He tried to talk me out of it but when I wouldn’t budge, the allure of the money compelled him, to say “just a second. I’ll see if the cops will let him speak to you but its gotta be quick.”

    Of course, the mythic cops were amenable and my still crying “son” came back on begging me to get the money to his lawyer. I said, just one question, son. What do you think of when I say “at least I tried, at least I did that much.”

    Long pause. Then, click.

    Game over.

    That quote is from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” – said by RP McMurphy after he failed to lift the enormous concrete sink as a technique to get the other inmates to act in their collective best interest trying to survive the nurse from Hell.

    My son’s heard me use that dozen’s of time and we joke about lines from films all the time as two devout buffs (and I write reviews!).

    Anyway, thank God this knucklehead (your’s truly) didn’t let himself get bilked…’cause these crooks are good at their hustle. A lot of older folks would swallow this hook, line and whatever.

    1. YankeeFrank

      JC that is horrible. I guess the op is to get the father alone in a lot or something with all that money and just take it. This isn’t a scam, its armed robbery (with potential murder mixed in if you don’t give it over). I’d call the police about that one. Not that they can do anything, though who knows, but just to give them a report and let ’em know its going on.

  12. Jake

    “Oh sorry, I just remembered! I renewed this warranty last night while I was [family blogging] you mother.” That one really seems to get under their skin. I’ve been getting 1-15 warranty calls a week for years. Sometimes I like to answer and [family blog] with them.

    1. albrt

      The oddest reactions I’ve gotten were from telling callers with a subcontinental accent that I knew they were calling from Bengladesh. One guy went on for minutes about “why are you talking to me about Bengladesh, there is no such country as Bengladesh!” Not sure if it is prejudice against Bengladeshis or just strong opinions about Bengali secession.

  13. Grayce

    There is also the financial chiseling of money transfers that “may take up to four days” while the float is neither yours nor the recipients.
    Three types include a simple IRA mandatory distribution. First you are offered a paper check through the US mail (it is out of your account immediately, but not in the receiving institution for four days, and is not credited to an account for a few more while the “float” is credited to the investment firm, broker, or whoever.) If you pay extra for an electronic transfer, it still takes a few days, and the receiving institution takes another few business days to credit your account. If you question the practice of paper checks, the answer is, “It is perfectly safe; we do it for all our clients.” If you question the time out of pocket, it devolves to “the computer.” These small amounts, chiseled from numerous clients, are an actual revenue stream.
    Another type is a wire transfer to a third party. It still takes four or five days to transact when neither has the investment value. Call it legalized microscamming.
    Employers were creative in both chiseling and marketing when they coined “defined contribution” for the former “defined benefit.”

    1. YankeeFrank

      That’s the point though. These low level scams can flourish with impunity because its scams all the way down. The real big scams are the constant welfare for big business and the MIC and writing the “laws” so J&J can spin off its talc division in Texas, leave the liability with the spinoff, and avoid paying damages for knowingly giving cancer to people for decades. Not to mention the Sacklers and every other criminal, war criminal and war profiteer with deep pockets and friends in high places who never gets indicted for anything, no matter how monstrous. The response to the GFC — rewarding the perps with trillions of public money, ongoing of course — really set the stage for the final act.

    2. lordkoos

      Yes, a holdover from the days when checks would be mailed across the country, and banks would wait to release the funds. Paypal takes a couple of days to process payments to you, and I frequently buy and sell musical equipment on reverb.com — they do the same thing, holding your money for 48 hours. This pre-internet practice is exploited by countless online businesses. It should be illegal to make money from “the float” IMO, but this is America.

      1. Procopius

        Last time I cashed a check was years ago. I think it was a check drawn in the U.S. Treasury, or maybe the Department of Defense. Anyway, my Thai bank would have required three to six weeks to clear the check. For some reason I had just learned about an internet app from my stateside credit union. After I installed it I just had to photograph the check with my camera phone and the amount was credited to my checking account immediately. Last year Thai Immigration began demanding a new procedure to verify expats’ pension income. You have to have the funds transferred to your Thai bank from a foreign country. After consulting my credit union, I chose to use Automated Clearing House transfers. Initially, they took a couple of days, more if they were on or just before a weekend. Now if I need the Thai bank to show the code that it was a Foreign Funds Transfer, if I place the order before 7:00 AM my Thai bank credits it to my account at 2:00 PM that day. If I don’t need that evidence the transfer is done in seconds. Amazing.

    3. Objective Ace

      Similarly the escrow account your mortgager provider requires you to have must have double your yearly expenditures. When I asked why they needed so much and pointed out the unfairness that they can keep any interest on the extra funds they were at least honest that the reason “why” was because that is how much the state allows them to keep/require

      1. scott s.

        I’m glad my last loan was from a credit union. As far as I know they still own the loan and they have always serviced it. Escrow is designed to reach 0 at the low point and due to increasing property tax and insurance, tends to actually go negative. And they pay monthly interest on the balance.

        Bigger problem is my broker firm. I invest, not trade but to compensate for “zero commission trades” any cash generated that used to go into a “sweep” account now goes into a captive “bank” account that pays next to nothing. I then have to make a trade myself from the “bank” to another account.

      2. Late Introvert

        I did a refi on my mortgage and during the process I informed bank rep that I would not be paying escrow, that I would pay my taxes all by my grown up self, and I didn’t need their help.

        At the signing, sure enough the paperwork had escrow included and I enjoyed making the lawyer and the bank VP look like the crooks I knew they were as I insisted it be removed. That was fun.

  14. Brooklin Bridge

    Thanks for the post. It’s always enjoyable to read about someones list of scams and compare notes.

    From one perspective I assume scam calls must help people to understand their government, or at least the commercial world and then by extention it’s close relation to our dear dear leaders and their inner workings, but then it doesn’t seem to help. W.C.Fields was right, there is a fathomless store of gullability in those of us who are born everyday (and I suspect every night as well). And taken together, that makes up for a lot of us.

    I tried the no call list but it’s as effective as using a tooth-pick for an umbrella in a Texas deluge. Do you have to get on that list every year or something? Oh well. I wrote a quick shell script on my computer that’s just a glorified grep that knows where I keep my telephone file. I don’t even bother to use something other than ASCII. If the last four digits of the call number doesn’t match someone I know, I don’t answer and leave the caller to the ministrations of the answering machine. On the few times I goof, I simply say hello and then “Who’s calling” when someone asks who i am. I then hang up the phone; the less said the better since they usually record everything and could easily use the data to mimic your voice. I do the same thing as Yves with fuzz charity calls that for some reason slip by my defenses, “Send me the info by mail. Good day,” click. Police, fake or not, get that extra, “Good day” just in case. I’m not looking for trouble.

    The above is for my land line. It’s still copper and I chase so called telephone repair people away with my swan song about being a defenseless old geezer who would be nailed in a storm lasting beyond battery backup. I also slip in that I’d rip out my phone all together if they ever succeed in their murderous intent. And then an endless harrang about how they should be ashamed of themselves; would they murder their own grand-pa-pa in cold blood??? It’s worked so far to my amazement. My cell phone is not smart, thank god, but it is broken and on its last legs. It doesn’t accept text per my orders (when I first got it, they charged me for every word of text). The only remaining functionality is that it announces the caller if they are on the list I made ages ago and if not, they can leave a message which I almost never listen to. My bad, but it’s just junk 99.99999 of the time. I worked it out on the clock and my fingers.

    Back to my land line, I don’t get the employer scams Yves does and feel bad for her on that one. Just ugg, nasty stuff. I also don’t let the few calls that slip my usual defenses get more than a couple of words in before I register what’s up and simply hang up, so I rarely get the gist of the scam. Legitimiate calls, such as, “Your car is ready.” from the repair station usually announce themselves early enough (first two words) so I listen. If I don’t answer at all, I catch it on the answering machine (my own physical ansering machine that amazingly is still working). I think I goofed once or twice such as when Ed McMahon called up to tell me my ship had arrived, and only got to the part about my ship, but other than those trivial slip-ups, it’s worked out ok.

    1. Tangled up in Texas

      A friend received the call from Publishers Clearinghouse. A elderly lonely widower, he fell for it hook, line and sinker. Thankfully, an alert teller at the bank in his small town alerted his daughter when he kept coming in to make the money transfers so that ended that. All said and done, they fleeced him for his identifying info (bank info and SS#) and $6,000. Thankfully, the scammers only asked for small amounts to cover the cost of transferring those millions to his account.

      A police report was filed, his credit frozen and the land line was removed and replaced with a cell. Of course, nothing will ever be done to stop these scammers… apparently the cost/benefit analysis of chasing down scum like this just isn’t worth it to the authorities.

      1. ambrit

        The “Publisher’s Clearinghouse” scam calls we used to get originated in Jamaica, the island, not the borough. I once got the caller going by demanding that he tell his co-workers to turn down the dub music I claimed to be hearing in the background.
        My favourites of this bunch were the obvious newbies who were plainly reading from a script. It was funny to consider that we were essentially being treated as training calls for the scam call industry.

      2. Mimi

        I had one of these catch me at work — I was on my lunch break so after I figured out what PCH was and that this was a scam (quick Google search) I decided to see how long I could keep them on the phone. They transferred me up and down the “coast” supposedly, but eventually made a mistake when giving me a number to call back that I was able to trace to Jamaica (they claimed it was their corporate headquarters in SC). I kept asking questions, and just saying how excited I was, but also how scams are so common and I really really needed more proof this wasn’t a scam…finally the guy got so upset that he lost his southern accent and started yelling at me about why don’t I want money, everyone wants money. At this point I replied, “frustrating isn’t it when someone cheats you, I wonder how many people you could have scammed over my lunch hour if I wasn’t keeping you on the phone.”

        In actuality, it is really just so sad. I have had to workout reimbursement for so many family members across generations who have fallen for these and don’t know how to protect their accounts. I wonder also at how people justify participating in these scams: do they think they are pulling one over a bunch of rich, entitled people (?)…seems to me that the ones who fall for it are often the ones who can least afford to lose.

  15. Jen

    I used to get calls from debt collectors looking for the poor benighted soul who must have had my current phone number at some point in the distant past. I could always tell when a new company purchased his debt because after months or even years of nothing from these people, they would start up anew.

    The last time around whatever company was now on this guy’s trail made the mistake of having a live human being make the call instead of robocalling. I started with a litany of all of the companies who’ve been looking for this dude, who hasn’t lived here/had this number for two decades. I pointed out that any moron with an internet connection could look him up and find his address and phone number in another town. I mentioned that it was probably illegal to try to go after him after what had to be at least 20 years, and finished by saying I’d call the state DA’s office if I ever heard from him or anyone else again.

    And that was the end of that.

  16. Arizona Slim

    I don’t have a car and I don’t drive. But, wouldn’t you know it, yesterday morning started with a voice mail message from one of those car warranty scammers.

    1. petal

      I’d get the car warranty scam calls at the lab phone number. And the “you’ve won a cruise” ones, too. It was often. Our # recently changed, but I imagine they’ll start up again soon enough.

      1. ambrit

        I’d really start to worry when you start getting; “You’ve just won a refrigerated tanker truckload of liquid nitrogen!” calls.

  17. Expat2uruguay

    Oddly, or not, in the five years I’ve lived in Uruguay I’ve never received a scam call on my local number. And I don’t receive scam mail in the post anymore either! The predatory economy of the US was one of the contributing factors to my desire to live anywhere else for the rest of my life. Things haven’t gotten better in the US since I left in early 2016, obviously.
    Unfortunately, for reasons stated above, I don’t have any advice for dealing with scammers. Other than the obvious: leave the United States

    1. tegnost

      considering that the vaccine mandates are for “naturalized”americans only (oh by the way, it seems like the mandates are hitting unionized working class jobs the most, so winning!) we should start thinking of citizens as being in the corral or the fishing net…a herd to be consumed by the effete.

    2. Mantid

      Expat, nice. I don’t need nor want cell phone but my understanding is that if you buy a cell phone in Dallas for example, don’t you then get a Dallas area code number? If that’s true (cell peeps, let me know) perhaps we could all buy cell phones from Uruguay?? When giving out your cell number to friends, remember to give them the country international code. So many people use auto dial so that may not be required.
      I’m loving this comment stream. Yves, you rocque!

    3. ChrisPacific

      Same experience for me, both prior to and after leaving the US. It’s been refreshing to be able to use the phone for its intended purpose as a communication device again.

      (Actually not quite the same as I do get very occasional scam calls, but they are always from international numbers, and it’s easy enough to identify them and not answer).

  18. Hayek's Heelbiter

    I used to go ballistic, ask to speak to supervisors, threaten the caller, etc. But the number of spam calls kept getting worse and worse.
    I don’t why, but one day I had a sudden change of heart. Most of the poor schlubs reduced to working in call centers have lives that are probably pretty miserable. They are used to being yelled at, having the phone hung on them, etc.
    So instead of being upset, I started asking them how their day had been, had their family is, how the weather is where they are located and so on.
    Many times they would pour out their heart to me, and if they every tried to bring attention back to the scam, I would divert them back to personal issues.
    At a certain point, they would suddenly realize that they had just wasted 15 minutes of their time and were not ever going to make a sale and hang up.
    Over the the next few weeks, suddenly, inexplicably, instead of getting four or five spam calls a day, I how only get one or two a week. Is there a coincidence? Who can say?
    Even better, now that I’ve stopped being enraged and my BP skyrocketing, I hang up feeling far more serene and hoping that have made someone’s day a bit brighter.

    1. ambrit

      At one point a few years ago, I got to know a bit about living with the monsoon in Bombay by schmoozing with the call centre operators for a certain Bigg Bizzness. An American company with the call centre in India. Make “them” pay for the priviledge. I did ask one of the operators if I would get her in trouble by chatting with her and she answered in the negative. Strange to say, I now view those as “simpler times.”
      The present explosiopn in robo-calling and scam calls gives me the impression of slowly increasing desperation.
      David Mamet’s play and film “Glengarry Glen Ross” perfectly describes that dynamic. Unscrupulous actors motivated by equal amounts of fear and greed.
      Read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glengarry_Glen_Ross_(film)

      1. Susan the other

        “Simpler times.” I can remember my very first cold call was way back in the late 80s. Never before had I had to deal with a huckster on the phone and I was as surprised as I was curious. He was from a sweat-shop selling stocks. With “fantastic” deals. I remember being in the kitchen cooking up supper, maybe around 5 or so; and holding the phone to my ear with my shoulder as I navigated the refrigerator, the stove and the sink. The guy came on oh-so friendly, like a classic con artist. There are a few things that bring you right down to earth – one of them is fixing dinner. It’s as basic as it gets. So naturally I was kind of annoyed. But for some reason I did not hang up on him. Instead I played along saying OOOh, that sounds great; and he’d reaffirm how good it was. So after about 2 minutes of leading him on, I said, “OK! I’ll buy some of this stuff if you’ll talk dirty to me.” And he sobered right up and said, “OK” and hung up. Apparently the cost was too high! He never called back. Unfortunately I can’t get that be-gone effect these days.

  19. DJG, Reality Czar

    Yves Smith: Until “Officer Catherine from the IRS” calls you and tells you that they are on their way to your house because you haven’t paid your federal taxes, you haven’t lived. I am amazed at how amateurish the Officer Catherine series is, given that it is a recorded voice, but it must have worked for a while.

    My complaint is fairly low level, although I think it is a defining characteristic of the internet (and needy organizations): The e-blast list from a charity or arts organization that somehow has no “unsubscribe” button. A certain theater in Chicago that Malkovich was once part of engages in this low-grade annoyance. You wonder why such organizations don’t think it through: You claim to have a mission, and you can’t even control your e-blasts?

    I don’t know if the National Do-Not-Call Registry has deteriorated, but I used to put offending phone numbers in it. It seemed at that time to work.

    1. ambrit

      A family member had a version of the “Officer catherine” call. She calmly told “Officer Catherine” that sister would have the coffe ready when the Feds showed up. Did they take cream and sugar?

  20. cwalsh

    At times when I must answer if it is a junk call, I simply say:
    Please place this number of your do not call list.
    Most hang up without another word.

  21. Glossolalia

    One trick I learned from a Howard Stern bit severals years back is to call back the number, then when I get a live person I ask them to hold on a moment, then do a 3 way call and dial the same number again. When you get another live person on you tell them to hold on a moment then add the original person back in. Then sit back and enjoy listening to them figure out that they’re two scammers talking to each other. It doesn’t work every time but when it does it’s comedy gold!

  22. Bruce F

    I practice my spanish on them which usually causes them to hang up. Occasionally I get a response back, in spanish, which allows me to ask them in the most innocent way, that “Bueno, quiero practicar castellano, tu sabes la frase la put* que te parió. ¿Que significa esto?” Hey, I’m just trying to learn the language, guey!

  23. Brooklin Bridge

    I miss the days when you could do a reverse look-up anonymously and for free on the net. Not only that, but there would often be a warning in the headers returned from a search request that would tell you everything you needed to know about a caller with that number.

    1. ambrit

      Yes. Now all I get are two or three ‘pages’ of Google results, all so called “independent” websites which switch you to one of three national wealth extraction companies.
      Even the ‘legitimate’ reverse number scam caller sites are pretty vague nowadays.
      What happened to the original White Pages and Yellow Pages? Indeed, I remember one of my acquaintances at High School’s Dad had a reverse lookup white pages actual paper book for the Miami region. He used it for his business.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        They all seem to be subscription based (though they have a come-on using the word “free” that one sees from a search engine)

        As to the white and yellow pages, good question. I still get a stapled fold for the yellow pages (nothing on line- that I can find without subscription), but physical white pages have disappeared for me at least since 2008.

  24. The Rev Kev

    We are on a Do Not Call database here in Oz but it does not stop them ringing. I sometimes think that it is our phone company that sells our telephone numbers to these scammers. Reading these comments lets me see how widespread this problem is in the US so I will take one or two guesses about why here but let me back up a bit and talk about the pron industry first. Just before Enron went bust, they were about to heavily invest in the pron industry because of the profits. And after all these years, I read recently that the bulk of the pron websites are owned by one or two corporations which are in turn owned by Wall Street. I will have to research this point. So I can assume that Wall Street protects this industry as it is a lucrative investment for them. My point is, what if it is the same with these scammers. You can’t tell me that the government could not crack down on them hard if it really wanted to – but they don’t. So is it a case of that these scammers are also indirectly owned by Wall Street as well and are also being protected? I would imagine that there would be a private list of people that those scammers would never attempt to ring. People like Senators and House members but is anybody really researching this industry to understand how it is organized?

    Just to finish off, here is what happened when a scammer rang comedian Tom Mabel once-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIVfrBFc5og (3:22 mins)

    1. Wukchumni

      Once a month the City of LA would list the restaurant closures by the health department, typically for non potable water, gross contamination of food preparation surfaces or just good old vermin infestation, and it’d usually be low end eateries, but every now and then a high end restaurant would be the subject of a closure, and that was my cue to call them and make them squirm a bit…

      I’d tell them I ate there the other day (in between faux dry heaves) and saw in the paper that they’d been shut down for vermin infestation (another giant faux dry heave inserted here) and I wondered if that had anything to do with (one last faux dry heave for effect) my health predicament?

    2. TimH

      When I set up a new bog standard POTS landline 9 years ago, no calls for 2 weeks and then 5 calls a day. Yes, AT&T clearly sold a list of new subscribers back then.

  25. Sarah Henry

    I ended up using an app called Number Shield to block all incoming Austin and Georgetown, Texas-area calls unless a number with one of those two area codes is already saved in my contacts list. I’ve been harassed for months by a company identifying itself as HRRG, a medical debt collector, which leaves 26-second robo-voicemails asking for money. I have no medical debt, and I haven’t lived in Austin for over a decade. The numbers are always spoofed. Earlier this year, after the calls had been going on for a couple weeks, I checked my credit report to make sure there wasn’t a fraudulent claim from this company listed there, as there are some epic online complaints about HRRG. I didn’t discover any problems with any of the three major credit bureaus; there thankfully isn’t any evidence I can find that they have any info other than my phone #.

    Even if HRRG is a real debt collection agency, no way it’s legit to spoof numbers like that.

    1. annony

      I added T-Moble’s Scam Shield app recently. T-Mobile had been identifying the daily robocalls from car warranty as scam, but was allowing them to go to voice mail. Since I added the app, the calls have stopped and no more voice mails, so I guess its working.

  26. cspace

    If you want some anti-scammer catharsis, there’s a great YouTube channel run by a guy called Kitboga on which he dupes scam callers into wasting as much time as possible (sometimes dozens of hours over several days!) before driving them insane by “spending” in front of them the money they thought they were going to steal.

    Here’s a good example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6a0yvRV4pQ

  27. Glossolalia

    One of the benefits of not changing my California number when I move to east coast 10 years ago is that almost all the spam calls I get are from California numbers (spoofed I imagine) whereas I get almost none from east coast numbers. So anything from my local area codes are almost always legitimate calls.

    I think if I ever needed a new number I’d request one with a Wyoming area code or something like that.

  28. Sam

    Do not call lists are voluntary to the company IF they want to opt-in to participate in not calling someone. The do not call registry is toothless and idiotic. It was so much internet chicanery for politicians to appear as though they were doing at all when in reality, the list is ignored.

    “Articles” like this that claim that telling a scam artist that you’re on a do not call registry will cause them to shudder in fear is just shoddy reporting.

    1. The Call Avenger

      If you’re on the national Do-Not-Call registry and they call you more than twice in 12 months, you can sue them in small-claims court under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and get a judgment for a minimum $500 per call for every time they call you — not just every time you answer. Often they’ll settle, so you don’t have to go to court. You don’t have to be a lawyer to do this, either. I’m not, and I’ve collected more than $100,000 on TCPA lawsuits in the last five years. Congress passed this law to empower you to become a bounty hunter to go after these scammers!

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      No, that is not true. Do Not Call is a Federal law. I told a fried about this and she said it’s worth your time to report violations. The FTC isn’t the fastest moving agency but they do bust people who get multiple complaints, and each and every call they make is the basis for a separate complaint. She says she’s shut down several operators.

      The FTC particularly does not like parties who call after they’ve been informed that # is on the registry.


      Someone is either lying to you or misrepresenting the law. The only exception is a company that has you as a customer (and can prove that, you buying at the grocer using a credit card = credit card merchant processor is the customer, you are not demonstrably their customer). So if you are a Costco member, or say have a Bank of America account, they can call you.

      1. The Call Avenger

        Yves, you’re wrong. The national Do-Not-Call registry was enabled by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a federal law that you can enforce in state court — in any state. Don’t believe me? Read the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Mims v. Arrow Financial Services LLC. That case was all about whether federal courts had any jurisdiction at all in TCPA cases or if plaintiffs could only enforce the TCPA in state courts. You can find a transcript of the oral arguments for that here. See p. 8, where Justice Breyer said:

        “…the Congress seemed to want to have ordinary people be able to go into small claims court in a State and bring an action for $500 because they were pestered by these salesmen on the phone in violation of the Act.”

        You can read more about that SCOTUS decision at this link:

        Federal Courts Now Permitted To Hear Any TCPA Case
        The United States Supreme Court has spoken, and the doors of federal courthouses are now fully open to anyone wishing to sue telemarketers under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Previously, those who received unsolicited faxes, text messages and “robo” calls had only a limited ability to sue in federal court because when it was passed in the early 90s, the TCPA contemplated that lawsuits would be filed in small claims and other state courts.

        Or read any recent state-court decision about the TCPA, such as Hoffman v. Logan et al, recently on appeal in Washington State Appellate Court — a case that I know all about because I was the plaintiff and I won it on appeal! I sued and won for Do-Not-Call violations. And by the way, I’m not a lawyer.

        Plaintiffs bring TCPA suits, including for Do-Not-Call violations, in state courts all the time. Plaintiffs even pursue TCPA class actions in state court, as you can see from this article published yesterday.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Your tone it totally out of line. There is NOTHING incorrect about my comment as written. Don’t you dare smear me or this site on bogus grounds.

          The FTC does take it upon itself to take and investigate complaints of Do Not Call registry violations, as you can see had you bothered to follow the link I posted. The FTC also makes referrals to law enforcement for criminal prosecutions.

          And my friend, a high powered attorney, said she had gotten several nefarious robo-callers put out of business via FTC complaints.

          The fact that citizens also have private rights of action does not invalidate going the FTC route. Suing takes time and costs money and very few people can go that route.

          1. The Call Avenger

            Yves, I’m not smearing you or your site, which I read almost every day. I’m simply disagreeing with you, so don’t smear me. Your comment made it sound like you thought I was misinformed that plaintiffs can sue telemarketers in small-claims court for Do-Not-Call violations.

            When it comes to stopping illegal phone calls, the FTC, like the FCC, is a paper tiger. From 2004 to 2019, the FTC got court judgments worth $1.5 billion against telemarketers for robocalls, Do-Not-Call violations, and phone fraud. But they only collected $121 million – about 8% of the judgment total. A few years ago, the FTC fined a notorious California telemarketer $2.7 million. That telemarketer made at least a billion illegal phone calls a year in the U.S., and the $2.7 million was a rounding error compared to how much money he made from those calls. How is a fine like that ever going to stop scam callers? And if the FTC’s record for pursuing scam callers is so great, why do we still get all these illegal calls?

            The FCC is worse. From 2015 to 2019, the FCC fined violators of the TCPA $208.4 million. Of that amount, the FCC collected only $6,790: about 0.003 of the amount that they levied in fines. How is a collection record like that ever going to stop phone scammers?

  29. Duke of Prunes

    When I have extra time, I will get on the phone and do my best to waste the callers time. I become the person who doesn’t understand and needs to have things explained to me repeatedly. I follow along for a while, then when it comes to a crucial point, I forget everything and ask for it to be explained to me. They usually hang up after 10-15 minutes. Why do this? I figure if they’re talking to me, they’re not scamming my parents or somebody else.

  30. Joe Well

    Phonebanking is becoming a casualty of this.

    A large majority of people don’t answer unknown numbers and a smaller percentage (like me) use a call screening service like Google’s that asks the caller from an unknown number to record a greeting announcing themselves.

    Btw if any party wanted to be in power in Washington for at least 4 years…what an issue…

  31. The Call Avenger

    Here’s how I mess with abusive callers. I play along and try to find out who they are, and then I usually sue them under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. § 227. I’ve sued dozens of telescammers under that law in the last five years. I’ve collected over $100,000 doing that, and I have judgments for more than $200,000 that I’m waiting for the right time to collect. Nothing is more satisfying than making them pay me for their misdeeds.

    Unfortunately, what I do is more difficult now because on April 1, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, a case that challenged the TCPA. Facebook won, so now more than ever, it’s open season on your cellphone. After Facebook, anyone can robocall or robotext your cellphone hundreds or thousands of times a day, and it’s not clear that any law makes that illegal.

    You can thank our corporate-captured U.S. Congress for that. In 2018, New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone tried to add two sentences to the TCPA statute to fix a well-known problem in it that caused endless problems in the courts and led to the Supreme Court’s Facebook v. Duiguid decision. Pallone bill would have fixed the statute by adding a few sentences to it – the easiest fix imaginable. But his bill went to a committee controlled by the Democrats, where lobbyists for the banking industry killed it.

    Aren’t we all glad that Big Tech and Big Finance triumphed on April Fool’s Day so corporations and scammers everywhere can attack the privacy of your cellphone? After Facebook, no one can credibly say that Democrats and Republicans cannot come together in secret to figure out a way to ignore what the public wants.

  32. lyman alpha blob

    I don’t answer unknown numbers but I have succumbed to the temptation to pick up the phone when the scammer starts leaving a message and let them have it. Do NOT ever do that! It just lets the scammer know that they actually have a live person at that number which then then likely share with other scammers, for a small fee of course. I have noticed an uptick in scam calls soon after I read one of them the riot act.

    The thing that amazes me about this industry is that supposedly the spooks can hoover up all the real and metadata about any electronic communication and we can coordinate with other countries when it comes to jailing Assange or hunting down Snowden, but we just can’t seem to do anything about these clearly illegal scam calls when we evidently have all the necessary means to do so. Funny that.

  33. Fred

    Tech savvy activists supposedly naively fall for allowing the scammers to get access to their computer, but and then use their knowledge of software to control the scammers computer(s), delete all their files.



    9M views 2 years ago


  34. pat nixon

    The best thing to do is screen all calls and write down the abusive solicitation calls. These phone numbers.
    go on our do not answer list near[ land line] phone.I really do not want to waste my time on these cretins, and I find their scamming calls childish and rude. It is hard to scam two lawyers who between them have practiced 76 years.
    The other thing is if you do not want to use your cell phone for incoming calls, get a “Faraday cage” envelope sized. This way you cannot be tracked and you do not give off a traceable signal. Amazon and other stores have decent ones for $30-$40. If you want to receive a call, you will need to take cell phone out of your case.

  35. Jasbo

    Can relate to all of your experiences here Yves, and would add interrupting a “remote support session” with someone “from Amazon” who was “assisting” an elderly relative of mine with a return (she’d searched the Internet for how to accomplish it, and of course came across a handy 1-800 number she could call). Fortunately I got there soon enough to terminate the session, remove the malware, and change her passwords. Almost bought herself a new iPhone getting shipped down to Mexico.

    I find all of this theft (let’s call it what it is) profoundly irritating and dispiriting too… and yet I can’t help but wonder if it’s just yet another symptom of a society that seems to have lost sight of how societal wealth is created – or even the fact THAT it is created. If “magical money” just falls from the sky, the focus quickly becomes “just scoop up as much as you can.” Taking becomes pervasive, with cartels and corruption blooming at all levels while the empire implodes. Scammers as just another group plundering both individuals and the commons.

    One of a number of related mental images I have in my mind is the scene from this event:
    Nobody caring or mindfully imagining that money they are scooping up might belong to somebody else. Not even conceiving of it as possibly being a form of theft. No thoughts about creating value for the other. Just scooping up “magical money” as fast as they can.

    As a lifelong small business owner, ever-uninsulated from risk and eating-dependent upon truly creating value for others that exceeds costs, I’m more and more of the opinion that the movie WarGames has right when it comes to our current hyper-financialized, overly-politicized, “Takers vs. Makers” economy: “The only winning move, is not to play.

    Still working out how best to opt out, including from this kind of scammy nonsense. Basically the same kind of problem as how to avoid banks.

    In the meantime, I appreciated your post and work here. May you find this “Glitterbomb” guy encouraging:

    P.S. Another “spam risk” call came in while I was typing this.

    1. Greg

      “Returning” dropped cash to the police just enables the police to run their own asset forfeiture scam, good times.

      On the subject of the post, as someone living in what I hope is a “more civilised country” and without a landline, this endless spam of scam calls sounds insane and incredibly tiresome. What a time tax, and for no-ones benefit.

      1. Jasbo

        Time and attention tax = true. An increasing problem at every turn right now.

        re: “Returning” dropped cash to the police just enables the police to run their own asset forfeiture scam, good times. — hadn’t arrived at that outcome thought yet, but yeah… could easily see them working that angle (don’t get me started on police “Why do you have cash?” civil asset forfeiture theft).

  36. ChetG

    Twenty-five incoming phone calls yesterday. All bogus. So for better or worse, I let my answering machine deal with it.
    Most of the numbers listed as having called are spoofs, and such numbers have little to do with the robo person making the call. I’ve had my own phone number appearing as the originating call. (At the end of the day, I occasionally check the numbers.)
    But what is the point of it all? How many auto warranties can one buy? I suppose the actual benefit is the caller obtaining personal information and gaining access to bank accounts, credit cards, or whatever.

  37. Irrational

    The scamming never ceases to amaze us when we visit or talk to the family in the US.
    On visits we have seen the in-laws have experiences similar to jasbo above on the fixed line and also a “you are about to be arrested for XYZ, call this number immediately” left on the cell.
    Slightly more remote family had the “grandma/grandpa” experience. Unfortunately for the scammers, she is a second wife and the kids never call her “grandma”, so she got hubby, who had completely fallen for the scam, to call sonnyboy back…
    Never happens where we live because legislation and data protection. OK, the data protection laws are sometimes a bit OTT, when the place servicing our car asks us to opt in to communication, so they can call us when the car is serviced, but hey!

  38. scott s.

    Never signed up for “do not call”. Most of the annoyance is from politicians anyway who are exempt. I’m too cheap for caller ID on the land line, so have no idea who is calling. If I answer, you have about 1 sec to start talking before I hang up. For a while I was getting a lot of calls leaving messages about my Amazon order for 300 something dollars that would be processed unless I responded.

    But my biggest problem these days is I own property in Florida and get several calls a day from people wanting to buy it. I know area code isn’t determinate these days, but they might guess that 808 is Hawaii so calling me at 3 or 4 AM Hawaii time isn’t going to get a favorable response.

    The other thing is calls that come in at 8:01 or 8:02 AM. You know what that’s about.

    I never give out my cell phone and don’t get any calls there. Only texts from Verizon wanting me to change plans now and then.

  39. rjs

    my experience with scam calls is that the same calls come in on different caller ID numbers on different days, often co-opting local phone numbers, like the chocolate shop or the hardware store…including the fake Amazon delivery calls and the cancellation of my Social Security calls, it seems i get about a dozen a day…

  40. charles Yaker

    And I thought ie was only me. Also seems as if it got worse after 9/11. As if FBI’s mission changed.

  41. FreeMarketApologist

    Back when the phone companies were calling in the evening to get you to buy their long distance plan (because LD calls could be handled by a different carrier than the local calls), my parents were complaining that they were constantly getting these at their house in northern Idaho (also pre caller ID). I picked up the phone one evening to such a call, and in my best hang-dog voice expressed interest that they had plans that I could use to call, and then started rattling on about how lonely it was way out in Idaho, and there really wasn’t anybody to talk to, and I’d really like to use the plan to talk to *them*, because I didn’t really have any friends, and could I call them, and they sounded really nice, and I was so lonely, and I hoped the plan wasn’t expensive, and not only did they sound nice, but I bet they were good looking too, and I really wanted to be able to call them regularly, and maybe some of their other co-workers, because they all had such nice voices, and…..

    Hung up the phone, and we never received another call. Parents, who were listening in, were practically on the floor in hysterical laughter over my performance.

    These days, though I don’t get a lot of these calls (have been on the Do Not Call lists since day 1) I shriek into the receiver and scream “help! Help me!”, bang the receiver on the desk a couple of times then hang up. The screaming is messing with my voice though, so may have switch to a police whistle.

  42. Jeff

    I ask them all sorts of inane questions… Who cuts your hair? How would you treat jock itch? If that doesn’t work, I ask who their CTO is as my company is running a phenomenal promotion and it’s critical I speak with them immediately.

  43. LL

    Just so we are all aware
    Everything you described is actually how Equifax verifies employment for 100s of different lending institutions. Both big and small. Yes it seems scant at times but there are ways to verify it’s authenticity. Any questions I’m very educated in this subject.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, this is not a bona fide Equifax operation despite including their name as part of a longer caller ID. You clearly did not read the post in full.

  44. bandit2259

    I’m of that demographic where I’m now getting calls a couple of times a week to enroll in all those medicare supplements. When I do answer I just ask them what color is the underwear they are wearing. They usually stutter something and then hang up.

  45. bassmule

    Well, it’s some data.
    “To provide the most reliable picture, we use the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) statistics as a baseline. The IC3 began operation on May 8, 2000, as the Internet Fraud Complaint Center and was established as a partnership between the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to serve as a vehicle to receive, develop, and refer criminal complaints regarding the rapidly expanding arena of cyber crime. These statistics have the advantage of the FBI’s expertise, but the weakness of being 1 to 2 years out of date.

    To overcome that we add our own tracking system statistics to update the FBI / IC3 statistics.”

    2019 Internet Fraud, Scam and Crime Statistics

  46. Anthony K Wikrent

    It’s the Wild West of the “information” age, and it’s a hell we’ve been delivered unto by the Reason Foundation and all the “individual liberty” worshipping libertarians who think that effective government regulation is a much greater evil than our telecommunications systems being rendered nearly useless by the sheer quantity of these scam calls and emails.

    I dream of something like the Civilian Conservation Corps, a cadre of a couple million talented teens and early 20-somethings, who are tasked with bringing these scammers to immediate justice. Like, in, having the office suites, call centers, and routers of these scammers identified and busted in a matter of hours.

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