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:
So Hiker had a signal… why didn’t get leave voicemails or text too let’s put some onus on all parties… cuz someone from a call center calling from a spoofed number about an auto warranty from another country ain’t invested in my rescue https://t.co/nd0PZaWn3d
— ?️? TraVoloso™️?️? (@travoloso) October 25, 2021
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.