I Get Threats


This isn’t really much of a threat, but speaking of spam [stderr] I got this phone call the other day and managed to record most of it with my smartphone.

I believe that the systems the scammers use will not deliver the entire message unless they hear some sound on the line; they don’t want to be dropping evidence in people’s voicemail. Note also the robotic voice:

Someone who is not experienced with how things work, or who has no legal protection, might fall for it. These sorts of scams prey on the uneducated, illegal, unsophisticated, and elderly. I hate these people with a great hate; they intermittently reach out to me and remind me that humanity sucks.

Back in the 90s I was at a USENIX where some guys from Bell Labs were talking about things they discovered doing “big data” analysis of all the phone call records. One of the them casually mentioned that they could spot the phone sweatshops very easily. Naturally, several people asked why they weren’t shut down for violating their terms of service and the reply was, “because they pay more than you do.” After that, I noticed that office phone banks don’t get robo-called; it’s only the home phone banks. And now it’s the smartphones, too. I’ve been surprised that the economics of VOIP haven’t made it such that robo-call centers are no longer profitable for the phone companies – they absolutely can detect them and shut them down; I doubt they are much of a profit center anymore, but it’d take effort from the phone companies and really they can’t be arsed.

The NSA knows who the robo-callers are, naturally. Want to verify that? You can get a robotic voice voice/phone/response script together that says you’re a fund-raiser for ISIS and you’re calling on behalf of the Republican Party and you are trying to help them destroy America and if they’re willing to pledge $19.95, they can help destroy America too. Then see how fast you’re shut down.

There are people in power in the US who are concerned which bathrooms people use, but they can’t be moved to care about large-infrastructure businesses that exist to rip people off – and then they’ll say “capitalism is good” and “regulation harms business.”

Comments

  1. Sunday Afternoon says

    For a while before I blocked them, I was getting phone messages from these folks: https://usacomplaints.com/complaints-reviews/phone/8189075866/

    The script is interesting from the outside of the scam (I’ve never responded to see where it might lead).

    A message is left:

    1: They tell you to listen to this message privately,
    2: They have my name wrong (correct last name, similar first name) and tell you to hang up if you are not the person in question,
    3: If you are the person in question, they tell you to keep listening,
    4: They then tell you that this call is an attempt to collect a debt and that you really should do something about it to help yourself by calling them back at the number given.

    It’s all rather plausible even with the incorrect name and I confess that I gave it more thought than most messages of this type before concluding I should ignore.

    Another regular cold-call message is from people who leave messages as if they are following up on a discussion about a business loan or line of credit. I finally realized that some of them are at least connected to paper mailers that I routinely receive and tear up without giving them a second glance…

  2. says

    Sunday Afternoon@#1:
    They then tell you that this call is an attempt to collect a debt and that you really should do something about it to help yourself by calling them back at the number given.

    There are real debt collectors who buy low-grade debt and try to get people to settle for it. There was a friend of mine who got a bill from one of them for several thousand dollars and asked them to substantiate the debt: how were the charges made, and when. No answer. Ever. It’s not quite a scam; the low-grade debt is stuff like “Marcus owes me $1200” and then it has been sold and re-sold and they don’t even know what the original debt was related to.

    Another regular cold-call message is from people who leave messages as if they are following up on a discussion about a business loan or line of credit.

    I get those all the time. I’ve wondered about asking if I could get $250,000 just so I could get it in ones and roll around in it for a while. Somehow I suspect: a) I’d never see any of it and b) If I did, the interest rate would be ridiculous.

  3. jrkrideau says

    Nice phone call Marcus but the IRA scam just does not have the really menacing voice that the CRA scam does. She just does not inspire real panic.

    The CRA scam voice sounded a bit like a senior warrant officer combined with a Mafia don.

  4. says

    jrkrideau@#3:
    the IRA scam just does not have the really menacing voice that the CRA scam does

    I know it’s a typo, but when I read that I was thinking “ho, shit, if the IRA called me”…
    “Laddie, this is O’Riordan from your local chapter of the IRA, an’ we’ll be wanting some of your money.”
    The IRS, not so much: they send certified letters to my accountant.

    The CRA scam voice sounded a bit like a senior warrant officer combined with a Mafia don

    There is probably a good sketch in there, where you could have Comedy Central call people and do money scam calls… Imagine if you got a financial scam threat-call from Christopher Walken.

  5. says

    There are a fair number of postings on youtube of people responding to the CRA scam calls; apparently it just went to some call center in India. I’m not really interested in seeing those people’s lives made more miserable than they already are.
    Although… I wonder how much they’d charge to start calling NRA members…

  6. jrkrideau says

    @ 4 Marcus
    IRS, IRA. From what I have read about the IRS there seems little difference between them.

    @ 5 Marcus
    Re CRA scam
    I wonder how much they’d charge to start calling NRA members
    If I get another call, I’ll refer them to you. If you supply the phone list they might even pay you.

    I do like the idea.

  7. says

    jrkrideau@#6:
    If I get another call, I’ll refer them to you. If you supply the phone list they might even pay you.

    I did just have a kind of horrifying idea. Most anti-spam and robocall legislation has cut-outs for political advertising (because, politicians like spam when it’s theirs!) It probably would not even be illegal to have robo-calls start calling certain parts of the country with messages like, “Hi, we are representing your local republican party affiliate and wanted you to get in on the ground floor of our amazing new partnership with ISIS and the NRA…” Or perhaps as an art project one could simply sample words by Donald Trump and have a markov chain generator string them together. “Are you tired of winning? So am I! The republicans are tired of winning. Lying Bannon is good with the milk people! Covefe!” If one didn’t ask for money, it wouldn’t be fraud and it wouldn’t be covered under election guidelines. Hm. Hm. There are a lot of mailing lists for sale on the dark web.

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    You are not the first person to receive such a call: 800Notes
    I am amazed that they would use the same number to originate the call and to ask you to call them back. Seems like it would make it easier to track them down. Area code 919 is in North Carolina.

  9. says

    I hate these people with a great hate; they intermittently reach out to me and remind me that humanity sucks.

    No, it is only a small percentage of humanity that sucks.

    This reminds me an interesting scam I once witnessed. I was browsing Internet when I got redirected to a fun webpage. There “police” claimed that I have committed piracy and now I must pay a fine immediately. And they threatened that, unless I pay within a couple of minutes, I will get a jail sentence. And it was one of those pesky pages, which don’t let you leave without completely closing the Internet browser.

    Amusingly, I have never received any robotic calls. The only spam calls I ever get are from my phone company, and then they always have a real person trying to convince me to change my Internet service provider (my phone company also offers Internet, however their offer is more expensive than what I currently have).

    It probably would not even be illegal to have robo-calls start calling certain parts of the country with messages like, “Hi, we are representing your local republican party affiliate and wanted you to get in on the ground floor of our amazing new partnership with ISIS and the NRA…” Or perhaps as an art project one could simply sample words by Donald Trump and have a markov chain generator string them together. “Are you tired of winning? So am I! The republicans are tired of winning. Lying Bannon is good with the milk people! Covefe!” If one didn’t ask for money, it wouldn’t be fraud and it wouldn’t be covered under election guidelines. Hm. Hm. There are a lot of mailing lists for sale on the dark web.

    That would be amazing! Politicians don’t give a damn about problems unless they are the ones victimized. So this would be not only fun, it would actually force politicians to change some bad laws.

  10. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#10:
    That would be amazing! Politicians don’t give a damn about problems unless they are the ones victimized. So this would be not only fun, it would actually force politicians to change some bad laws.

    I know people who know people who could do that. In fact, I could. It’s in the idea hopper and we’ll see what comes out the other side.

    Back in 2001 when I did my book on homeland security, I actually looked at sending a gigantic spam email out – I figured that everyone in the computer security community’s spam filters are tuned to let through a spam about a book about security. Sure, I’d be hated by some but I’d just laugh it off as an experiment. Given the book only sold 2,000 copies, I wish I had done it.

    I also used to daydream about writing some really bad poetry and spamming it out, then claiming I was “as widely read as Shakespeare” which could well be true. The consequences of huge-scale can be interesting: do you know who used to be the world’s most popular musician by a gigantic margin? (probably still is) Brian Eno: he wrote the Microsoft Windows start-up sound.

    There was an app for the Apple Newton called Sim Bush which strung together random bushisms. It was hysterical. Not as good as Conan the Librarian. Those are two apps that really need to be rebooted for iOS devices.

    Edit: Conan the Librarian rides again.

  11. Timberwoof says

    A recent phone scam I keep getting starts out by saying that I was once a customer of a cruise trip, and then asks me if I want to hear more information. They’re trying to elicit a spoken “Yes” from me so they forge that into an agreement to some expensive thing I’ll owe them money for.

  12. says

    Sure, I’d be hated by some but I’d just laugh it off as an experiment.

    Personally I’m OK with being hated by people I don’t like. In fact, there are a bunch of homophobes and Christians out there who hate me already. And, frankly, annoying them is sort of fun. However I wouldn’t like to annoy and become hated by people I either like or, at least, have no negative feelings towards.

    Pissing off politicians would be cool, because 1) it is fun to piss off bad people; 2) being victimized would probably force them to change the laws (better laws mean a gain for everybody). But annoying people who haven’t done anything to deserve it just stops being fun for me.

    I also used to daydream about writing some really bad poetry and spamming it out, then claiming I was “as widely read as Shakespeare” which could well be true.

    So what? What’s the point of being “as widely read as Shakespeare” if none of your readers even cares about your poetry? Personally I would prefer a single person who notices, appreciates and thinks about my artwork than a million people who get a quick glimpse of it while hitting the “delete” button (without noticing, without paying attention, without caring).

    Speaking of annoying people. In Latvia there is a law, which forbids burning Latvian flag. If somebody publicly burns, tears apart, smears with feces (and so on) a flag, then they get an actual jail time. The good news is that it is legal to do simulated flag destruction. It would be legal to paint a picture with a burning flag in it. Or it would be legal to take a photo of a non damaged flag and then put on some flames in photoshop. As long as no physical flag gets damaged, it is perfectly legal. Lately I have been thinking that I must do some artwork to annoy the nationalists. One of my ideas was to take the pose/outfit from Eugène Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People” painting, make a photo with a non damaged flag and then put on some flames in photoshop. That would look like I’m burning the flag, but without getting the actual jail time. Do you think we could make that when we meet in Germany? Or maybe you have some other fun ideas for simulated flag destruction?

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