New (old) robocall scam alert

I’ve just received a telephone call on my mobile from a scammer.

I disconnected at this point. Needless to say I have not been involved in an accident. Anyway, the interesting this is that the caller was not a person but a computer-generated menu system using a human voice. Fortunately, it was immediately apparent. And by immediately, I mean on the first word. The pause just confirmed it. I’m not sure how I clocked it. Something about the tone maybe?

I got one of those a while back - not the same shitty company but someone else. It doesn’t matter what you say - they just go on to the next item automatically until the end, and then put a real person on the phone.

Mine was IIRC “Hi, this is Bill from <some shithole scam company>. How are you?”

To which I replied “I just got out of prison for murdering telemarketers.”

“Great! I am calling you about an opportunity…” whereupon I hung up. Pointless but amusing.


PS - in case you were worried, no, they can’t record you if you say “right” and sign you up for anything. That is pretty much an urban legend.

I got one of these the other day that I thought was quite clever.

“Hey this is Bob from the local police chief’s organization. Is Cathy there?” Pause “Sorry, right number, wrong name.”

At that point I hung up, because it was obviously a prerecorded message, but the fake wrong name thing really humanized it.

I try to see how fast I can hang up on the ones that start with something like “Hello, don’t hang up…”

I’ve tried asking them simple math questions, “What is two plus two?” Or just asking, “Am I talking to a robot? Have the robots taken over this job also?” One of them gave a canned reply to the effect that there was a human being behind it, but was only able to give canned responses. I think this system is used when the call center employee isn’t a good English speaker.

I got that one a few weeks back. The weird timing’s the really obvious ‘tell’.

Personally, I don’t hang up if I’m not doing anything, I just leave the phone somewhere until they do. I’m sure the amount it costs them for the call is tiny, especially if it never reaches the point where they put a human on, but every little helps.

Now you mention it, that must have been it.

This was on my mobile, which I need for other callers.

I hate those robot calls. Creeps me right out.

I get two fairly frequently. The first wants to talk to me about the extended warranty that’s about to expire on my 2001 Subaru (that’s one heck of an extended warranty…), and the other says, in very no-nonsense tones, “THIS CALL IS FOR (switches to different pre-recorded voice) DENISE WILSON.” Well, I’m not Denise, so I hang up. The first time, I listed to it all, just for grins, and they’re trying to tell me that Denise is in very deep legal kimchee. Unfortunately, they’ve given their robot overlords the wrong number to call.

We occasionally get a call from some guy claiming to be a publisher, and he says he’s calling back about that book my wife wrote. I wonder how many random people that bot has to call before somebody bites on that bait.

I got a call a couple weeks ago which went like this…

Caller: “Hi, there!” pause “Got a minute?”
Me: Depends. Are you a robot?
Caller: “Um, no? I’m calling from (that place I was expecting a call from…)”
Me: Whoops.

The most recent ones, that I answered a couple times until I wised up:

Asshole Telemarketer (AT): “Hello, is mumble mumble there?”

Me: “Who?” Or alternatively, “I think you’ve got a wrong number…”

AT: "Oh, maybe you can help me then… (launches into uninteresting spiel that I immediately hang up on).

I can’t imagine what the point of this particular subterfuge is, unless it’s to somehow get around claims of “do not call” violations by pretending it was a misdialed number.

I’ve been getting robo-calls on my mobile lately from some woman offering to help me consolidate my student loans. Which have been paid off for about 20 years now…

I get a ton of robocalls and telemarketers at work. The robocalls I just hang up on, but for the real people I have a somewhat long spiel that starts with, “You should be aware that you’ve just called a Federal office.” It goes on from there but I’ve never gotten past that first sentence, they immediately hang up the moment I say “Federal office” every single time. If they bothered to listen to the rest, the next sentence is actually, “There’s absolutely nothing illegal about doing so,” but I’ve never gotten that far.

I got a new cellphone from work about two years ago. . . At first, I was getting calls looking for “Joseph” or “Jerome,” who I assume skipped town. The calls were from collection agencies or ‘relatives’ looking to speak with Jerome. I tried hanging up, but would get multiple phone calls and voicemails from them–usually live people–unless I answered the phone and immediately said something to the effect of “Department of Agriculture, Special Programs, Unclassified Line, call recorded for security.*” That would normally give the caller pause.

The caller would ask for “Jerome/Joseph” where I would simply repeat that they were calling ‘a government line,’ and ‘put this number on your do-not-call list.’ I never mentioned my name or anyone elses. I just stuck to the ‘government line’ spiel. Twice, though, a caller was a bit persistent, and I started some off-the-cuff questions like, “What is the name of your company? What is its address? Can you spell out the city and state? What is the ZIP Code? What are the last four digits of the hyphenated ZIP code. This is for an investigation where I will turn this all over to our Security Division to contact you. . . this is a government line. . .” The calls were reduced dramatically.

Up until last week, I hadn’t gotten a call in awhile. Then, during the workday three weeks ago, I got a voicemail from a process serving agency who indicated they were going to serve me, “Jerome” at my place of work. They gave me a phone number and reference number to respond to. I kindly gave them a call back at that number, and gave them the reference code–immediately, without skipping a breath, the guy on the phone starts rambling on about my location, place of work, I will be served, my Supervisor needs to be there to sign witness paperwork, I need to have two IDs, yadda yadda yadda. I abruptly cut him off and said, “You’ll need firearms to get past the guards. You’ve already violated the Privacy Act of 1974 by giving me details of Jerome and his actions. I am not Jerome nor Joseph. This is a government line, and you are being recorded.” I heard the caller punch in some keys, and then say, “This number will no longer be contacted. Good day.”

*Note: Make up your own spiel that you can tangentially defend. I haven’t figured out how to record phone calls on my cellphone yet, but it’s a matter of time. It is a government-funded line, though.

Dept of Agriculture: Don’t f*ck with farmers, man. . .

I misspoke. Last paragraph should start, “Up until last month”. Stupid robots.

I usually just spout some sort of “speaking in tonges” gibberish mixed with bits of Klingonese until the call hangs up. Particularly annoying humans I belch at.

I get a lot of politically-oriented calls and texts on my cell phone - always addressing someone named Thomas.

Well, either Tommy-boy had my same number a looooooong time ago, or someone’s number got keyed in wrong and linked to me, and propagated all the way through every political scammer / spammer.

Once I tried calling the number for fun. It was disconnected. No shock there. Yesterday, I did that again - and got a voice saying “No” then a hangup. A minute later, I got a text saying “We don’t take calls, this number is only for sending texts”.

It’s merely a way of misdirecting you into thinking you are speaking with a live person, not a computer. If they had begun the spiel from the start, you would have hung up sooner. At least that’s the theory.

Remember that these callers are operating on volume. And they can call you many times a day with their automatic equipment. If they can fool you into thinking that the 6 times they called are 6 different people, they have a better chance of getting your attention. Or so they think. Since this is logic from India, it may not be all that valid in USA.

Not quite. There are no call center, human, employees in many cases. Some are 100% automated. The “dynamic” robots that make many calls have a crude parsing algorithm. It can recognize many expected phrases and words, but not all. It also has some default responses for those that aren’t recognized. If there are too many unrecognized ones, it defaults to the “have a nice day, goodbye,” or just hangs up.

Some of the phrases recognized, in my testing, are “Are you a computer?”, answered by “No, I am not a computer; I just use one in my work.” And any detection of “fuck you” is likely to get a response, too. Personally, I have tried “Once upon a time, there were three bears.” This usually results in a long pause while the parser is working on this, followed by some default message. After all, these are not Crays or HAL 9000s, but cheap PCs, so don’t expect the AI to be all that sophisticated. Yet.

And in some cases, the system is exactly as I described, with a human operator pushing buttons to play canned responses, so the call center employee doesn’t even need good English skills. See this Time magazine article on “Samantha West” for instance.