What scam/phishing call is this?

I just got a call on my cell from a private number and had this conversation. I’ll be John Smith for the purpose of this post.

Me: Hello.

Caller: Hello I’m trying to reach John Smith. Is he available?

Me: Speaking.

Caller: Hi. I’m calling because Karen Smith put you down as a point of contact and I’m trying to reach her to arrange to deliver some legal documents. Will she be available later to meet our messenger?

Me: I don’t know a Karen Smith.

Caller: Karen Rene Smith?

Me: Sorry, no.

Caller: Well do you know a Dustin Smith, Carl Smith, Melissa Smith, Alfr…

Me: Hangs up

I’m pretty sure this was just a matter of someone calling every Smith in the area because Karen needs to be served or picked up and they don’t have a current address or contact info. Any other possibilities?

Before someone says not to answer calls from unknown numbers, my job requires that I talk to people from all over the country that won’t be in my contact list. Blocked numbers are unusual, but not unknown.

If I had to guess, it’s not so much a scam as a skip tracer/debt collector. They’re calling hoping shes either there, you can give them her phone number or you’ll tell her about the call which would shame her into paying them.

Yep, I agree. Had something similar happen years ago. I knew the person they were looking for and offered to sell my knowledge. The guy got pretty pissed off, but refused to pay me for the details.

Judging by the questions asked, it is possible that he was trying to get you to say the word “Yes”. This would then be edited into another conversation where you would be saying “yes” to some agreement.

I often hear this as a thing, but it makes no sense to me and I’ve not seen real evidence that this happens. It seems more like an urban myth, than actual reality.

Why go to this trouble…why not just record a random “yes” and claim it was John Smith? What agreement really is valid with just a random single “yes” word?

Per Snopes, there are no documented reports of financial loss due to answering “yes”.

For what it’s worth, I think I was involved with a scam call where someone really seemed to be trying to get me to say yes. It was some travel thing and I said, “I’m not interested” or something. Then, the guy on the other end kept asking me questions where the natural response was Yes, like “so, are you confirming you’re not interested?” or “would you say you’re not interested” or something like that, and I would say, “sorry, I’m not interested”, “no thanks to that offer”, and he kept at it, then got angry and hung up.

So, I can’t be sure, but it sure was weird.

Another vote for debt collector. We went through this with one or two of my stepkids who were delinquent on their student loan payments. We never gave them any information other than “nobody by that name lives here.”

Thanks-I relied on various police reports and a BBB warning on the subject, and somehow skipped Snopes.

A strange reaction. It would cut into his profit, sure, but his profit is zero if he doesn’t bring in his man.

Debt collector.

Most likely. Just wondered if there were more nefarious angles.

What’s the going rate? I presume it would be higher for someone you actually like.

Yeah, a debt collector. And probably a scammy one, that buys up old debts and tries to get somebody to pay. I always lie to them:

Caller: Karen Rene Smith?
Me: Oh, yes, Karen, wasn’t that a tragedy? Someone so young, and with most of her life ahead of her. And it was so sudden! But I’m keeping her family in my prayers.
or
Me: Oh, Karen – yes, there’s good news. Her new lawyer says that he can apply for a reduced sentence after she serves just a year more.

I can imagine a situation where the call center has a voice recognition thingy and the caller somehow gets penalised if they can’t get a “yes” from the victim at some point. A simplistic way of measuring how good they are at orienting the conversation / manipulating people.

Why scammy? If the debt is still within statute it is valid, and so owed. It is an asset and so can be bought and sold. Scammy is not paying money you borrowed and promised to pay back, unless you declared bankruptcy. You are under no obligation to help the collector, but why actively hinder them?

By the time the debt has passed through several agencies you’re getting to the point where reputable actors are the exception rather than the rule. The collectors will resort to tactics that are simply illegal and hope that the people they are calling are too ignorant or scared to call them on it.

Note the “tries to get somebody to pay” part of what you are responding to.

Yes, scammy debt collectors do this. An in-law got harassed over the debts of her former son-in-law. So not some debt she was responsible for in any way shape or form. She’s a sucker for telephone scammers. Had enough sense to call Mrs. FtG for advice. But still she argued for the serious points the scammer was making!?!

These horrible people call people that may or may not be related and harass them. Whether they had anything to do with the debt or not.

They are scammers.

Right now I’m getting harassing calls from debt collectors for someone that I don’t know anything about at all. They will not stop no matter how often I quote the Federal law about such calls.

Note that a lot of these people who buy up old debt have no actual paper trail on the debt. So even if they have the right person, it is often impossible to prove or disprove that this is a legit debt.

In addition, they ignore statute of limitations on debt collection. Another ethical matter ignored by these jerks.

Then there are rules on robocalls, how many calls they can make a month, who else they can call and on and on. All ignored.

Because most of the time the debt isn’t valid. They will try to collect debts past the statute date, debts of your deceased parents, disputed debts, and bogus debts.

Sure there are scammy collectors out there. They deserve whatever grief you can make come their way. But buying debt or attempting to collect on debt is not inherently scammy. We need creditors to have a reasonable expectation to recoup any credit they extend, or using credit cards or getting mortgages gets more difficult or more expensive, or both. Also, in my understanding it is not illegal to try to collect a debt which is out of statute. The creditor just cannot sue or threaten legal action. By the way, out of statute is not a magical home-free zone: be careful when discussing out of statute debt. If in conversation you acknowledge the debt as valid, it may no longer be out of statute. I occasionally get attempted collection on debt I do not owe, and I tend to respond as follows: “ I do not recognize this debt. Can you send me a copy of the originating document?, I will be happy to review it”. One of two things will happen: they either leave me alone because they do not in fact have any originating documentation, or they send me something. At that point I will have an address for them if I need to report them on FDCPA violations should they commit any. A little note saying “on review, I do not recognize this debt as valid, please do not contact me” tends to make it all go away.

Another vote for debt collector. I get them on a regular basis, they are looking for my ex wife. And just to piss off my ex, I give them her number.