Support the Arts

The Baseball Bloggess, an occasional commenter here, has a love/hate relationship with telephone scammers Sam and Nancy. It’s not a conventional love/hate relationship. She loves them, and wants only the best for them.* They hate her. Take a moment and read those two posts. I’ll wait.

* Jackie, I know I’m oversimplifying your side of the relationship a bit. But it makes the story better. Work with me, OK?

Hopefully you all know the scam Jackie and I are talking about, but just in case you don’t, it goes something like this:

“Hi, this is [insert a safe, generic American name here] at Microsoft Internet Security. We’ve detected that your computer is leaking dangerous information on the Internet.”

If you let SafeGenericAmericanName continue the pitch, he’ll help you install remote control software so he can show you exactly what horrible, dangerous information is leaking and then fix the problem, all for a fee, naturally.

Of course, your computer isn’t leaking anything and the “repair” doesn’t actually do anything The whole point of the call is to get you to install that remote control software and anything else the scammer bundles with it.

Once you do that, you’ve given a criminal the ability to explore your computer, steal passwords, look for nude pictures to blackmail you with, encrypt your files and hold them for ransom, or anything else he feels like doing. And the best part is that you’ve paid him to take over your machine.

It’s a nice deal for Sam and Nancy–or rather, it’s a nice deal for their boss. Nancy and Sam are most likely working in a boiler room for a flat hourly rate. Maybe they get a small bonus for each successful call, but it’s their boss who gets the big payout when he raids your bank account, sells your personal information and access to your computer, and runs up your credit card bill.

Lately there’s been a new twist in the scam. A few days ago, I got a robocall: “Your computer is generating a large number of errors and warnings. Please press one to speak to a technician.”

That’s right. The scam master has decided that Sam and Nancy are too expensive.

My optimistic side hopes that the public is becoming smarter and more scam-aware, leading Nancy and Sam to make fewer sales. Once it gets done laughing hysterically, my cynical side points out that the more likely explanation is that Sam and Nancy were wasting too much time arguing with former customers–probably of a different scammer–who thought the problem had been fixed the previous time, and didn’t see why they should pay again.

Either way, the sad truth is that we’ve reached the point where it’s not economically sound to let humans scam humans and we have to outsource our fraud to robots. Poor Sam and Nancy. Not only are they unloved by anyone but Jackie, but now they’re broke and unemployed.

Maybe I’m too pessimistic. Maybe my roboscammer is an isolated, local fluke, or an experiment. Jackie, please let me know if roboscamming spreads to your side of the country. If it does, we may need to set up a support fund for Nancy and Sam. Do you suppose Patreon would be interested? Telephone scamming as an artform? I don’t see why it couldn’t be one.

10 thoughts on “Support the Arts

  1. I wonder if our job should be to engage any and all telephone scammers in extended telephone conversations … as a public service (and, selfishly, as a form of entertainment). If we just ignore the call or hang up … they just move on to the next number. But, if we can eat up some of their time, that’s one or two phone calls they can’t make that day. Public service!

    Plus, I really really really really DO want to know how they ended up in such crooked work. At first I thought perhaps they just did’t know they’re working for criminals, but now having spoken with a few in their overseas “boiler rooms” I realize they’re in on things … they know the scam.

    No robocalls here yet. And, I’m a bit disappointed that even criminals must downsize in the name of efficiency. Perhaps it’s time for a Norma Rae to emerge from the criminal sweatshops and rise up against the machine!

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    • Hmm. Interesting thought, that. How much do you suppose we could earn for delaying scammers? And can we include non-scam annoyance callers who don’t think the Do Not Call registry applies to them?

      If you ever do get one to open up about how they got into the business, I trust you’ll post about it. Despite my having trivialized it as a launching point for this post, it’s a fascinating question, once you get past the “I needed the money” rationalization.

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      • Oh, I don’t think you trivialized my motives at all … I really am curious as to how they ended up doing what they’re doing. I wonder if they’ve convinced themselves that what they’re doing is not wrong or if, for the sake of a paycheck, they just don’t care. Plus, I enjoyed the opportunity to mess with Sam and Nancy a bit. I can’t wait for the next one to call … and I’ll keep asking. (And, of course, I’ll post about it … )

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    • Please do! If it causes one Sam or Nancy to rethink their career choice, it was worth the effort!

      And if it saves anyone from the pain Beth’s mother went through, it’s doubly justified.

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  2. Thank you. If it wasn’t for your post I would of just hung up on the guy. Yes, i just got the call!!! …. I was ready now, and asked him lots of fun questions: about how he has my number, what are the commands he wants me to enter, how do I validate that is my PC he is actually seeing, how the phone number I give MS is not a real one so how did he find me, whats my IP address .. etc etc. Poor guy tried so hard to make me feel bad about how I don’t trust him. If his English was better, his connection was better and if i had more time, i would of milked it for a while longer. But I basically told him I am an IT/CS professional with a secure system, and that I want his information so that i can report him to my security. After thought … I should of used the “please hold, let me patch in the FBI so they can assist me”

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    • Nice work! How long did you keep him on the line? And the important question: did the call start with a roboscammer, or did you get a live person from the beginning?

      I especially like the bit about giving Microsoft a fake phone number. Just the right touch to prove you don’t trust anyone.

      Oh, did you get his name? We should add it to the list of names that sound trustworthy.

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