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While doing something more-or-less mindless the other day I got a call from one of those scams that tries to sell you, or refund you some kind of computer services. They claimed to be from Microsoft or Dell, I think.

Because the thing I was doing was pretty boring, I decided I would endeavor to keep the scammer on the phone as long as possible, as I feel that it’s my moral obligation to save other people who might not realize these are scams from them, even if just for a while.

This turned out to be quite fun and took extensive improvisational creativity.

The first thing he tried to get me to do is to open a desktop sharing application, which I obviously was not going to do, but I let him give me the URL anyway. He was reading from a script and carefully said (in paraphrase): “Type in w- w- w- dot- T- as in tomato, H- as in the house, etc.” (I’m changing all the URLs so as not to accidentally point you, dear reader, to anything bad — and I don’t actually remember them.) Of course I wasn’t typing in anything anywhere, but I diligently repeated back everything, but then told him that I was getting “no server found” errors.

He asked me to repeat back what I had typed in (I hadn’t!), so I repeated it exactly: “w- w- w- dot- T- as in tomato, H- as in the house,…” After several minutes of his trying to talk me through fruitless debugging I tried to give him a hint by asking whether “tomato” had an “e” in or not, because I might have spelled it incorrectly. It took my repeating this question a couple of time before he got that I had typed in (or pretended to type in) “www.tasintomatohasinhouse…” 🙂

Of course, he angrily corrected me on this, and we started again. And at about 15 minutes in, he realized (after my dropping multiple hints) that I was also (supposedly) actually typing out “d-o-t” instead of using a period!

Fun!

Having got all that figured, I was still getting “no sever found” errors (or so I claimed), and he finally devolved to asking me whether my internet was working.

“I don’t have internet,” I replied.
He was incredulous. “You don’t have internet, then how were you going to use our service?!” (or something to that effect)
“You asked me to open the web browser. I’ve never used it before.”

At this point, maybe 20 minutes of time saved from other poor souls, the call devolved into absurdity, as he first tried to talk me into turning on my internet (“But I don’t have internet at all.”) and then, amazingly — I guess not wanting to drop one of the only hot leads he probably ever had — he tried to talk me into going to a store and paying $500 for an LTE internet card to get internet so that he could continue the scam! “But why would I want internet?” .. and so no.

Okay, okay, so he gave up on the internet, and simply tried to talk me into going to a store and buying him a $500 Google Play gift certificate and he’d call back and I’d give him the number. (Yeah, right!)

It took a bit more creativity to get out of this. (Note that we’re up to at least 1/2 hour of saving other people from this scam!)

Me: “Okay, I can get that in about 2 weeks.”
Him: “2 weeks, how could it take 2 weeks?!”
Me: “I live in the middle of nowhere, I get to a store where I could do that about every couple weeks.”
Him: “You don’t have a gas station, or something nearby? Give me your zip code I’ll look where you can go.”
Me: “Okay, hold on, I have to look it up online.”
Him: “Okay” (Note that it didn’t occur to him that my looking this up online means that have internet! Nor was it enough of a clue for him that I don’t know my own zip code! What I was really doing was mapping some random zip code in the middle of Nevada.)
Me: “Okay, here it is….”
Him: “Okay, so do you know where <some random town> is?”
Me: “Sure (I don’t!), but it’s 100 miles away, so I get there about every two weeks.”
Him: “It takes you two weeks to go 100 miles? Why don’t you just go and come back later today and I’ll call you back.” (He was really pushing hard at this point!)
Me: “The tractor only goes 10 miles per hour, so it takes all day just to get there.”
Him: “Tractor?! What do you do?”

We’re up to, like 45 minutes now, and I’m getting so tired carrying on with the “Yes, and…” improv anti-scam bit that at this point I made a critical error, and, as they say in the con game, “cracked out of turn” What I should have said was something like: “I’m a miner.” (or a farmer), but I blew it:

Me: “I’m a computer scientist.”
Him: …. long silence …. then (screaming at me): “You are trying to waste my time!”
And he hung up on me.

But I feel like I saved some other poor sucker from being scammed…probably more than one, and it was fun!


(Ps. Bizarrely, he, or someone else from his “office”, called me back several days later and tried the same con. The reason I know it’s the same office is that at some point I gave a false name to the first caller, and the person who called me back used that same false name. They must not be very good at notating which phone numbers are cold leads. This time I just hung up on him.)