Thursday, 7 March 2013

Scam calling

My land line just rang.  Usually the only people who use the line are members of my family.  I have a land line so they can call me and so I can connect to the internet.  I don't make outgoing calls on the land line - that's what I use my mobile for.  The number on the land line is also silent.  Despite this, I found it necessary to list the number on the "Do not call" register.

So when the phone rang this morning, I answered.  After I said "hello" there was the telltale pause that told me this was a call from an outbound call centre somewhere in the world.

A man's voice (Indian accent?) finally said:  "May I please speak to the business owner?"

I responded: "Who is calling please?"

"I'm calling to speak to the business owner."

"Who am I speaking to?"

"My name is Adam."

"Where are you calling from Adam?"

"I'm from e line (I think this is what he said) and I'm calling to talk to the business owner about your online presence."

"How did you get this number?  This number is silent and listed on the "Do not call" register."

"I'm very sorry."  Click.

I just now that this was a scam call.  Perhaps they were going to seek permission to access my computer.  Perhaps they were going to seek a payment for some imaginary service.

I find the tactics interesting.  Asking to speak to a non-specified but important person might work on some people, but to me it's like receiving junk mail addressed to "the Householder".  It's still advertising.

As I pressed Adam to reveal where he was calling from, I could hear the hesitation in his voice.

I wished he hadn't hung up straight away.  I'd love to have had the opportunity to press him for more details about the company and exactly how they got my number.  I've done this before and ended up speaking to several team leaders up the chain, taking up hours of their time for no productive benefit.  I figure that that's what they're trying to do with me.

After doing some research I've discovered that algorithms to generate phone numbers exist.  The resulting lists are then used by people like this to just randomly call numbers.  I'm pretty sure that if I had accepted the call the next thing I would have been asked is to confirm my details.  This would have given them the opportunity to collect the details.  Who knows what they would use them for - perhaps to make a follow up call that sounds more specific and has a better chance of them not being hung up on.

Having worked in an outbound call centre for a bank, I have learned a lot about the preparedness of people to give out their personal details after a very non-specific introduction.  My suggestion is not to give out your details without being certain about who you're calling.  If they say they are from a bank, ask which department and then get the number off their website and call back.  The bankers will say that verification of details is necessary to protect privacy before the discussion commences, but I think this is rubbish.  Privacy is better protected by the bank proving that they are real.  Everything has been turned on its head.

I've got enough on my hands dealing with the spam from banks that I don't bank with.  The other day I received email purporting to be from a bank I do bank with and it was pretty good.  The thing that gave it away was the poor grammar.  I called the bank and they gave me an email address to forward it to.  They seemed grateful to be alerted.

You can also report spam to ACMA (in Australia).  The address is
Don't click on any of the links in the email, just forward the whole thing to that address.  I wonder what happens then?  Imagine having that job - reading spam! I suppose at least they are paid to do that.  At this end, it's just a waste of time that takes up space on my email.

Have you had scam calls lately?  How do you handle them?  Have you ever been caught out? What happened? What do you do with spam?  I'd love to hear your stories.

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