Turning the Tables on Phone Scammers

Turning the tables on nuisance callers

Back in the days of pet rocks and Disco Duck a nuisance caller was somebody who rang you at random to play a harmless if mildly offensive joke on you. This was a common one:

YOU: Hello?

NUISANCE CALLER: Are the walls there?

YOU: Sorry, there’s no walls here.

NUISANCE CALLER: Then what’s holding up the (rhymes with “trucking”) place? 

And that, apart from the odd ghastly revelation about your parents’ sexual proclivities, was pretty much the extent of the average nuisance call.

But that was then.

Nowadays, nuisance callers have traded their vaudeville routines for money-making scams. Standard operating procedure when dealing with phone scammers is to tell them to go forth and multiply or, if you’ve come down with a bout of politeness, that you’re not interested and then hang up. But where’s the fun in that? These plonkers have invaded the sanctity of your home like a golf ball crashing through your bathroom window and that demands a much more forceful response from you than a simple get the raw-bodies-wriggling out of here. That demands payback!

This is how you get it, and then some.

When “Microsoft” Calls

The phone rings. You pluck it out of its cradle and issue your customary greeting. There is a familiar pause at the other end that tells you you’re about to speak with one of the moral paragons from an Indian or Filipino call center. The individual will state he’s from Microsoft and that he’s calling to inform you that the malware equivalent of Chernobyl has secreted itself in an obscure nook of your computer and that if it isn’t removed, stat, your vital organs will liquefy and the moon will rear-end the earth, or something to that effect. The scammer will then advise you to download special software that will fix the problem by stealing your bank account and credit card details. Although in his haste to make the world a brighter place for you and your beloved PC, he’ll neglect to mention the bit about stealing.

The key to exacting revenge on these bogus Microsoft representatives is to keep them on the line for as long as possible. That way the call costs them more and you waste their “valuable” time. To do this, you must first express deep concern that a binary demon has possessed your computer’s operating system. This will convince the phone scammer he has a live one and encourage him to continue with the call.

Say What?

There are all sorts of ways you can string him along, but if you want to have fun right from the get-go, tell him (or her) he’ll have to speak up because you’re hard of hearing. This is sure to go down a treat with his cohorts who have to work within earshot of him. After he’s introduced himself, you can go to town on him with questions like: You’re from where? My what is soft? Don’t overdo it, though. If he thinks you’re too deaf or too stupid to let him complete the scam, he’ll hang up on you.

When he breaks the bad news to you that your PC has the clap, so to speak, gasp in shock and say something along the lines of: Oh no, what am I going to do? I do all of my banking and share trading on my computer. If somebody gets hold of my account details and passwords, I stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars! Then address him by his first name and ask: Can you help me? Funnily enough he’ll be only too happy to render you assistance.

The scammer will then advise you to visit a website where the life-saving medicine for your moribund PC, in the form of an executable file, awaits you. The file, if opened, will install malware on your computer that will purloin your passwords and banking information so fast you’ll hear a sonic boom. Don’t go to the website. That would be like asking Jerry Lewis to perform delicate brain surgery. Not a good idea.

Whatever the phone scammer tells you to do, repeat it back to him but put a comic twist on it. For example, if he tells you to open your browser, say: You want me to rouse her? If he tells you to right click, say: I’m a right what? And so on and so forth. He might get fed up with all of this and cut the call short, but the lure of those “hundreds of thousands of dollars” will probably persuade him to do otherwise.

The Coup de Grace

When you get to the point where you’re supposed to visit the website, make out you’re following his instructions. You have a number of fun options here. You can:

  • Tell him you have to go because the cops have just rocked up at your call center to arrest you for running an Internet scam.
  • Tell him you’ve received an illegal software message from Microsoft, which has shut down your PC until you install a genuine copy of Windows 8.
  • Tell him you already have that software on your computer, since a kind gentleman from the Philippines got you to download it last week and it’s working beautifully.
  • Ask him how long he can stay on the phone, because the scam-busting team from Interpol needs more time to trace his call.

And then hang up.

Revenge exacted.