Calls that make you madYou’ve probably gotten phone calls from one of these scammers. The ones where you get a recording telling you it’s an important message about your credit card and they want to lower your interest rate. Maybe you never listen that long, I know I never did.

When one number called so often and for so long that I started to recognize it on the called ID, I starter to pay attention. I Googled the number and found dozens of web sites about these phone scams and that many people are receiving the same calls. What are they all about?

The consensus is that they are bottom-feeding scammers out to get your personal financial information for illicit purposes. At the very least they provide a worthless service that they charge either your credit card or phone bill for. Not one poster had any information that could be construed as a legitimate purpose for the calls. In fact, it is all but impossible to reach a real representative of any of these companies.

Here’s what I found out through repeated searches on many of these numbers that called me and sorting through the online complaints sites.

1. These often are the same people but they call from different numbers. In fact, you can’t believe your caller ID because they spoof the information. Calling them back is worthless because you are calling some innocent person whose number they have spoofed. One poor guy in California must have ticked someone off and they retaliated by using his number. The voice mail box is full and I’m sure he long ago changed his number. Mostly, though, they spoof 800 or 866 area code numbers.

2. If you listen long enough, they tell you to press 1 if you are interested and want to speak to their representative. You can cut through all the recorded crap and go straight to a live person if you press 1 right away. I did it several times with several of these callers and it works.

3. Don’t bother with the DO NOT CALL list. That is fine for legitimate businesses who follow the law. These scumbags don’t care. How can you report them? They hide their actual phone numbers. They know they are breaking a bunch of laws and don’t care.

4. I talked to a live person once by pressing 1. I told the guy who answered that I didn’t want their service and asked them to remove my number from their lists. The response I was given? “No way.” I repeated my request to have my number removed and started to tell him I would report them to the authorities. He interrupted me by saying “See you tomorrow. We’ll call you every hour” and hung up. Of course, I was bluffing about reporting him. There is nothing to report but a spoofed number. I wish there was a viable way to pursue these jerks legally, but there isn’t a practical way.

5. Call blocking works. After the jerk above threatened to call me, I added the number to my call blocker. This particular call was on my cell phone and I have an Android app – CallBlockerX – that takes care of the problem nicely. My home phone has a call block list built in as well and I use it. There is two problems with that one, though. It only holds 30 numbers (yes, I fill it up frequently) and it still has to ring once to work. Since the numbers are spoofed anyway, they change them frequently.

6. Another time, I received this kind of call on my cell phone. I was in a adventurous mood, so I again pressed 1 and decided to play along and see what I could learn about the scam. I gave vague answers and did not reveal any personal information. The woman on the line wanted to ‘sell’ me something in the worst way and I let her think she had a live one. She kept telling me they were going to help me get lower interest rates on my credit card. I told her I had more than one, which one did she mean? She couldn’t tell me what bank they worked with. She asked me what interest rate I was currently paying. I said don’t you already have that information, if you are working with the bank? She then said that they worked with Visa, MasterCard and Discover, not directly with the banks. I kept playing stupid, but interested and told her I thought one of the cards interest rates was 9.9% She asked what balance I had on the card I had the highest balance on. She said they could work with me if I had more than a $2000 balance. I told her I had $4000 on a card. She wanted the name of the card issuer. I said that she should already have that information, if they got my phone number from them.

This went on and on for at least 5 minutes. My wife heard me from the other room and was laughing. Finally, the woman realized she wasn’t going to get anywhere with me and was wasting her time (exactly my goal.) She said “Good day!” and hung up.

I hope they keep a list of numbers they don’t want to call and add me to it.

7. I received another call on my home phone no more than a couple hours later. I started to do the same thing. I pressed 1 and waited as the extension rang. They finally answered. I heard some background noise and about half a syllable then was hung up on. Was it a coincidence that I had just wasted the other womans’ time, or did they somehow figure out the connection between my cell number and home number and saw it flagged for being a time waster? I don’t know, but they didn’t want to talk to me and hung up. It was not the same number that called my cell phone, but the recording was very similar.

So what conclusion have I come to? There is not much you can actually prove about these calls. They cover their tracks so that they can’t be found and prosecuted, but I have reached some gut-instinct conclusions about them. They call from many numbers, but they are really only a couple boiler-room operations making a huge number of calls all over the country. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been pestered by them. They use technology to dial numbers and play a recording, hoping for a percentage who will respond to their bait. I don’t believe they are calling truly at random. I believe they know who they are calling and that there is a link from a cell phone to a landline number. I don’t believe they have any actual bank information, although they could be operating from stolen records from a business that has been hacked. They could have partial information that led them to you because they know you have a credit card. Or they could just be fishing. I know they don’t care about the do-not-call list, but I believe they have their own way of marking you as undesirable if you waste their time. I haven’t had a call from them in several days now. It used to be multiple times per day.

Some typical web posts about these calls…