This is such an interesting essential part of scams. I guess it's a part of human nature.
I remember tracking down a phone scam that caught my grandmother once (based out of Montreal) and I eventually got to a point where I discovered that my grandmother had provided a verbal consent over the phone that had kept it just this side of being outright fraud. The scam company played a recording of it for me.
I wasn't sure this wasn't fabricated, so I tried to confirm with my grandmother and she was just like, "Well, thanks for all your help, honey, but really this isn't that important. Let's just move on."
I recognized how pushing it would just cause her unnecessary pain. So I dropped it and we moved on. Good to know there are people like Felipe around helping to keep things in check.
Now when Felipe just lives his life or goes out in the world, he can't help but think everything can be a con, and everybody can be a mark.
Yeah, I guess I see the world more or less the same way. And I suppose it makes me a little unusual. Hopefully not too cynical.
Absolutely. It happened to my relatives too.
The way I found out was I was there visiting and they got a call which I picked it up. It came from what sounded like an Indian person. You see, they wanted to "refund the money" and just needed the bank account details.
Aha! I thought, I'll play dumb and pretended to mistype their remote desktop installer's web address and diverted the conversation to random stuff. Eventually they realized I was wasting their time and called me some exotic slang names, I hand't heard before. I am always up for cultural enrichment, so that was fun. Then they started playing this really high pitched sound into earpiece, I guess to "punish" me and trying to hurt my hearing.
However, it became less fun later when the relatives told me they had already lost close to $10k with them. They had contacted the bank and the police and apparently the bank refunded them some part of it. But otherwise they hadn't told anyone as they were terribly ashamed. They were professionals, already retired, with advanced degrees, and they felt like they should not have been the ones easily fooled, but they were.
So make sure you talk to your older family members, and tell them ahead of time to not be embarrassed if it already happened. Teach them how do respond and how to handle these scammers.
Concretely, the way to respond is this:
If you ever get a call that claims to be from business X, tell them "OK, I'll call you back." Then get off the phone, look up the number for X yourself, and call them. If it was really X calling you, you'll get back to where you need to be. If it was a scam, X will tell you they don't know what you're talking about.
Never trust that a cold call is from who they say they're from.
They even spoofed the number of an actual police station and said, "Google the number on your caller ID to see we are legit". Obviously, call them back yourself.
7 years was not enough for ruining peoples lives.
1.) be relevant to a police investigation
2.) be registered or associated with individuals
3.) have few enough of an exact thing in an area for the manual checking to be effective
Good example would be someone claiming to be your ISP apologizing for recent slow internet speeds (when doesn't this happen), and wanting to confirm you're now happy and not experiencing slow speeds. Why would you doubt this and go to the trouble of calling back?
The other problem is businesses being so extremely dumb. I've had and heard of man cases of Banks calling people, asking them verification questions on cold calls and offering no way to call them back. Not just stupid in that it limits your strategy, but it actually trains people to be more vulnerable to scammers.
If you call the same number the next day the real institution is going to answer, but nobody knows a thing.
Apparently, in some cases, they can hijack the phone number of an institution, but only for the specific caller that they are applying the scam. If someone from another context call the same number it goes to where it's supposed to be.
It's becoming more normal than ever down here... Happened next to me.
We are entering the age of personalized crime, targeted and framed just for you, considering your personality and necessities.
Someone from Mexico answered and initially it sounded very similar to what PayPal employees really say. It took like two minutes before I was really suspicious. I was really tired that day and didn't want to walk though so I kept trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. But a few minutes after that they actually asked me to go into 7/11 and buy a Google Play card for $150 or something. At that point it was just really obviously a scam and I decided to walk home. Called the real PayPal from my computer using the US area code.
Conman calls a landline, starts conversation with "please call the bank back, im putting down the phone now" and ... just plays Dial tone. The trick is call ends only when the person who started it hangs up.
If they want to leave their line open "for a few days"... then good luck to them. :)
The idea was, maybe you dropped your phone and didn't mean to hang up and this gave you time to rectify your mistake without having to redial.
Scammers started exploiting this and the timeout was reduced to the order of a few seconds. Count to five after hanging up and you can just about guarantee that's a real dialtone.
implementing logic/timers with cogs is impractical.
Overall I think it's not worth being on the phone with these people. It's a no-win situation. For them it's a 'job', while you'd be investing your precious time and energy.
There is something about just watching, say, scammers doing the shell game in the streets, that is incredibly draining.
Yeah I expected the name calling but that was just something new. I guess I had really upset them. I imagine they had put my relatives on some kind of a "high value" mark list after they had gotten so much money from them, and they thought they were getting another easy $500 from them again. Instead they spent 30 of their time talking about weather, holidays, barbecue styles in US and other crap.
> There is something about just watching, say, scammers doing the shell game in the streets, that is incredibly draining.
Agree. In case of my relatives, I have to admit, I share some of the shame just because I felt I hadn't done my part to protect them earlier. There is an element of that that expand to the society. You know, watching this happen to other members of the community and thinking what can be done to stop it, why are they wasting their resources like that.
I feel the same way but I encountered so many con artists.
My favorite con artists was actually a dentist and I fell for part of the "con". I guess you could argue if its a con but I feel like it was.
I went in for a simple fillings in two teeth, he starts drilling, then tells me I need inlays $800 a piece x 2. Being young and stupid I said, ok. I was so broke at the time, I needed to borrow money to pay. When I came back another customer was fighting with billing. 2nd con that dentist office did was sending bills for bs charges. I got two, but did research and asked for a detailed bill, which never came. A year or two later I start getting pain, and my new dentist is surprised I have inlays in back teeth and has to drill them out because they were done incorrectly.
So, yeah....don't pick a dentist based on google reviews and talk about treatment plan before drilling.
It's bad enough that banks and such are starting to set up arrangements where (adult) kids can intervene to prevent their parents from losing all their savings this way.
The guys need to raise money to repay a debt, and one of them presents this idea, which gets tossed out because it's gonna take too long for them to receive the checks.
Dad was computer savvy, but by this point he was 80 years old and they flat-out took advantage of him. He had to mail me the machine so I could reload it.
Please - teach your parents to just hang up on these clowns. And to kill the browser process when they get popups trying to cause fear & doubt.
That was the other thing. It was impossible to get my grandparents to do this. I think I eventually got them to let the answering machine answer and not return calls for messages from anyone they didn't recognize.
Because I'd like to think I'm 'someone competent', and on my own phone I only accept (non-personal) calls that I'm expecting, or can see a reason for.
Over time it should allow Google to flag numbers as potentially being a scam, marketing, etc based on other users flagging a caller. Saves Googling for that information which is what I currently do with an unknown number. The only risk is spoofing/false positives putting your number on some blacklist.
Their initial contact
When he called them back
I couldn’t help but wonder why the FCC hasn’t required CallerID Verification years ago.
Especially in this age where we are all being forced to get RealID cards so that our every move can be monitored...
I think the layman expected there was some character of a pathologist to my job. Like I would understand or diagnose that they had porno ransomware X on their system and the only solution was to do computer thing Y.
In reality, of course, regardless of the malware, I would just help the person back up all the data and configurations we could. Use a virus scanner on the backups, and reinstall their OS. How they got the malware was completely irrelevant, and I actually preferred not knowing. With a bit of experience I learned to preempt any detailed explanations by just stating my plan early and being clear that it didn't matter how they found the malware.
I don't think this is true. I have read that most parents use either a shame model or a guilt model to try to keep the kids in line. So most people are brainwashed from an extremely early age to either feel shame or guilt, hide things from authority figures for fear of getting in trouble, etc.
That's not actually necessary.
If it was intentionally deceptive or coercive, it was probably outright fraud.
The most astounding part about it was once the scammers had this verbal consent, they check could print a check themselves against my grandmother's account and cash it.
We started with my grandmother's bank, WAMU, thinking surely they would cancel or reverse the withdrawal. Nope, they had their fraud department "investigate" and concluded that the withdrawal was legitimate. Blew my fucking mind.
I started documenting my efforts to do something about this on a blog and eventually ended up getting contacted by email by a NY Times reporter who was investigating the subject. Well, if you're not ticked off enough by this story, read on:
My grandmother was lucky in that she was only taken for a couple thousand dollars. But even that could have been extremely tough on her if she hadn't had family around to pitch in to make up the loss.
> InfoUSA advertised lists of “Elderly Opportunity Seekers,” 3.3 million older people “looking for ways to make money,” and “Suffering Seniors,” 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. “Oldies but Goodies” contained 500,000 gamblers over 55 years old, for 8.5 cents apiece. One list said: “These people are gullible. They want to believe that their luck can change.”
> Vast databases of names and personal information, sold to thieves by large publicly traded companies, have put almost anyone within reach of fraudulent telemarketers
> Mr. Guthrie’s name first appeared on a list used by scam artists around 2002, after he filled out a few contest entries that asked about his buying habits and other personal information.
This is a good argument against the cancer that is advertising, marketing, etc. Even if you truly have nothing to hide, are happy to receive targeted ads and offers, it's just a matter of time before the information falls into the wrong hands and gets used against you.
It's just so much faster, more visceral, and more random access to read that I've basically just completely abandoned the linear presentation modes (audio and video).
Podcasts also tend to have a lot of side chitchat, breaks etc which don't add anything for me. I know some people really like that; I've hear it makes the conversation seem a lot more personal and connecting. Great, just not for me.
How precisely rubberband works is something I've not looked into deeply, but the end result is increased CPU load and less choppy audio at high speeds. If you throw together a little script to switch back and forth between rubberband and scaletempo in realtime, I think the difference is pretty dramatic.
Video/audio are such timewasters if you can read at a decent rate.
(2x is generally my max, unless speed-seeking.)
The climax of this story involves the belief that “Linux servers don’t just crash”.
The point being: Windows would just BSOD in that kind of situation. Not that continuing to run with corrupt kernel data structures is a good idea, but there is something grandiose about the OS stubbornly refusing to die when it's raining kernel crashes.
Anyway none of this is particularly important for the story, but I don't think the guy telling it is lying for dramatic effect, I think he's probably being honest that the boss saying "the server crashed" made him suspicious cause that server never crashed, and I too found it amusing for this to be included in the story (as a sort of by-the-by advertisement for linux). (Also, though: it turned out the server really did "crash" in some way).
BTW I've seen an error where app server couldn't write files to a directory but only for specific filenames (that wasn't already created). Turns out if you have dozen thousands of files in one directory the hash table has collisions and some files you can create while some other names you cannot. It was lot of fun to discover that :)
And customers described it as "server doesn't work" but when we connected the randomly generated names it was trying to write were different and it worked.
The backup was what killed it, it ran out of disk space and the box keeled over. I could not believe the backup program was that stupid to back up twice as much stuff as it had space for and then to kill off the important processes to keep the backup running until zero bytes were left.
I have also had a close one with mySQL replication, it took the disk to fill up before I configured it to purge the logs. My own stupidity is to blame for that one.
Log files are going to be the killer, run a linux box for long enough without any log file rotation and the disk is ultimately going to fill up. I can't imagine that a decade ago when this server was built that there was a rack of terabyte SSDs in there.
Email is also an area that just grows and grows. The email doesn't even have to be used, just your system message stuff.
You need to run stuff you care about on them for that to happen. If you don't they run flawlessly for decades. I know of a switch that was up for 11yr (not a server I know, still a unix/linux based OS though) which is as much a testament to UPSs and backup generators as it is to the OS.
OTOH, we also have an NGINX box that is automatically restarted once a week, because otherwise our API gets really slow. I understand that this isn't good practice, but we've spent too many hours debugging already and at the end of the day, this works.
Most unbelievable part of the story. Cracked me up.
Because people with technology skills should perform free labour for people without...
This stuck out to me. Puerto Ricans are United States citizens and as such do not require any kind of visa to live and work in the states. There isn't even an embassy in Puerto Rico since it is part of the United States.
Makes me question the rest of the article.
>HEALY: He's a physically little guy...
>WARNER: He's 5-foot-4.
>HEALY: ...And not overly muscular.
Man, Planet Money's constant interruptions and hacked-apart quotations are just as jarring to read as they are to listen to. It's entirely possible to transition your narrative structure between accessible exposition and raw firsthand accounts--but for some reason Planet Money tries to chase after both, simultaneously, at every second. The result is a choppy, rattling collage of thought fragments. Ugh!
What, you guys don't like style criticism? Complaining about a webpage is okay so I don't see why this should be off-topic.
In the example you give, I think the interjection is fine. Healy, the U.S. postal inspector, gives a vague description of Felipe – "a physically little guy" – and the reporter interjects with actual specifics. I don't think the flow would be noticeably better if this was the edited cut:
> HEALY: He's a physically little guy...And not overly muscular
> NPR: Felipe's actually 5-foot-4
It also left me wanting for more. Why did the family member refer Fernandez? What is the psychology behind operating a scam as a business? What motivated Emilio to be a "really good boss" when he was proactively hurting so many other people? I realize that this is a human interest story that isn't intended to address such questions, yet the frequent interruptions seemed to encourage such mental wanderings.
If you're interested in a different style, try listening to BBC radio shows. The interviews tend to be more complete and are often recorded live. The downside is that the interviews often run out of time or the interviewees don't get to make their point as well as they could.
Frankly, be better if you just killed the guy. Now this guy has to decide between food and meds because his SSI doesn't cover it all. And his savings are gone.
I feel like you should ask the guy his opinion on the subject. He's likely to disagree.
Furthermore, I doubt that the guy running the illegal scam operation, a type of operation that literally everyone hates, is an example of a crime that the public thinks is right and proper.
It's like yadda-yadda-yadda, he gets arrested and goes to prison. That's it? The story is just an IT guy that tells US authorities before he takes on a job with scammers and is then a mole? It's neat and all, but not a totally captivating tale.
If you haven't heard it, this is a good one: https://gimletmedia.com/shows/reply-all/6nh3wk
I'm from Bradford - this is not at all surprising.