Really? How thoughtful of you to call from the other side of the world to let us know! I'm sure you know how the next part of the conversation goes. These are the kinds of phone calls that inspire floods of "oh, I should have said ..." thoughts in the following hours. But enough of them have happened during the last couple of years to enable us to sharpen our wit and be quicker off the mark with some of our remarks. My partner is getting quite good at it. It's almost become a game among people I know: can you get the scammer to hang up on you, instead of the other way around? How did you do it? How long did you keep them on the phone for? And so on.
Last night was a bit different. I put it out to the Twitterverse to come up with some responses to the Indian woman who called and had the pleasure of being shafted by my partner. She hung up before the tweets came through, but there were some great ideas for next time along with a few that we already know to work. Here's a selection of them:
- "I've just got a pot boiling. Hold on while I turn the stove off" ... then leave the phone off the hook and count the minutes until they eventually hang up.
- "I'm a bit busy right now. What's your number so I can call you back?" This one usually results in an instant hang-up.
- "But I don't have a computer." Repeat as many times necessary. We do this while playing around on our laptops and with both of our smartphones within reach. It seems to confuse them; they insist that it is a very dangerous virus, even though we explain that we don't have any computers in the house.
- Ask them exactly how they are accessing your computer, what operating system you're using and what your IP address is so you can confirm which computer has the problem. (Thanks @UpsideBackwards!)
- Explain that it's very hard to believe as you are in the police internet fraud office. (Awesome stuff from @beerlytweeting.)
This sort of thing isn't new, though. Humans have been scamming each other since civilisation began and we shouldn't fantasise that it was any different in the past. However, the intricacy of these scamming rings is alarmingly sophisticated. Talking to a banking fraud analyst recently, I learned that these schemes are actually very complex international operations. They work in much the same way as the infamous Nigerian 419 email scams. The scammers are part of syndicates who buy the contact details of people from all around the world and categorise everyone according to their proven levels of gullibility. If you have proven yourself as being gormless enough to fall for Stage 1, you get promoted to the next level and your name moves up the scale of people who can be easily scammed. You'll find yourself dealing with further tiers of scammers, whose English becomes progressively better in direct inverse proportion to their behaviour, all the way to the top of the pyramid. By this stage, you will find your bank balance substantially lighter and the threats coming thick and fast. It's an extremely nasty business.
Do you play the hang-up game with virus hoax callers? What sort of fun do you have with them and what's your record time for keeping them on the phone before they hang up?