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The scammers keep on ringing

13 May 2022

There's nothing that puts a bigger smile on my face than sticking it to a phone-scammer.

This week has been a good one for those smiles, I've had a lot of fun.

As one of the few people, in the age of fibre broadband, who has a landline connection to the world, I fit the profile of those who are most likely to fall for these "Visa centre" scam calls.

Whilst most younger "net-savvy" people have ditched their landline and now rely entirely on their mobile devices, I've kept the modern equivalent of the plain old landline connection. This means that scammers, primarily based in Asia, think I'm a doddery oldie with little awareness that things are not always as they appear.

Here's how one call I received this week went.

The phone rang and the call, although appearing to be from an NZ number, was not one I recognised.

After answering this call with my usual cheery greeting I got the inevitable pause, while the autodialer at the other end responded to a human voice. If they don't get a human voice they simply hang up and move on to the next number in the list.

Here's a tip: if you're being plagued by scam calls on your mobile or landline then whenever you answer a call from an unrecognised number, don't say anything. If there's a real person there they'll say "hello?" or something. If it's an autodialer it will hang up and move on -- what's more, odds are that your number will be flagged as "inactive" and you'll be far less likely to get more calls from the same scammer. I have used this strategy with great success when my mobile number ended up getting on some autodial lists and I was getting calls at 11pm at night.

But back to the fun I had this week...

The recorded voice which eventially started playing told me that the call was from the Visa security centre and that a suspicious transaction had been made on my Visa card. I should press '1' to dispute the transaction.

Of course I pressed '1' but I have noted that it doesn't really matter what you press, you always get passed on to a "support person".

Next thing you know a guy with a thick Indian accent comes on the line and claims "This is the visa support centre, Brian speaking, how may I help you today?"

"Hi Brian, I'd like a new card please, mine has expired" was my cleverly crafted reply.

"Sorry Sir, did you receive a call from us about a transaction on your card?" was Brian's response, in a tone that betrayed his bewilderment.

"No, I didn't get a call, I just Googled the number for the Visa support centre and called it, now I would like you to issue me with a new card please" I replied.

After a few seconds silence, Brian said "Sorry sir, I can't do that".

"This *is* the Visa support centre isn't it? I believe you said so when you answered my call" I queried.

"Yes sir, this is visa support but we can't issue you a new card. Didn't you get a call from us about a suspicious transaction on your card?" the poor, bewildered Brian asked.

"No, why would I? My card has just expired so I can't use it. I want a replacement; and be quick about it please" I said in a firm but polite manner.

"Where did you get this number?" asked a now somewhat unsettled Brian.

"I told you, I just Googled it and this was the number that came up, now will you issue me a new Visa card or do I have to change to Mastercard?" I replied.

At this point Brian either twigged to the fact that I was taking the piss or was so confused that he decided to move on because he immediately hung up.

I must admit to laughing out loud at this point because, even if only a few seconds, I'd left this poor scammer confused and befuddled.

Of course they will call back and I guess I'll have to come up with an even more entertaining way to waste their time and upset them. Scammer-baiting is a fun hobby and I see that there are plenty of folk on YouTube who make a career out of it. Good for them I say.

Meanwhile, I wish people would educate their elderly or less tech-savvy family-members or friends because the fact that these villains keep calling is a clear indication that far too many are taken-in by their deceptions and lies.

Any suggestions as to how I should interact with the next scammer who calls?

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