Scam Callers: Reader Top Tips

Yesterday's post on how to string along scam callers got a whole lot of feedback, and plenty of reader tips. Here's your best feedback on how to avoid getting hooked by scam callers.

Picture: ToastyKen While some of you appear to be exceptionally lucky in never getting scam callers, that appears to be the exception rather than the rule. Most of us have to put up with them, and sadly for some readers, it's been after somebody they know has been ripped off by these scam merchants. So, based on your feedback and suggestions, what are the best approaches to take?

  • Dawdle wherever possible: The object of scam baiting is to waste their time, and you can't do that any better than by simply being slow to take up their commands. Get them to repeat commands as many times as possible, because it's an excellent way to spend time.
  • Multi-task: It is possible to scam bait purely for the giggles, but it's much better if you've got something else to do in the meantime. Watch a match (with the sound down), sort your socks, or get your tax affairs in order while they try (and fail) to scam you.
  • Be kind to charity callers: Charities are exempt from the Do Not Call Register, and while it's feasible an unprompted charity call could be a scammer, many of them do vital work in our communities. Simply politely inform them that you're not interested, and hang up.
  • See how far out you can steer the script: Scam callers prey on the less technically literate, and based on reader feedback, especially the elderly. Play on those stereotypes; tell them about your dodgy hip, or how things used to be greener "before the war". See how far off script you can get them to stray.
  • Don't do what they tell you: This one should be obvious — you don't want malware, you don't want to reveal valuable personal information such as credit card details — but there's no reason you can't use that to keep the stringing along going along. Why yes, I am Mr Alfonso Turtlesnerfer, and I will go to that website you've just told me to go to! Meanwhile, I'm actually cleaning out the toaster.
  • Have fun: While it's worthwhile doing something else while stringing the caller along, there's no reason you can't have some fun along the way. You may as well get something valuable out of the call. They're certainly trying to get something valuable out of you.
  • Tell everybody about the scam: As with most malware — and scam callers are malicious users of technology, so the label fits — education can go a very long way. Inform your less technically inclined relatives and friends that they won't get this kind of call as a genuine thing, and they'll be better equipped to deal with the calls as and when they come.

    Anyone got any further tips to add to the list?


    Not necessarily a tip to string along scam callers, but one day they called and asked my name, rather than giving them my real one I gave them a false one. Now I know where ever I get a call for "John" I should just hang up...

      Matt, that's the best advice I have ever heard

    i dont agree with the charity caller one, i know there intentions are good but its still just as annoying, especially when you get the type that have the 5 minute long script to read before you even get a word in plus i think scammers have poisoned the well too much theres just no way to know its a real charity and worse the only way to donate over the phone is often credit card which is just a ridiculous proposition, if you really want to donate to the calling charity, get the info for a cheque (and verify) or simply get there web address or better physical address (verify it) and go through those channels much safer then giving credit card details to a random over the phone

      I totally agree with you, some charities can be super annoying.

      I think the message here is perhaps to remember to be polite to charity callers and not waste their time talking about your "dodgy hip" - like you say, ask for the web address or tell them (nicely) that you are not interested and just hang up.

      Ah - the funny thing is, if you hang up, it can count as an incomplete call. Ask politely to be removed from any lists they may have - it might take a little more time, but it can help cut down on future calls.

        In Victoria, hanging up on telemarketers is to be interpreted as an indication the customer is not interested, and they aren't allowed to call that customer again for three months. Not sure if that applies to charities, but it definitely applies to other telemarketers. So if you hang up on a telemarketer and they call back, ask for their company name and ABN, hang up again, then call Consumer Affairs.

        I'm sure the above scenario would (more or less) apply to residents of other states also, but if you aren't Victorian call your local fair trading department instead, obv.

      Telemarketing is an outdated means of soliciting donations. Charities need to find a new model. They need to respect that people join the DNC register for a reason. Personally, I work odd hours and I need uninterrupted sleep during the day. Even though charities are exempt from the rules, they don't seem to comprehend that if they wake me up I am not going to be in a good mood, and their chances of getting a donation are absolutely NIL!
      Aside from that, I really think it would be extremely naive for anybody to give money to some random person calling on the phone, charity or not. Why don't charities get that?

    Further to the last point, I've told different members of my family that the issue is when they receive an *unsolicited* call (or email for that matter) calling for some type of action on their part, in relation to something they own (bank account, computer software etc).

    I tell them to respond along the lines; "Ok, if there's an issue thanks for letting me know. I'll visit the known company website or call their contact number to discuss." This breaks the unsolicited loop, and will confirm if something legitimate is going on.

      +1 to this.
      I've had a very poorly written email from St George in the past, as well as suspicious voicemail - which both ended up being follow-ups on fraud. The voicemail, leaving some random number to call back was that they found my card printed up in an AFP raid in Perth after my card was skimmed in London.
      The email was that I'd made a card purchase in Australia when a Card purchase from America was clearing - good to know that their fraud team.

      I'm weary of anyone calling purporting to be from my bank or really anywhere that ask me to confirm my information - after all, they called me.

        (good to know that their fraud team can't spell very well)

    My top tip isn't for everyone... but if you use VirtualBox/VMware/etc anyway, it's a lot more fun to follow their instructions for a while using a template virtual machine. Makes your bait more convincing, gives you a better insight into what they're actually up to, and still no risk to you as long as you don't enter any personal information. If you use something which supports saved states, it's also fun to install their crapware, let them see it working, then restore to the pre-crapware state and continue. Little things like that to really mess with their head and ensure they'll spend longer with you than they might normally do without realising you're pulling their leg.

    I've tried a few of these over the last year - they seem to call about once a month.

    At first I pretended to play along for about a minute before politely informing them they are human filth and I will not fall for their tricks.
    Then I decided to dawdle, asking them to repeat everything several times, then after 10 or 11 minutes I started telling a long and convoluted story about my testes. They abused me for wasting their time when they are just trying to help me, so I decided if I couldn't discourage them gently I would just be an asshole.
    The next time I got a call, I ranted about how they have no idea what they're doing, that they're sick for preying on people who might not understand computers, and that I hope they contract some horrible illness as a form of karmic retribution. For some reason the person on the phone decided they were still going to try and pitch me their bullshit, so I listened in silent disbelief as they tried to insist that "this is not a scam" and "we don't take your credit card details" for about 30 seconds. I was tempted to just hang up, but one of the times I hung up on these people they just called me back and abused me for hanging up on them, so instead I adopted the most deadpan voice I could and said "I will find you, and I will kill you."

    I haven't gotten a call back since, but if I do I'm going to act like I've called a phone sex line. I think it's really important that they know I'm touching myself while looking at eventvwr.

    Go (slowly!) through the whole script and when they ask you for your credit card information tell them that you have your wallet in your car (parked a block away!) and kindly ask them to wait. Just put the phone away for 15 mins and when you come back tell them you got the card now (thanks for waiting), but you cannot find your glasses! Go searching for your glasses and leave the waiting again…

      And then tell them that your computer has gone into hibernation mode and needs to start up again. + 5-10 minutes.

        Batteries died on your wireless keyboard/mouse. Another 5-10 mins to find new batteries

          Blue screen of death. Another 5-10 minutes

    I received 5 calls in a row from them last month, The first call i politely said please take me off your lists and dont call me again and hung up, he then proceeded to call me again I said the same thing very politely, and 2 more times, politely as i didn't want to get calls at 2am in the morning.No more calls ! cross fingers !!

    or don't have a landline if at all possible

      Was wondering why I dont get any :-( This probably explains why! (No landline) Might have to get one, just to enjory the fun that you guys do!

        I only have a landline because I need it for my ADSL. I never make landline calls and the ones I receive are just massive pains in the butt.

    I get calls at work at least 3 times a week, to change our phone provider or to tell us about "an exciting new deal" to help us save money on our phone bills. It's so frustrating.

    if you answer with a business greeting they are less likely to want to talk to you.

    I have them call me 28 times now. 28 times!

    For some stupidly obtuse reason, they seem to think I will one day change my mind and believe they really a legitimate Microsoft Helpdesk call. They really do believe I will change my mind.

    Th e fun has gone out of receiving these type of call at around the fifteenth call mark. At call sixteen I started to get annoyed and I am no longer polite. Now, I just which them to travel to a hot place to burn for a long time and that they have had impolite things done to their bottoms.

    I have all so have had the Bank Scammers call too. But, at least they stopped after the first call failed to work on me.

    If I still possessed the patients that the scammers took, I would string them along and waste their time, but, now I don't.

    I've had a VoIP connection for 3 years now. Not one single telemarketing or scam call in that time.

    When I read stories like this, it kind of disappoints me that I can't join in the fun...

    I think the most annoying calls are actually from Telstra asking if I want an internet plan from them. They can't seem to believe that I actually have unlimited downloads from Dodo and they try to convince me that it's not and I must have some kind of on-peak limit or some crap. I like to waste their time by letting them know how shit the plan they're offering me is compared to what I already have.

    Two points:
    The good folk at Do Not Call suggest, if the call is from a genuine charity, politely decline and ask to be removed from their database. Seems to have worked so far.
    If a scam, one normally gets a few seconds delay before a human gets on the line. I have been told to press the # key repeatedly. Don't know if this works, but I haven't received such calls recently.
    Oh, a third point. I tell them to 'go make love elsewhere', if you know what I mean.

    You would think that once medecins sans frontiers has called me 41 times in the space of 3 weeks, that they'd get the idea that some people cannot take unexpected calls of any sort whilst at work, and therefore they need to give up.

    Meanwhile, my phone bangs off every time they call, and every coworker turns to look at me as if to say, "And you're getting calls at work WHY?". Me: "It's the crappy telemarketers again, sorry," as I rush to turn down the ringer as I know that once called, they WILL be calling a few more times.

    Yes, I keep my ringer up, because if there is a true emergency (family member, who knows that I am to be disturbed at work only if something has gone terribly, terribly wrong), I certainly want to know about it ASAP.

    Our whole family are horrible to telemarketers. My brother's not so good with them so he gives them to me or my sister (depending on the kind of call) and we have some really good laughs a their expense. The ones who want to survey all our personal details go straight to my sister, who informs them that our mother is the queen of australia and our father is homeless. She usually gives some strange address which is incredibly long and sometimes includes profanity, and doesn't hang up until she's bored, where she'll finally say she has more important things to do than listen to morons try to steal her details over the phone and hangs up. I get all the tech ones, and they are hilarious. I usually lead them on for a bit, be really slow, then start to get annoyed. When I'm acting annoyed I try to get them to download a program or two themselves, and when that fails I ask them if I can just give them my IP address, and they can remote desktop in and help (if they don't ask for it themselves). I then give them the same IP every time,, and hilarity ensues as the line goes dead while they try fix their computers from their own malware.

    Here's my long list of tips

    I used to have such fun with marketing calls back when I had a land line!

    I'd sometimes hand the phone over to my nephew, who loved to chat about nothing at all.
    Or, sometimes I'd ask them to resolve a bet. eg, "I reckon that it takes this many whatevers to fill a whatsit, but my brother says it needs that many. What do you think? "
    Or ask who sang that song that's been stuck in your head. Any random question really.

    "I'm not too sure about your offer, but while I have you, Do you remember the name of that Ben Lee song? It goes Dumm, da dum... Dumm, da dum... ?"

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