Those Phone Scammers Are Now Trying To Work Out If You're Faking It

Here at Lifehacker we've long maintained that scammers pretending to be from Microsoft/Telstra/Optus/Apple are pond scum, and that it's a public service to keep them on the phone as long as possible to stop them from actually getting through to someone who might fall for their malware-installing ways. Annoyingly, it seems some of those charlatans are now alive to that tactic.

Phones picture from Shutterstock

I was visiting friends over the weekend when a con merchant phoned up (at 8:45PM -- not a good idea in terms of plausibility) claiming to be from Telstra. My friend strung the caller along, claiming to be switching on their machine, following the highly dubious instructions, pausing because of something on the stove, and so on. But then there was a new twist:

Can you press the Control key please?

I'm doing that.

Can you tell me what key is next to it?

My friend doesn't have the keyboard memorised, so when she paused trying to come up with a plausible answer, the scammer hung up. Damn. That does make it harder to waste the time of these appalling ratbags. On the upside, if it's worth training the cons to try and avoid those stalling tactics, a lot of people must be stringing them along now. Keep it up folks!


    I've strung them along as much as I can, both the tech-based scam, and the "someone at your address has had a car accident" phone scam.
    For the tech ones, I take the normal approach of faking not knowing how to use a computer, telling them I need to go get it and bring it to the phone (then leaving it off the hook and walking away), and going along the path of following their steps, but not knowing where to go next cos I'm "on a Mac".

    On one call, I got sick of them, so I let the guy have it, told him I'm in IT, this is crap and he needs to quite calling this number with his [email protected]#$%.
    The guy then started swearing BACK at me, saying that I was full of crap, that this is legit, and that its not going to fall on his head if my computer is infected and I lose all my data. He then started getting REALLY into it, lashing out pretty massively. So I hung up.
    SO HE CALLED ME BACK, and started in on it again. I put the phone down and walked away from it.
    Freaking crazy.

    But its good to know that they're wising up. Means we can wise up to THEM wising up, and take it that next step in annoying them. I get that its a job, and they are just doing it for the income, but its getting beyond a joke now

      I work in insurance claims and the ones about the "someone at this number had an accident" one drives me nuts. I tried to interrogate them about the purpose of the call and I have to wonder who, if anyone it would be fooling. The typical call goes something like:

      "Hello, I'm calling from insurance claim service compensation service claims insurance, and we have information that someone at this number has a claim."
      "Really, do you know who? There's a few people here."
      "We don't know, we were just given this number."
      "Ok, which insurer are you calling on behalf of?"
      "We work with many insurers and brokers."
      "Oh, so you do work with CGU?"
      "Yes sir, I am calling on behalf of CGU."
      "We don't have a policy with CGU."

      Other times they get halfway through their introductory spiel and then just hang up on me before I say anything. My guess is they have an automated system that dials for them, then once the connection is made they can see any file notes associated with my number, which probably consist of comments like "this household wasted our time" or "the man at this number started masturbating while telling me to bark like a dog".

        "the man at this number started masturbating while telling me to bark like a dog"

        made my day!!

      I had one of those accident ones before too but they opened with: Hey we can see on our system that at least one member of your family has been in a serious accident and visited hospital recently. I'm like really?! Do tell! Because everyones fine here.
      Scammer: No their not, we definitely have it in our system sir! You will need financial help
      and it is really easy to claim all the benefits.
      Wait how can you see through the phone if anyone is injured here again?

      I had one the other day claiming to represent Energy Australia and was offering me a
      discount if I switched with him. I told him, I am with you guys already, can I still have the discount? No sir this is for new customers only! But you can always cancel and then sign on with me. Wait. I am already with you guys. What's the point?
      Sir you can always cancel here at origin energy and then reapply for the discount.

      Wait, didn't you just say you were from Energy Australia?


      A friend of mine has a great little trick he plays on them...he makes them think he's interested for a minute or so and when they go off into their spiel....he leaves the phone off the hook and just walks away! He's occasionally gone back to hang up 10 minutes later and they're still rabbiting on, so he just leaves it off the hook again! Worth a try!

    One of my cats likes to meow loudly whenever I'm on the phone. I sometimes just get her to do the talking...

    Last time I strung one along he got so angry he was insulting me at a pre-schooler level (obviously his English hadn't extended to swearing or insults). Told him his mother fucked goats, and he kept hanging up and calling me back.

    ACTUALLY they were asking what was next to the control key so they (scammers) could figure out if they (mark) were using a computer with a windows key (these scams begin with the instruction to press windows+R to get the run box up).

    They have been doing that for years.

    Disappointing article, Angus.
    I was hoping for something meaningful, rather than bland and misguided speculation.

      That is indeed sometimes part of the routine -- but on this occasion the intent was clearly to determine what was going on. (One doesn't automatically exclude the other.)

        I dunno, seems like a long shot to me, anyone who is savvy enough to know they are scamming and deicdes to string them along is probably savvy enough to know the windows key is next to the ctrl key.

        I've had them ask me this, totally threw the guy when I said the key next to ctrl had a Q on it (I have a qpad keyboard, they use their logo instead of a windows logo) and then really lost him when I said I was running Ubuntu. "What do you mean you don't know how to fix my computer, what if someone is stealing all my personal data already" *crocodile tears*

        Hi Angus.
        I have just had a run in with the ‘Accident Compensation Department’. Similar to some of the postings here, I strung them along as long as I could till they sprung me. Over 3 days I guess I wasted about 1 hour of their time. I have done this kind of thing before, but it would be a few years ago now, since I was in a position to scam the scammer.
        When I was sprung, the scammer got very nasty and threatening and said he was going to arrange to ‘ring you back 100 times in the middle of the night’. That was the first time I had experienced a ‘Pay Back’ threat for daring to scam the scammer.
        I has occurred to me that, yes, it would actually be quite easy for a scammer to set up an Auto Ph dialing system to constantly be Ph me at all hours of the day or night which would be a real pain and certainly dissuade me from future scamming of the scammer.
        As a precaution I unplugged every Ph in the house except the answering machine. I figured, if I was being constantly ph’ed, by answering every call, there would be some cost to the scammer, no matter how small and secondly I could check in the morning to see if I had received any scammer calls and thirdly, my answering machine is in a remote part of the house that would not disturb me. So far, no calls. I am also wondering if it is possible for my Ph company to block calls from a specific caller ID ? I am not sure what happens with international caller ID recognition. I am a bit of a tech head but no expert when it comes to Ph systems. I would imagine that the scammers come into Aus via the I’net and at some point interconnect with the Aus domestic Ph system. I would think that would be the cheapest way for them to be able to make thousands of Ph calls at minimum cost but they would still be up for a local call cost. So for my scammer to threaten to Ph me 100 times would still cause him to incur a cost and possible that is my protection.

        Even making comment on this open forum is problematic as I am sure the scammers read all this in order to get a handle on the anti-scamming world.

        I am interested to know if anyone has been harassed by multiple Ph calls from a disgruntled scammer?
        Regards marjoyroy.

    One word: Soundboards!

    Stewie Griffin... ( my go-to for most calls )
    Judge Judy ... ( for when I'm feeling FTW )
    Peter Griffin.... ( a classic )

    I had a call from the "IT department" recently who after a minute of questioning told me Microsoft. The obvious my computer is sending warnings to their system and they're here to help me. I then asked the question which OS the alarms are coming from and I'll then goto that computer. I was rather rudely told that they were unable to tell me what system it was coming from for security reasons. So I spent 5 minutes arguing I was going to be no help to them if I didn't know which computer was sending the alarms. They still tried to win with it doesn't matter we can solve it from any of them as "it's the Internet it doesn't matter". This went on for 5 minutes or so before I gave up and hung up. They still call. As we all have experienced even the same people call back. Rinse repeat.

    Thanks for the heads up. A busted keyboard now resides by my phone. Let the games continue.

    I sometimes like to tell the scammer that my son is better on the computer than I am, can they please wait whilst I get him, then hand the phone over to him for a chat. The last time I did that my son paused for a bit whilst then simply said "Cake", he's 2.

    When Microsoft in Melbourne call, I ask them what the capital of Australia is. After a pause I get Sydney.. tell them this is incorrect.. second guess is Melbourne! Have a nice chat with them about how Canberra ACT is like Washington DC.
    Then I ask them about the weather in their city in India.. after flat out denials from them I mention I am going on holidays to India.. this is answered with an enthusiastic "You must come and see my town".
    I was a big fan of Outsourced the series.
    Not a big fan when a work colleagues home PC is hijacked and the data directories are password locked. Then the bastard blackmails her by threatening to post revealing photos of her that he found. Was fairly easy to unlock and clean.

    Ask them to call you back on the other line, give them the phone number of the local cop shop (or the ACCC).

    The first time i got one of these calls we were between moves. The guys started with
    "Hello sir i am calling from Microsoft. We have detected an issue with your computer."
    I Said "Wow, that's amazing!"
    He said "yes sir, we're great. Now if you could just go to your computer and open a web browser..."
    I interrupted " no no, that's amazing because my computer is currently in three different boxes and hasn't been switched on in a week"

    Best one I have is my friend who fell for the con and they reset all his accounts and passwords. He then realised and shut down and hung up. They called him back outright telling him without him paying them for their help he would lose all his data. He hung up and took the computer to me. I recovered his data and rebuilt to make sure their malware was gone. They called him back after a week and he told them out was fixed which they insisted was impossible. He just kept laughing at the guy until they hung up. They still call him back every month, they won't believe he got it fixed.

    Haha, these comments are gold, people. Man, almost makes me wish I got scammer calls!

    (But please no, oh merciful Zeus... I was only joking.)

    Not sure if this is true as it happened to a friend who works in IT. He followed along until the point at which they use remote assistance to connect and screw everything up. He said it wasn't working when really he was just hitting cancel, eventually getting them to try repeatedly. He then hit the button to connect to them and since the accept button is the same as the request button they accepted his request and he ended up on their machine. Can't remember what happened after that but I've always wanted to try it.

    We had a call with the 'a person at your house recently had an accident' introduction . We played along for a minute or so before getting out the whistle and giving it a good blow down the line. Surprisingly he called back and another member of the family played along before hanging up. The guy rang straight back saying there was a technical problem with the phone and could he speak to the previous gentleman. After 3 repeated calls & whistles, he continue to call back and we would just leave the line open.

    I told them yes I had had an accident but I lost both my legs and didn't drive anymore. I don't think he believed me.

    Did anyone in this chat get a phone number???? I just had a call from one ofe these shit heads and im trying to get him and hos company to buy into my scam. They hang up when i try to give them my speech and i want to call them back and see what happens . Please give me a number lol

    I'm pretty good at impersonations so if these clowns ring I mimic the accent, it gets on their wick no end. I tell the Microsoft scammers I have 10 computers and can you tell me which one it is, or my favorite. I gave your organisation $5000.00 yesterday to fix this problem, they then spend the next 5 minutes trying to find out who I gave it to, worried they might have missed out. Working on ways to annoy them all the time..

    Just had the insurance one. Accident claim services- rang last night and my hubby hung up before they could say anything much. I am a little more of a tyrant and I got them going. I am on Do not call register and you can't call me. " we are not a commercial business" so what's in it for your company's?. Kept coming back to this. Eventually said they get 25% of the payout, illegal under Australian law. But they are not commercial business as I don't pay anything. Sorry you are a commercial businessended up saying that they were a FW and hung up on them. Don't think they will call again. No personal details given to them.. I already knew about this scam so they were not getting anything out of me. By the way, no accident that involves compo.

    Every time these Indian scammers call, I just grab my bible and start reading it to them hahaha

    I just had the accident scam call. I asked how she knew about my accident and that I buried the body of the guy I hit with my car.. That phased her slightly but she hung up when I asked her how she knew, what her address was and if she had any life threatening allergies....

    Just had a call from " Calling about the car accident you had about 10 months ago ". Told her in no uncertain terms that I havn't had a car accident for 35 years.

    everyone is talking about how they hanging up.....but how is the scam actually run? what can they do with my email and info about accident...? how money made with that simple info?

      The scam has a technical term called "claim mining" where suspects phone up on spec and if they fool you, pass the information on to a lawyer to "process" the claim and the caller gets a percentage for their fee. The Courier Mail in Queensland has a good article on this scam.

        This makes the solution rather obvious.
        Give false and misleading details to the callers.
        They send this along to "the somebody" who is paying their wages.
        Publicise that "After I gave this information to this scam group, lawyer Fred Blogs contacted me, complete with the false facts." As all of that can be verified, it is a matter of a record of facts and your notes become proof.

        For the record it is against the law to do the ambulance chasing regime that is allowed in the USA and other countries - which is why this "back door deal" has survived. Their is a financial reward in doing so.

        As a result of writing out the chain of events, any firm who has used this back door method of ambulance chasing is revealed.
        The rest, as the saying goes - is the law in action, even if it is the social law of "do not trust such a company" rather than the more traditional laws of constable plod - or the law society.

        As this is not going after the Indian scam merchants who are outside our legal system, but those who hire them who are INSIDE our legal system, we can kill the scam at its source. Nobody here would hire these scam artists any more. They would have too much to lose.

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