Every once in a while organized crime gives me a call. It’s not that I’m so special, they just happen to know my phone number. The call comes in “Unknown number” which is a warning sign in itself. Then I’ve won a trip to Florida, Vegas, or wherever. Red flag. Press nine and you get a very happy and enthusiastic person who wants to give you a free trip, all you have to do is be a credit card holder.

Stop right there. These people are offering you great sounding (and nonexistent) stuff for the sole purpose of capturing your name and credit card number so they can rip you off.
What’s interesting is that there’s one group doing this over and over. I know because their phone system has an obscure flaw and every time they call, I can exploit that flaw to listen in to the agent side of other conversations. Not only is it great fun to study the mechanics of their pitch “I have your card number here but I need to verify it in order to go ahead, can you read it out for me?” [Try “No, I can’t, why don’t you read it to me?” — they hang up], but when they finally manage to sucker some poor soul into their scam it’s rewarding to call the police with the victim’s phone number and shut them down, one card at a time.

Now as I sit here listening for fresh victims, it comes to mind that this is a terribly inefficient way of doing things. My local bank should really be issuing me with a credit card specially designed for these guys. When I get the call, I should be more than happy — maybe even as excited as they are — about my windfall; and correspondingly happy to provide them with my personal details.

Then when these scum try to use the card the banks should approve the transaction but call the merchant and/or police at the same time. On a good day, the ever present video cameras should at least capture an image of the poor underling tasked with perpetrating the fraud, and sooner of later one of these guys will provide a trail back to the people who are really profiting from the crime. Then we can jail them.

Fun With Fraudsters

  • Slowing these people down is the best thing you can do. Every second one of their lines is tied up is a second that they can’t use to sucker someone else.
  • These people are trained to hang up the second something doesn’t go according to the script. Tell ’em you want to talk to your spouse first… click. Gone. Tell them you want to call them back… gone. So follow along, sound interested, and sucker them in. They’re going to tell you that they’re running a promotion with some hotel or resort, so ask them questions… how many restaurants does it have? Don’t know? Where can I find out? How long do I have to use the trip again? Do I need a passport? How do I get a passport? Do I need shots? You get the idea.
  • Lie to them. They might sound nice but they’re criminals out to take you (or more correctly, your bank). Give them a false name but your correct phone number, give them a fake credit card number (swap any set of even or odd digits after the first four to pass the check digit test: for example if your card number is 4501 1234 5678 9012, tell them it’s 4501 3214 5678 9012).
  • Call your bank. Let them know that these guys are running the scam and give them as many details as possible, including the false name and credit card number just in case you lucked in to another valid account, they’ll want to watch for fraudulent transactions.