Endgame

Today I tied up a credit card scammer on the phone for more than an hour. I got further with him that I’ve ever gotten with a scammer.

I get 3-4 phonecalls every day from Indian scammers looking to help me reduce my credit card interest rate to “0% for the life of the card.” Usually I hang up on them, but for the times when I’m bored and feel like playing with them, I made a text file with fake (but consistent) card and identity info in it. First I give them a fake MasterCard, and when that doesn’t come back as valid I give them a fake Visa, and then a fake Visa debit card, and then I’ll tempt them with the promise of a Discover that I won’t give them until they answer all my questions (and, of course, I have so very many questions). I’m always unerringly polite and eager to get their help, so I give them whatever (fake) information they’d like. If I have plenty of free time, I’ll add a story about “my MasterCard had unapproved charges on it so I had them send me a new card, and I got this one on Monday, and it works because I bought coffee at Starbucks this morning, but my Visa I called in about last week and they haven’t called me back yet so I don’t know if this card is canceled or if they’re sending me a new one so maybe you can help me with that” – and that sometimes explains to their satisfaction why the cards are coming up as invalid. Every now and then I’ll also get conversational with them, asking them how their day’s been, telling them what the weather is like here, that sort of thing. They usually get impatient with that. Eventually the scammer realizes he’s not getting anywhere, and so these calls usually end with me getting hung up on, usually after the scammer has told me to stick my card up my ass.

Today, though, I got connected to someone (“James”) who’s apparently new to the game. I gave him the MasterCard and the Visa, and when both came up as invalid, I gave him my story about unapproved charges and I snowed him with lots of smalltalk whenever he wasn’t fast enough to come back at me with a request for more personal information. And eventually he got confused and decided that my info was valid.

So then he transferred me to his “project manager” (“Barry Alan”) who re-verified all the fake info with me – and then explained their program. This was the first time I’d ever reached this level!

I currently have a total (fake) balance of $8500 over two (fake) credit cards at (fake) 13.99% and 15.99% interest. He told me that I can choose either of two options:

  1. Put the balance onto a new card, plus $1200 in service fees ($9700 total), and on this I would have zero percent interest forever. As long as I kept making a minimum payment each month, that would go entirely towards the principal. (At one point he mentioned something about the service fees being charged at 12.99%, but I couldn’t get him to explain that.)
  2. Balance transfer of my existing dept to a card with an interest rate below 5% (“might be as low as 0%”).

This sounded too good to be true, and I told him so. He gave me a story about his company, CMS (Card Management Services) Corporation, being in business to help people with money.

Then he asked me for my social security number. I balked, asking him if it was safe to provide that. He insisted that it was perfectly safe because “this is a recorded line,” and because “if I was a scammer I could hang up on you right now and use your credit cards to purchase things, but because I am not a scammer, I have not hung up the line with you.” In the time it took him to explain all that, I found a social security number generator to provide a valid number that fit the birthdate I had given to him.

Then came the interesting part. We were discussing my (fake) Wells Fargo Visa, and he told me he was transferring me to someone to request my credit card statements, and I said okay, and there was a pause … then I found myself speaking with Cindy from Wells Fargo customer service. The real thing. She was confused, I was confused, I kept asking if Barry Alan was still on the line … then there was a click, and I was suddenly talking with Barry again, who apparently had been listening in – ready to take over the call as soon as I had confirmed my identity with Wells Fargo. “You are supposed to ask for your credit card statements!” he demanded. I apologized, there was another pause, and now I was speaking with Seth from Wells Fargo. “A gentleman who is helping me get zero percent on all my credit cards told me to ask you for my credit card statements!” I told him. He was confused and asked for my account number. I complained, “Barry already has that! He should have given that to you! I have given my information to three people already!” Poor Seth was an innocent casualty, but there was no way I could tip him off to what was going on without tipping off Barry.

Click. Barry was back, and he was mad, accusing me of wasting his time and trying to scam him. I got (fake) mad right back, telling him that I always have to wait on the phone for an hour and a half when I call my credit card company.

And then, yes, he hung up on me.

I feel like this is a win because I finally got them to tell me what their “offer” is. I can see why people think it’s a good offer, but I don’t entirely believe Mr. Barry Alan.

Override

I am on the national Do Not Call list, I block every phone number that scammers use to call me, but I still get huge numbers of phonecalls from people who want to lower my credit card interest rate “to zero percent for the life of the card.” Sometimes if I’m bored, I’ll politely give them my fake AT&T Universal MasterCard and my fake Wells Fargo VISA and take up as much time as they want to spend on me.

Yesterday after I wasted a scammer’s time for twenty minutes until he tried both cards and realized that I was giving him fake data, he did something I hadn’t seen before: he told me my current balance (fake number), my most recent payment (fake number), and my next payment due (fake date and fake number), then wished me a nice day. I think it’s funny that each of us knew the other was lying, but we still carried on the conversation as if both of us were legit.

Today I got a call from another guy who wanted to lower my rate on my car insurance. He never asked if I was interested or if I wanted his help, but he immediately started asking details about my current car and insurance. I told him I drive a Honda. “What kind of Honda? Civic, Accord?” I said I drive a Honda Pilot. “… Civic, Accord?” Okay, fine, I drive an Accord.

After I had given him all the fake information he asked for, he told me that someone would be calling me back within the next 24-48 hours. And then, oddly, he verified today’s date then said, “Just to inform you, this gentleman will override your number even if it is on the DNC.” Hold on, I said, what is that, I asked? He again verified today’s date and again said “He will override your number even if it is on the DNC.” Yes, but what does that mean?

Click. I got hung up on.

I’m a little puzzled by the last statement. Was he asking me to give explicit permission to be called, even though I’m on the Do Not Call list? Or what does it mean for a caller to “override” the list? And why would the guy who called me need to bring this up when he, himself, was calling me in violation of the list – or was he technically not in violation because it’s the next guy who calls me who’s the one to try selling me something?

I blocked the number. Let’s see them try to override that.

Scams

I get exactly the same three scam phonecalls every afternoon, with the same exact scripts and even the same hold music.

They don’t honor my do-not-call requests and they have a different caller ID number each time so I can’t block them. So if I’m bored, I screw with ’em. I waste their time so they can’t call other people. I practice faking sincerity.

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