My cell phone rings, and it's an area code from my former life which means it's either a telemarketer or a scammer. Telemarketers and scammers use this phone number spoofing software that will disguise their real number with that of your area code and many times the first three digits of your phone number. That way, even if you don't recognize the number, you're a tad more likely to answer because you think it may be someone you know. I moved years ago but never got around to changing my phone number. So, about twice a month, when I get calls from my old area code, it's a dead giveaway that it's a spoofed phone number.
When the person calling is a telemarketer I usually hear them out and politely decline their services. But, most of the time it's just a scammer, and I think "oh goody, it's show-time!" My goal is to make them sincerely believe they are about to get some good scamming in while I waste as much of their time as possible. I like to think that however much time spent on the phone with me means less time they have to scam our grandparents or people who don't have their wits about them. Perhaps, I'm benefiting society in a minuscule way?
After a few calls, I learned that my approach to wasting their time required a little fine-tuning. Scammers are impatient and highly alerted by reasonable questions. Therefore, my style is to drag out the call by pretending to look for paperwork or my wallet all while spouting curse words and sounding utterly confused. It's my shtick. I'm the "frazzled lady who isn't paying attention and thus is a prime candidate for some identity theft." I also make sure to ask them as few logical questions as possible. They get upset when you ask them to make sense.
Here's an actual exchange between my latest phone scammer and me...
Scammer: hello, we're calling on behalf of your Visa or Mastercard card services and would like to discuss an offer to lower your interest rate. Your offer expires soon. Please press 1 if you would like to speak to a representative.
( presses 1)
Scammer: Hello miss would like you like to lower the interest rate on your Visa or MasteCcard today?
Me: Sorry, I couldn't hear you..hold on....
(yells into an empty apartment)
Me: QUIET DOWN! THIS CALL IS IMPORTANT!
Me: Okay, hello? Now what was that?
Scammer: Hello miss would you like to work with your Visa or MasterCard?
Me: Who are you with?
Scammer: We're calling with your Visa or MasterCard.
Me: Oh okay, and what's this about?
Scammer: We're saving you money on interest. Which card do you have? Visa or MasterCard? Which one do you want to work with?
Me: I have a Visa.
Scammer: Okay, and which bank is it with?
Me: Why don't you know...crap... hold on...
(yells into empty apartment)
Me: GET OFF THE COUNTER! I WON'T TELL YOU AGAIN!
Scammer: Ma'am, which bank? Don't you want to save money?
Me: Yeah and I've been meaning to look into this...
Me: It's just that it's my day to have the "kids" and they're driving me nuts!
Me: ...seven "kids"... all dogs ha-ha
Me: Okay I'm sorry, you have my undivided attention now, thank you.
Me: Now, what were you saying because I'm definitely interested.
Scammer: We just need to know which bank your Visa is with.
(sits comfortably on the couch and scrolls through Instagram posts about toppling the patriarchy)
Me: Oh okay, well let me grab my wallet. Just a second...
Me: Hold on, okay? I'm looking...
(screams into the receiver)
Me: GET OFF THE COUNTER!!!!"
Scammer: Ma'am are you serious right now? We're trying to help you save money.
Me: I know, I know. I just can't find my wallet...
Me: You'll need my account number right?
Scammer: Yes ma'am, okay thank you.
(scrolls through Netflix's "Recommended For You" Section)
Me: Ah, okay here it is.
Me: I want you to look at this card for me first, okay?
Scammer: No problem, and what is the bank?
Me: It's "ROFL Bank"...it's local
Scammer: Okay ma'am, and what is the card number?
(screams into the receiver)
Me: GET OF THE DAMN COUNTER!!
Scammer: Ma'am, the number?
Me: Who are you with?
Scammer: We're with your Visa company ma'am.
Me: We'll why didn't you have any of this info then?
Scammer: F#CK YOU!
As you can see, that was pretty fun. But, on a serious note, there were a ton of indications that this person was a scammer and not from a credit card company.
First, the calls always start off with a robotic-automated message with the goal to weed out people who automatically deny solicitations or who know a scam when they see it. They'd rather not waste their time trying to scam the unscammable. The direction to "press one" is huge for them because it indicates that they've potentially got someone gullible or at a minimum, they have the phone number of a real person.
Second, they identified themselves as being with "Visa" or "MasterCard" to cast a wide net because just about every credit card holder has a Visa or MasterCard. Fewer people carry discover, and even fewer use American Express. The scamming game is all about quantity and speed.
Third, Visa nor MasterCard would ever call you directly about your credit card because neither company issues cards, extends credit, set rates, or determines fees for consumers. Visa or MasterCard's role in your wallet is to provide electronic fund transfer services for the bank who issued your card, that's it.
Fourth, your credit card issuer would likely never call you from some local number but instead use a 1-800-number that could be looked up and verified. They also wouldn't need to ask you which bank issued you your credit card, because they'd be with the bank.
So what are your scam stories? I've heard horror stories about craigslist but, as far as sloppy-scams, phone scams are the clear winner in my opinion. Honorable mention goes to email scams like the "news of inheritance" or "dream job" ones. I haven't actually figured out how to sound believable enough to get those going really. I think I come off as too eager. I mean, of COURSE I want a million dollars deposited into my account my first day on the job. SIGN ME UP, BABY!