On this blog I’ve done many a post about email SEO spam, this post is a bit different. It’s highlighting a more dangerous and criminal type of phone spam.
I’m sure that, like me, you’ll have had some calls from people claiming to be from the ‘refund department’ of companies such as Microsoft and Amazon, etc. (or have had a message on your computer saying you need to call a company to ‘fix’ it.)
Short answer: They’re not real, hang up the phone/don’t call them and NEVER do anything they tell you to.
Long answer: These are scammers linked to organised crime based in call centres. The centres are often located in the Indian cities of Delhi or Kolkata (although not all scam call centres are based in India).
These criminals prey on the vulnerable & less tech savvy and sadly con/trick people out of hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of pounds/dollars. If you’ve been scammed once, you’re added to a list which they will target with further scams… (For more about how this centres operate, see the end of the post.)
Sadly there’s very little that law enforcement agencies can do to stop them.
However, some people online have taken to different ways of trying to interrupt the scammers. This is known as ‘scam baiting’. Some use more ‘direct’ tactics than others.
There are scam baiters who, as they say, ‘ethically hack’ these call centres (or use other interrogation methods) to try and stop them functioning. (Many of these methods aren’t very legal…)
Others try to take up the scammers time by occupying them on the phone with fake calls.
Kit’s videos are hilarious (better than most comedies on the TV!). He uses a ‘virtual’ computer set-up with a voice changer and has a few ‘personas’ he portrays. Two of his most popular characters are ‘Edna’ -- a granny who’s rather obsessed with her mail man and ‘Nevaeh’ (Heaven backwards) who’s a ‘valley girl’. (The names are sometimes changed to stop scammers recognising him.)
The scam that Kit often goes after involves the scammers being from Windows/Amazon. They say you’re due a ‘refund’ and try to get access to you online bank (using remote access software like ‘Team Viewer’, ‘Any Desk’, ‘Go To Meeting’, etc.) and then making it look like they’ve ‘accidentally’ given you ‘extra’ money which you then need to pay back (there’s no refund, it’s all fake). They ask for payment in ‘Gift Card’ (normally iTunes or Google Play ones) as these are very hard to trace. (Other common scams involve them having fake ads/pop-ups saying there’s something wrong with your computer which ‘urgently’ need fixing.)
Below is a one of Kit’s videos and it’s some of his finest work. Kit explains the scam as it’s on going. In this video he wastes scammers time for over FIVE HOURS.
It’s really worth a watch and 90 minutes of your time -- trust me!
If you’d like to find out more about how the call centres actually operate, and some of the criminals who are behind them, then check out this playlist of four videos ”Spying on the Scammers’ from another scam baiter called Jim Browning where he actually managed to ‘gain access’ to a CCTV system within a fake/scam call centre.
A condensed version of these videos were used in a BBC Panorama TV show in early 2020. They are a real eye-opener of just how ruthless these criminals are.
So the next time you get a call from a ‘refund department’, you can try stringing them along for a bit (which I do when I can!) but NEVER let them have access to your computer, unless you REALLY know what you’re doing and have safeguards in place…