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7/6/2013


Announcing a new category - Telemarketing Scams

Filed under: Telemarketing Scams & Robocalls — Charlie Summers @ 11:52 am

Today we’re beginning a new category of posts here on the ol’ blog, Telemarketing Scams and Robocalls. It may be because I’m over fifty, or maybe everyone is getting these, but the number of robocalls I’m receiving has risen dramatically over the last year or so. With the cost of VoIP dropping every day, it’s trivially cheap for these scammers to make untraceable calls from outside the country into your home. I’m so sick of getting at least one every day, and sometimes three and four, that I’ve started reporting every one of them to the FCC and the FTC (created a macro for the more-involved FCC two-page report to complete the boilerplate name-and-address stuff so I can concentrate on the specifics of each call). Now, I’m pretty sure this is similar to spitting into the wind, and the only thing I have to show for it is a stack of responses from the FCC who apparently would rather waste the postage telling me there’s nothing they can do with every complaint I make instead of using that money to track down the scammers’ boiler room with an elite kill squad, but maybe if we all start flooding them with complaints they might get off their bureaucratic butts and do something about it.

Each time I get one of these robocalls, I transcribe the thing. It takes many calls to get a complete manual transcription (I live in a state where it’s illegal to record your own telephone call, apparently in an attempt to protect business interests over the interests of the citizens the legislators are supposed to be working for), but once I get them, I’ll post them here. That way, if someone else wants to make a complaint, they’ll have a copy of the transcription to work with.

Suggestions on how to handle these calls, whether to hit the “remove from our list” key or not, varies. I believe that any interraction is more likely to stick you on a list (”Hey, they listened to the entire message so we can sell this number to other scammers as a hot one!”), so I refuse to hit anything. I do, however, make sure the entire message plays…my theory here is whether I’m listening to check a transcription or just putting the phone down, it’ll be a few less calls that day since the computer is tied-up playing the sound file to me.

For our first entry in this category, an “oldie but goodie” pair of robocalls about the ubiquitous “free medical alert system.” TANSTAAFL (”There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”) applies, these scammers are out to steal your money one way or the other, but they claim everything to be “free.” In these two, a man and a woman follow basically the same script, with one minor change between the two. Almost certainly the same scammers running this con.

Male voice: “If you are a senior citizen, listen closely to the following information. Each year, there has been a significant rise in the number of senior citizens suffering death and serious life-threatening injuries from a delay in response times for medical emergencies, fires, burglaries, or even a simple fall. The American Heart Association and the American Diabetic Association are urging all senior citizens to get a personal, life-saving emergency medical alert system for their home. For the first time, the Senior Medical Advisory is providing senior citizens with this life-saving emergency medical alert equipment at no charge to seniors. Press one now to find out how with just one push of a button, you can have a live, certified, emergency medical technician on the line to help you in just seconds. Again, press one now, and you’ll never have to feel helpless, worried, or by yourself in an emergency situation. Press five now to be removed from our senior medical advisory calling list.”

I should note here that the American Heart Association actually exists; the American Diabetic Association does not. The American Heart Association actually has a warning on their website about these scams.

Female voice: “If you are a senior citizen, listen closely to the following information. Each year, there has been a significant rise in the number of senior citizens suffering death and serious life-threatening injuries from a delay in response times for medical emergencies, fires, burglaries, or even a simple fall. The American Heart Association and the American Diabetic Association are urging all seniors to get a personal, life-saving emergency medical alert system for their home. For the first time, the Senior Medical Advisory is providing senior citizens with this life-saving emergency medical alert equipment at no charge to seniors. Press one now to find out how with just one push of a button, you can have a live, certified, emergency medical technician on the line to help you in just seconds. Again, press one now, and you’ll never have to feel helpless, worried, or by yourself in an emergency situation. Press five now to be removed from our senior medical advisory calling list.”

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