Scamming the Scammers!

The Article

I have been teetering on this topic, that is until again I received another call from the same scammers that have been calling repeatedly…my number…on the do not call lists….with robocalls! For the love of God; MAKE THEM STOP! But realize this: they only perpetrate their scams because they make money, so if we can stop the cash flow we can stop the calls. But they just make too much!

I receive the same call on a regular basis: Congratulations! You have won a Dream Vacation! the call starts and then the auto robot just goes into the pitch. They have gotten more sophisticated recently. I received a call from a robot that was hard to tell it was actually a robocall at first. I decided to play along. I was thinking about recording this call, which I may or may not have done because my state is a two-party consent law. So any lawyers reading this? If I ask a very human sounding robot for consent and he does not object, have I violated two-party consent? If the robot passes me to someone else, am I still able to record that call? At least I took some very good notes. What follows are my notes about this company in the hopes that I can shut them down either by loss of income or federal intervention. I got to talking with a real human the first day on the job so I was able to get more information than I fancy would be the case had I connected to a more experienced scammer.

On this call, it started with the robocall and a little pitch. I pressed the button to get more information and then I was connected to an off-shore call center where Donna Mitchel tried to hook me on the dream vacation package, of course in exchange for sitting in a time-share meeting which seems to be a company out of Florida based on other information about the call (she said “the heart of our attraction: the Calypso Cay Resort”). On my call what started as a free vacation turned into just paying the $75 or so taxes to them wanting to charge almost a thousand dollars to my credit card. YIKES! Pretty good pay for a robocall and a few minutes on the phone reading scripts. Many people sadly buy into this thinking it is legit and just fork over the credit cards.

How to Scam the Scammers

This was my first try at scamming the scammers, but I am not at all ignorant of their ways…or ours. I had some information set aside in my drawer in case they called again, but I am now working on a better process for the next time since they are not backing down. Why would they? They know they are breaking the law and also that the law cannot touch them. I can certainly ascertain this based on my last call with these people. I was busy and they called so I started by saying, “You are breaking federal law” to which the jerk on the other end of the phone said, “At this point I don’t care” and then he actually tried to keep selling me on his crap! If I was only in my office I would have played him more, but I usually get these calls when I am out and about.

To keep up the game (which keeps them from spending time with a real potential victim), you need an email address for them. This was my critical flaw. I did not have an address ready and they wanted that address. If I had it I could get real information to pass on to the FTC (and you should be filing these reports). So I will be establishing an email account in my character’s name so I have that information ready as soon as they call. There are still some free services that you can use like Hushmail. What I did have correct was to have a new phone number, to hopefully get them off of my existing number, but don’t count on it. You could use a Google number but in my case I get them a public law enforcement phone number from online. I was also ready with an address for them, again an address that would have them contacting an obscure but public law enforcement agency.  The next way to mess with them is to have a credit card ready.  You obviously do not want to use your cards, and credit card numbers are not just random strings.  Fortunately, testing web-based shopping carts uses test credit cards that many of them can look legit.  I generally use a Discover test card number because it looks the more real of the test numbers from PayPal.  You can probably find a few other sources of fake cards.

Overall, the best thing you can have is your wits about you.  You need to be quick thinking and adaptable.  You cannot give them any real information.  I will also note that the FTC suggests that if you receive a spam call you should not interact because it tells them you are actually there.  I disagree because they already know you are there by the fact the phone is answered.  The computer will sort out the bad numbers.  But if you report the number a modern scammer uses you will be reporting a single-use throw away number.  The laws and reporting measures are unfortunately out of date.

Responding as a Country

The scammers and those seeking to inappropriately use call lists are getting out of control.  The government agencies can be effective, but are very slow.  I would propose a few changes to law in order to allow victims of these scammers to help empower law enforcement in taking down the callers.

First, we need to eliminate two-party consent for the specific case that a person is called by a telemarketer.  As the law currently stands in my state, I am not allowed to record a phone call without consent of the other party.  But if this law were changed and I could get these guys talking I could capture a lot of useful data that could be used as a starting point for international collaboration.  This is very important because if I announce that I am recording such a phone call these scammers will merely hang up.  Note, I am not calling for the total elimination of two-party consent, just in the case where an unsolicited caller calls a number on our state and national do-not-call lists.

Second, the reporting methods for illegal calls should be changed to account for the modern world reality that scammers use one-time throw away numbers.  I was able to get these guys talking where I finally received a number that is connected to a real entity that does seem to operate officially out of the US jurisdiction, but has very close ties and property in Florida.  Though I listed that extra information the letter I received back from the state AG office investigated the throw-away number instead.  I gave both numbers in my report.

Third, the entire concept of throw-away numbers may need revisited.  I can see a very few legitimate reasons for throw away numbers, but I think they are used for abuse more than anything regular.  I would propose that real and publicly searchable validation be required for these numbers.  The record of times they were used could be stored for up to five or so years.  This would allow the use, but make it difficult for scammers to use such numbers.

This Miserable Waste of Humanity

I will not hot-link these sites so they do not receive any page ranking (Nor do I want to be linked in association with them), but this is what I know:

  1. They use two types of Robocallers, one is clearly a robocall and the other is very human sounding.  They both proclaim to be from Cancun Dream Vacations, or Dream Vacations.
  2. They are aware of, but do not care about, United States Do-Not-Call numbers.
  3. They are giving ‘free’ vacations that actually cost $998
  4. But the ‘free’ vacations have another cost: a requirement to sit through a timeshare presentation
  5. They operate the site at bahamasroyal dotcom (hosted by GoDaddy, GoDaddy is also the registrar)
  6. They also have a Facebook page in their company name (bahamasroyal) with one comment – someone saying they were scammed…
  7. They are relentless – I tried ignoring them for over a year – now I have some info about them thanks to playing.

 

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