How and Why Scam Call Centers Work

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gotitbro
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How and Why Scam Call Centers Work

Post by gotitbro » Wed Jan 03, 2018 8:57 pm

I recently read an excellent and detailed article about scam call centers in India in The Guardian. Scam call centers make scam calls that threaten/fool you to con your hard earned money and are as illegal as they sound. It might even seem surprising that not only do these centers work but are thriving.

These scams work basically in two ways; one in which they call you (probably bought a database of numbers that included yours); and the second in which you call them (now they have your number and can sell it to other scammers, the one's which call you, and the cycle continues). Your number can leak from web forms and websites with weak security. Most scams are targeted towards English speaking countries such as the US and UK (English being the medium of instruction/educational language in India thus known by many people) and happen mainly in the US as more people = more money.

The first way of scamming, i.e., in which they call you is calling you and pretending to be someone from the tax or a governmental agency telling you that you have been booked under a legal case and are required to pay. If you follow along they tell you to pay by iTunes gift cards, Amazon gift cards etc.* (yes it sounds ridiculous that a government agency will tell you to pay by gift cards but many people do fall for this). They mainly target old people and the like as they are easy targets.

The second way of scamming, i.e., in which you call them works by playing on your fears and worries. The most popular of this type of scam is the tech support scam where you are shown a fake virus popup on your computer telling you to fix your PC by calling a number. The popup is generated from malicious ads and websites (and the ad industry still blames adblock :/). After you call them they'll tell you to download a remote access software so that they can "fix" your computer (most likely Ammyy or something similar). After they have gained remote access to your computer they'll run a fake software which'll show all kinds of errors and malware on your PC.

Now to fix it they'll demand exorbitant amounts of money to sell you software which is available for free on the internet. They might even not sell anything and just take the money. They'll demand the money in Gift Cards as well.

Along the call you are first passed from the junior most executive (broken English, follows the script) to a senior one (fluent English with a feigned foreign accent) who's the one that tells you to buy the gift card and tell them the code.

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This was the How and now coming to the Why

India as with other countries is facing a job crunch and automation isn't helping anybody. The demand between jobs and job seekers is ridiculous just to give you an idea here is a quote from The Guardian article
In 2016, in one municipality, 19,000 people applied for 114 jobs; among those competing to be a street sweeper** were thousands of college graduates, some with engineering and MBA degrees. In the same year, more than 1.5 million people applied for 1,500 jobs with a state-owned bank, and more than 9 million took entrance exams for fewer than 100,000 jobs on the railways.
Now to fill in this space come the scam call centers with lucrative incentives for these job seekers. Even after finding out they'll be working for a scam company most continue as they know another job isn't waiting for them anywhere. Most of these people are from small towns and villages hoping to make it big in the city. While these people do leave after sometime due to moral conflicts or poor working conditions others are ready to fill in their space.

Many innocent people are conned off their hard-earned money every day. This problem is a big one and only seems to be growing each year, in 2016 alone US citizens lost $1.5 billion to these scams. The only solution is being informed and informing others.

We can also see that malicious ads play a big role in tech scams and if the industry doesn't fix its act it's only going to hurt them in the long run.

I recommend you read The Guardian article, it's highly informative on the subject:

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https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/jan/02/the-scammers-gaming-indias-overcrowded-job-market
*They want payment over gift cards to likely avoid being tracked.
** Yes, a STREET SWEEPER.

eclark
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Post by eclark » Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:37 am

Yeah, I know those tech support scams and have received some calls from them since years ago. I just Googled about them and found some complaints filed at whycall.me since few months ago. They are really persistent, and all we could do is just protect ourselves and family from them. Always spread the word about these scams to our family, so that they could avoid falling victim to these scumbags.

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Post by gotitbro » Sat Feb 03, 2018 11:06 am

The guys from the Reply All podcast actually tracked down a company running a call center scam operation. They even went to India to meet these guys. The company was apparently raking in about $2 million a year and of course the employees were being measly salaries (as also reported in the Guardian article).

A very interesting listen that gives a lot of insight into the workings of these scams

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https://www.gimletmedia.com/reply-all/102-goldman-always-rings-twice#episode-player

eclark
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Post by eclark » Thu Feb 08, 2018 5:34 am

I think everyone have received calls from these scammers. I personally got few of them this week. I never answer calls if I don't recognize the number. I sometimes just Google it or check it on sites like http://whycall.me to see if people have reported them as scam, so that I could just block the number, without even picking up my phone.

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Post by gotitbro » Fri Feb 09, 2018 11:30 am

@eclark Calls from Toll-free numbers are most likely scams or for telemarketing. No need to pick them up. If the Caller ID displays an incorrect area code or phone number or doesn't display the number at all. It is most likely a scam as well.

A good thing to do is register with the Do Not Call registry in your country. It won't stop the scam or telemarketing calls completely but should help out to some extent.

Thanks for suggesting the website to search numbers.

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