Scams R Us

Two Fridays ago, I was driving home from dropping my wife at the hospital to get her retinas photographed to deal with cataracts, when my cell phone rang through the car's communication system, and I punched the button on the dashboard to answer the call. A voice mispronounced my name and proceeded to recite my street address and then ask if I lived there. I grunted an affirmative and the voice went on to inform me that the electric power at my residence would be cut off in the next 45 minutes. He then asked if there was anybody on a respirator or other necessary health apparatus. No.

So the technician would be there shortly to cut off power. He then gave me a name and phone number of a guy who could help me correct whatever the problem might be that necessitated the impending cut off.

As I was driving at the time, I could not write it down and told him so. He said that he could notify the guy and ask him to call me. I asked him to do so. Before I heard from this personage, I got another call from the "technician" who was on the way to turn off my juice. I told him I was standing by for that other call. He said that he hoped we could resolve this soon as he was on his way.

Of course, this all had a funky smell to it, as I knew that I had paid the most recent bill from my checking account. But how implausible is the idea that the LA Department of Water and Power might get my account fucked up? So I decided to talk with the Helping Hand Guy who called me shortly after I got home. Since it was Friday, he could not stop the cutoff with a debit or credit card payment, which would not be processed until after the weekend. This was a major tell of the scam, and of course he had an alternative. I could go to a payment center and pay for a payment card to cover my $498 delinquent bill. He gave me the street address of the nearest payment center. I was very suspicious, but I reasoned that I could apply the absurd amount to future bills, assuming the drug store he referred me to actually would have a light bill payment system.

To make this tedious story move along, the drug store help told me it sounded like a scam, and I agreed. I called the Helping Hand at the number on caller ID and heard the generic Cell phone message, with no name or company identified. I then looked up the Area Code and found out the call came from Spokane, Washington. Shortly thereafter, he called me back and we had a pissy conversation in which he berated me for my ignorance. He sent me a picture via text of the kind of pre-paid debit card he needed to keep my power on. I told him to forget about me sending him any such card and he replied that he would cut me off.

I said, "Do your best." And then hung up

Shortly thereafter, I thought of the line I should have kissed him off with. "The moral of this story is Never snark off at the mark."

This past Friday I got a text from my "bank." it said, "We have just de-activated the debit card with the starting four numbers 4079." To reactivate your card, click on this link. The link was labeled "Reactivation." All you had to do was enter all the numbers from the card including the security code and expiration date. They didn't even snark off at me, but I did not bite.

Then this morning as part of my continuing recovery from a stroke, I took a mile and a half walk around West Hollywood on residential streets with stretches on Santa Monica Blvd. and Fairfax Ave.
I saw four different guys sleeping on the sidewalk as a drizzling rain was cranking up. I also saw a For Rent sign, 1 bedroom 1 bath, $2500.

This shit can't last.

23 users have voted.


Lookout's picture

...but could have been worse. Like most phishing trips, the idea is not to bite.

Take care.

13 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

travelerxxx's picture

We get calls similar to these constantly. Cell phone, house phone, doesn't matter ...and it doesn't stop.

It got so bad on the house phone that I turned the ringers off on all phones connected to the house line. Except one. I left the line connected to a printer, which is also a fax machine. I set the fax to have no audible ring and to pick up on "zero rings." In other words, it picks up the line the instant a call comes through on the house line.

As it's a fax machine, it does what fax machines do when they capture a line -- the most gawd-awful screeching and electronic racket starts immediately. It runs that way about ten seconds or so, then waits for the fax on the other end (or so it presumes) to return the favor with its own electronic racket. Of course, none emanates, so it repeats. Eventually it will give up and release the line. This takes around a minute or so. No message allowed and no human to try to scam.

You are probably wondering, "Why does he even keep the house line if no one can even leave a message?" Answer: we now just consider it a dedicated fax line. Not that we use it that way very often. Also, my dear wife has negotiated with the phone company (which company also handles our Internet) to get the lowest prices possible. The phone company insists that the house line be included in whatever "bundle" they agree to. Okay, fine. It costs practically nothing, so it stays.

It's been over 50 years since we landed on the moon, but somehow the phone companies are unable to stop some guy in Pakistan from robo-calling all over the USA. Nor do the phone companies seem to mind taking the checks from the call-scammers within the USA - their "boiler rooms" now often staffed by prisoners (paid pennies per day) in American prisons. I just found out about that one.

This can be stopped, and quickly. Pass legislation (I know...) fining the phone companies (not the callers, although that wouldn't bother me) $100 per call for every spam/scam phone call made using their system. I guarantee these calls would end within 24 hours if not sooner.

12 users have voted.

@travelerxxx is for ems purposes. What I have been told is that 911 gps locates by landline, not cell phone.
I no longer need it for bundling for internet, since I got fiber optics.
Scammers do not call it. It was always an unlisted number. They call my cell phone. I have started getting 3 or more calls a week. I never say anything, except "f'ck you!", and often, they never call back.
They are never selling anything, except they are always marketing something. Marketing isn't selling in their reality.
Take good care, mister!

11 users have voted.

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." ---- William Casey, CIA Director, 1981

travelerxxx's picture

@on the cusp

As all of the extensions to our house line are still "hot," we can initiate outgoing calls at will. Those phones just don't ring. In addition to some wireless phones, we have two old "double line" SONY phones, purchased back in the days of dial-up modems. Two teen-aged daughters kept one line busy, so my wife had two lines.

Those two old phones record the caller ID info on the last 50 calls received, whether answered or not. I reset the counter every Sunday and scroll through to see who called. It's never anyone we know. Today I erased the info on over 25 calls made to our number since last Sunday.

As this is Medicare sign-up season, I'm guessing most of those calls were peddling Medicare (Dis)Advantage plans. It's like two scams in one: (1) Receiving unwanted and unsolicited phone calls, and (2) pushing a sub-par, for-profit insurance scam.

9 users have voted.

@travelerxxx My calls seem to be for outdoor security lights, and roofing. I can't imagine what prompted the roofing, although I did get some outdoor security lighting about a year ago. I re-roofed my house 10 or more years ago.
But, I give no info to these people.
They already know too much by having my cell phone number!

6 users have voted.

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." ---- William Casey, CIA Director, 1981

you might want to consider also that that connectivity to your car also tracks all your car's movements and likely monitors all its operations.

Also, you have no means of knowing whether the microphone is activated or not, so you cannnot be assured even of having a private conversation in your own car.

This is from 2013 when the 'feature' was limited to high-end car models:

until a recent court decision barring the practice, the FBI has been able to obtain warrants to listen in on in-car conversations through the roadside assistance devices installed in luxury cars. The problem, the court found, was not the intrusive nature of the eavesdropping but rather that the FBI’s listening disabled the emergency function of the system. In other words, when the FBI had the “wiretap” in place, emergency calls could not be made from the car. And, since the FBI sometimes records, rather than listens live to the conversations in the car, there was no assurance that the FBI would alert emergency services of the need for roadside assistance.

The lawsuit was brought by an undisclosed provider of the on-board service after it had complied with several wiretap warrants. Under the warrants, the on-board service relinquished control of the system to the FBI. Although the wiretap orders had expired, the court entertained the lawsuit noting that it was an issue that could continue to occur but otherwise would be incapable of being decided because the wiretaps were for limited duration.

The on-board system provided not only navigation but also allowed the persons in the vehicle to contact the provider in an emergency by touching a single button. When the button was pressed, it initiated a cell phone call between the car and the provider. When activated, the provider could hear all of the conversation in the vehicle. The conversations that the FBI sought to intercept were not the telephone calls to the provider but rather the conversations that took place in the car itself


91% of all new car sales in the US in 2020 were 'connected' and emergency call systems have
been mandated for all new vehicles in the EU since 2018.

What is a connected car?

A connected car is a vehicle shipped with a built-in 3G, 4G, or 5G cellular modem right from the factory. With internet connectivity, the car can communicate with apps and services, similar to how a smartphone would. Connected cars can also communicate with external networks and infrastructure, like other vehicles, electrical grids, roads, and buildings.

Each car manufacturer develops its own connected services account. This lets drivers access vehicle information from a mobile app that communicates with the car’s embedded cellular modem. For example, Chevrolet’s connected services account is called OnStar and their mobile app is called MyChevrolet.

Vehicle telemetry data include a car’s location, odometer reading, fuel tank level or EV battery level, tire pressure, and engine oil life. Using the app, vehicle owners can check the location of their car, lock and unlock it, preheat the car, and get notified when they run low on gas—all directly from their phones.

The first mass deployment of vehicles with 4G LTE happened in 2014. By 2015, mobile apps like Chevrolet’s now-discontinued RemoteLink were already seeing millions of interactions a month from connected services subscribers. Today, 66% of drivers in the U.S. use connected services.

How is connected car data used?

Connected car data was introduced to power capabilities across use cases like infotainment, safety, navigation, diagnostics and efficiency, and payments. But today, connected cars — which includes 97% of electric vehicles — produce data that directly impact new and emerging use cases for sustainable energy, research and development, auto insurance, and transportation infrastructure.


So, for their safety and convenience, consumers get to pay for a hackable system to surveil their and their car's activities and provide free data for major corporations, enhanced AI, alphabet agencies...

Now that there is what you call a real SCAM.

11 users have voted.

So it is not shocking to learn that my cell phone- automobile connection is subject to surveillance.
Like Chef says in Apocalypse Now, "That's fucking typical."

Nobody has picked up on my comment that this shit can't last. But as I notice the gloom and doom on the other threads on today's front page, it hits me that my kvetching here is banal. The notion that scamming is the norm, just as homelessness in tony zip codes is now the norm, amounts to stale beer as a revelation. Ho hum.

I still say this shit can't last, even if it is obvious to everybody.

8 users have voted.

I cried when I wrote this song. Sue me if I play too long.

@fire with fire What we are seeing, experiencing, enduring, is not even meant to last. I tend to believe it is a quick fix for those that benefit, and it ain't us.
Heather used to call saying I had won a cheap ticket on a cruise.
At least she had that cheery upspeak. The outdoor lighting and roofing guys just sound like young men from a foreign country with practiced intonation.
Makes me sort of miss Heather.
I am sorry for the homeless you saw, and hope it didn't make you feel guilty in any way. It is not your fault.

6 users have voted.

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." ---- William Casey, CIA Director, 1981

@on the cusp @on the cusp
Personally, I am not responsible for rents going up while people are sleeping on the pavement.

I am instead getting more and more pisssed off at the deterioration of the social order into a war of all against all. That is what I get from ubiquitous scamming. I realize that the cozy sense of community that I experienced as a baby boomer growing up in the 50s and 60s was illusory, even then.

But looking back a mere 20 years ago, the idea of organized swindlers contacting me regularly was not part of my life. Based on the testimony on this thread, other people have experienced this crap more than I have.

To add tiresome "analysis" to this glum take on the state of civilization, the war of all against all is the epitome of neo-liberalism. Competition replaces community as the market is deemed to offer superior results than the government.

You can't have winners without losers sleeping in the doorway of the Lee Strassberg acting school on Santa Monica Boulevard.

7 users have voted.

I cried when I wrote this song. Sue me if I play too long.

Competition breeds innovation, so it is not all bad. The problem is the built in advantage to those already at the top. I too have noticed the shit slide we are on (and have been for a long time), but I can't see a happy ending. Depressing.

4 users have voted.

If it was easy, everyone would do it.