back to article Tech support scammer dialed random number and Australian Police’s cybercrime squad answered

A tech-support scammer making random phone calls in the hope of finding a victim called the cyber-crime squad of an Australian police force, which used the happy accident to document the con trick and inform the public on what to watch out for. The call was placed to the Financial and Cybercrime Investigation Branch (FCIB) in …

  1. Allan George Dyer

    “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

    So what do we do for entertainment now? Particularly as some places enter a new lockdown.

    Suggested conversation extenders:

    "So, where is this 'Any' key?"

    "How do you spell dub-dub-dub?"

    "Is this about the delivery of my duct-tape, pincers and spade?"

    1. Shadow Systems

      Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

      Other convo starters include "Whachya wearin?", "Are you into threesomes?", and "I like to slather myself in vegemite & let the ostriches peck at my Longfellow, how about you?"

      I wonder why my scam calls have fallen way back?


      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

        "You say there's a problem with my computer?"

        "Is that in my area, then?"

        "What, you mean I can just visit a website?"

        "Can't do that, the car's in the shop."

        "How do I 'click on' things exactly?"

        All delivered in a slow drawl and your choice of idiot-yokel accent. See what you can get away with before they twig.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

        I now tell them I have to hang up when they ask me to connect to the internet. This is because I use dialup and can't have them on the phone at the same time. Normally at this point they ask what I use my computer for which the answer is Internet Banking. I don't have a mobile either or no reception near the computer.

        They often tell me they'll call me back once I've downloaded whatever they are pushing. If they do I become a garage or a bakery and haven't got a computer I have an accountant for everything like that.

        I must expand to include an Adult shop or a dominatrix/dungeon.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

        "I like to slather myself in vegemite & let the ostriches peck at my Longfellow, how about you?"

        Pervert! That sort of behavior is only acceptable in a decent society if you use Marmite!

        And if you want to get rid of a scam caller, just tell them you can't talk now as you're too busy fucking their mum up the arse, and no she can't say hello because her mouth is full...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Paris Hilton

          Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

          “...fucking their mum up the arse” vs “...her mouth is full...”

          How does that work then? Paris - because if anyone knows...

    2. sanmigueelbeer

      Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

      I have high respect of the AFP but this is one advisory I will not bow down to.

      In one engagement, I managed to describe the scammer as a "Pakistani".

      Let me just say that he "did not hold back" and was amazed at his "passion" with his response. In one breathe.

      Nowadays, I just let Lenny do the job -- My last scam call was back in October. 2019.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

        And I did one better. I assumed he was in India, and by the clock I figured it had to be late evening there, so I asked if 'he wouldn't rather be out with his buddies, having a few beers and raping little girls.. as usual'...

        I could hear him gasping and managing to utter anything buy 'you.. you!' then hanging up.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

        @sanmigueelbeer it was SAPol rather than the AFP. But I take your point – playing with these thieving liars is a lot of fun and it protects the community. If we all waste their time then these scams will not gain as much money and be much less attractive.

    3. trevorde Silver badge

      Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

      Friend at a previous job had a scammer on the line for 20 mins before being angrily told to: "Take a long walk off a short pier!"

      1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble?

        Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

        I was talking with one once who had the absolute temerity after about 20 minutes of being strung along to call me a liar! I mean, he wasn't wrong but never the less!

        1. eldoc

          Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

          20 minutes. Good effort. Best I've ever managed is to have them swear at me and hang up atfter 15.

          I try and keep them online as long as possible. I view it as a public service. Every minute they are failing to con me, they can't be trying it on someone else.

          Maybe it'd be more of an even contest if they understood what Fedora Linux was.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

            "if they understood what Fedora Linux was."

            She sounds delightful, does she have an 800 number?

            1. Anonymous Coward

              Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

              0800 SYS-TEMD

      2. Emile

        Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

        It's the best when they get angry at you.... I had one guy finally call me a looser for wasting his time as everybody was listening in on speaker phone... To be fair it alot of time was spent cycling thru two or three levels of their trolls in one call...

      3. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Also with the accident scammers

        Last one of those I had was at work and when asked by the lovely chap from the Indian Subcontinent if I had been injured in the accident that wasn't my fault, I said:

        Me: "Yes it was awful I've never been in a fatal accident before at least not one where I died"

        Sounding very interested: "So you were injured in the accident?"

        Me: "Yes mortally wounded as it turned out, the funeral was lovely though"

        Sounding very interested: "Can you describe your injuries?"

        Me: "Yup Death by Decapitation and not the good kind, not going to walk away from that"

        Sounding extremely interested: "Have you spoken to a lawyer yet?"

        Me: "No very few people talk to you when you're dead, I'm grateful for your call."

        Sounding disinterested: "Are you saying you didn't survive the accident?"

        At this point there is the sound of someone else joining the call.

        Me: "Yes, and I wouldn't recommend cremation if I were you!"

        Line goes dead

      4. Mine's a Large One

        Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

        After I told one guy that "my wife deals with technical calls, I'll go and get her" and put the handset down, I had one guy on the line for ages. Every now and again we'd creep up to the handset and he'd be saying "Hello? Are you there?". Last time we heard him it had been 17 minutes then the nerxt time he'd hung up.

    4. steve 157

      Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

      I had fun with one once when I had a Linux machine. I followed all his instructions a number of times but we kept getting stuck and he couldn't undertsand it. At least it stopped him harrassing others for half an hour or so

      1. Martyn Welch

        Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

        Ditto. I usually use it as a bit of sport, feigning ignorance but generally not lying. It's not really my fault if when asked "What key do you see next to the C.T.R.L. key?" and I answer "A wavy flag", they assume I am running windows.

        I consider myself off my game if they haven't sworn at me by the end of the call.

        I did once try to pretend I was running Windows 3.11.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

        I had one who eventually twigged I must be running Linux (FreeBSD actually, natch), and passed me onto one of his "specialist colleagues" who then proceeded to guide me to the Linux version of Teamviewer. I was quite impressed. Of course, the download kept "stalling" and eventually it turned out my version Linux wasn't one of the ones listed :-)

    5. Marty McFly Silver badge

      Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

      As techies here, we should all do it at least once. Have a disposable VM ready to go, and watch them for a few hours. They are VERY good at their social engineering attack. I can see how non-tech people fall victim to the scam.

    6. sanmigueelbeer

      Re: “Police recommend that you do not engage with scammers,”

      I view it as a public service. Every minute they are failing to con me, they can't be trying it on someone else.


      It is a "public service". Every minute the scammers talk to Lenny is a chance of them not scamming the vulnerable. "If you can't beat `em, join `em" holds true.

      if they understood what Fedora Linux was

      A majority of the scammers do not have in-depth technical knowledge. They read through script lines. It is like coding, "if the response is not in the script then error out". In a lot of cases, when they "error out" they either hang up the phone or they go "mental".

      Have a disposable VM ready to go

      I remembered seeing a anti-virus coder who baited himself to get the call. He got a VM ready to go and contains a single "JPG" file. When the scammer called, he pretended to be an old person in the cusp of losing his marbles. When the conversation about taking his credit card details came, it was "party time" and turned the tables. The JPG file was, in fact, one of the nastiest network worm virus that erases the HDD and spreads by crawling through the network via the IP address.

  2. a_yank_lurker

    Were they able to locate the slime?

    Were the plods able to trace the call? I assume they recorded the call. I would like to see the extradition request for the miscreants.

    1. cb7

      Re: Were they able to locate the slime?

      "Were the plods able to trace the call?"

      If they did, there's no mention in the report.

      But I agree wholeheartedly, they should pursue this with a vengeance. These people are an international threat and whilst they may be using VoIP providers and points of presence in target countries, I'm sure with diligent pursuit, it would be trivial to follow the money back to the monkey den.

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        Re: Were they able to locate the slime?

        "I'm sure with diligent pursuit, it would be trivial to follow the money back to the monkey den."

        Unfortunately with SIP and VPNs this is all but impossible. Especially as they tend to use multiple blind companies when purchasing the SIP trunks. And they tend to swap SIP providers frequently as they don't pay their bills. Paying bills would make them much easier to trace.

        Of course Good old type 7 dialling is a problem too. The recipient sees a call coming from a local number so they answer it. In actual fact the call originates in Nigeria having hopped around the internet before breaking out from a SIP trunk somewhere in the UK. No of course in the UK at least it is illegal to present a CLI that you don't own, But there's no technical way of preventing it from happening. And since the caller is already breaking multiple laws they don't really care about this one tiny one.

        The reason they tend to present a CLI is that so many people don't answer withheld numbers. And people are much more likely to answer a local looking number than a some international number, or as is sometimes the case a totally gibberish CLI.

        The presented CLI is usually bogus so there's no way of tracing that either.

        1. stiine Silver badge

          Re: Were they able to locate the slime?

          They aren't impossible to trace, because someone, somewhere pays a bill for internet and voip service. The problem, or not, is the lack of SS7 trace commands for traffic through Cisco, Juniper, et al routers.

          1. Dabooka

            Re: Were they able to locate the slime?

            It's not impossible to trace at all, I've seen it done several times.

            You simply type 'trace' in to the terminal and watch a line appear on a global map that connects through several key cities until an IP is identified. Easy.

            In fact I'll save them time as despite having the whole world to hide in they'll conveniently be in that internet café just across town.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Were they able to locate the slime?

      That's part of the robocall problem in the US, inability to trace. The problem isn't always local, for a full trace you need to start at the point of origin, and sometimes this comes from low wage countries where scamming the rest of the planet is part of the national economic income - so forget about their help.

      Personally I would be happy to see at least the country of origin, but outsourcing is to thank for faking that..

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Were they able to locate the slime?

        Some telco in the country where the call is received is taking the call from either its country of origin or from some intermediate country. If they can't trace back themselves hold them responsible for any civil liabilities and possibly criminal ones as well. Just watch all of them tighten up their tracing.

        1. I am the liquor

          Re: Were they able to locate the slime?

          I've often thought the telcos could easily put a stop to this problem, if only they could be motivated to do so.

        2. veti Silver badge

          Re: Were they able to locate the slime?

          Propose that, and watch the privacy hawks go thermal...

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

        Re: Were they able to locate the slime?

        If it's over a VOIP line, you'll likely find that your trace efforts terminate at a small gateway company, whose entire business consists of routing these scam calls from VOIP to the PSTN. Of course, they will plead ignorance and fall back on the argument that they are merely a carrier and by law are not allowed to make decisions based on the content of the calls they carry.

        Yeah, right. They know, the telcos know, everyone knows, but the money keeps coming in, and wireline telephone companies need that cash. The initial robocall company, and the call center you are transferred to when you push "1", are almost always overseas. India seems to be very popular.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Were they able to locate the slime?

          They should be blocked like spam friendly ISPs.

    3. Wade Burchette

      Re: Were they able to locate the slime?

      I am not sure if this is possible, but I wish the phone companies gave us the option to block VoIP calls which originate outside the country.

      1. stiine Silver badge

        Re: Were they able to locate the slime?

        As Anton said above, that won't help because they'll purchase gateway services from any provider anywhere. The packets don't care where they transition from the internet to the PSTN. (is there any PSTN left?)

  3. Sgt_Oddball

    Can you got to your windows computer ...

    That was a brief laugh as I asked the scammer to specify which windows machine...

    My Corp machine, the wife's collection of personal laptops (because she doesn't like getting rid of the old ones), my personal laptop, my desktop machine or the Windows 2016 server in the basement?

    Confusion ensued before he realised I knew more than the average Joe...

    Then I get an earfull of angry swearing, insults about my mother and told to go self pleasure (in more NSFW language). He didn't hang up for the longest time you get the impression that they want you to hang up first which is also somewhat naughty if they keep on the line.

    I really should keep a corded phone around to do the rapid hangup trick to mess with them next time.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Can you got to your windows computer ...

      I really should keep a corded phone around to do the rapid hangup trick to mess with them next time.

      Damn. Now I want a landline again. :)

      Hey! It's Friday!

      1. Demogenes

        Re: Can you got to your windows computer ...

        A landline isn't required for this sort of entertainment... I recently got a call on my mobile from Microsoft offering to help me with my Windows installation.... I didn't even know I still had one of those...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Can you got to your windows computer ...

          I think the OP refers to a fun flaw with landlines which doesn't work on mobiles: if you don't hang up the call, it often doesn't disconnect on the other end either so that person won't be able to call someone else - he/she/it just gets you on the line again. I assume it's a hangover from the times when calls were a tad harder to establish.

          I must admit I have no idea if that problem still exists in an era where the backend translates all calls into VoIP anyway, but I like the possibility.

          1. Sgt_Oddball

            Re: Can you got to your windows computer ...

            Sort of, but you can also 'flutter' the line by rapidly hanging up and off again.

            Usually then appolgise and get them repeat what they said. Rinse and repeat, the fun is seeing how long it takes before they know you're messing with them.

            That said, I haven't tried since I got upgraded to fibre. It might still work but as mentioned I'd need to plug in an old wired handset... Like the British Telecom phone I inherited from my grandfather and was planing on jamming a raspPi in there because it seemed like a fun project.

          2. stungebag

            Re: Can you got to your windows computer ...

            There were scams that depended on a call remaining connected after the called party hung up. The reason that the call remained connected was a good one. In the days when all phones were wired you could answer a call in your hall, find out it's your girlfriend, replace the receiver. go to your bedroom, pick up the extension there and have a nice talk with her, keeping one hand free to hold the phone.

            But then criminals pretending to be from your bank latched on. They'd call and attempt to convince you they really were who they said they were by asking you to call them back on the number on the back of your bank card. You'd replace your handset but remain connected. Meanwhile the miscreants would play a recording of a dial tone down the line. You'd pick up, hear a dial tone, dial your bank's number - and wind up talking to another member of the scammer's team.

            This got so much publicity that it was brought up in the Commons, and MPs insisted that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE. So BT was asked to sort it, which they did.

            Now the call clears after a timeout of between 2 to 3 seconds (search for Openreach SIN 351 for a source).

            I get a bit miffed when well-meaning people keep warning everyone about a problem that was fixed some years ago.

            1. N2

              Re: Can you got to your windows computer ...

              ...pick up the extension there and have a nice talk with her, keeping one hand free to hold the phone.

              That made me smile, pint its Friday

          3. Mage Silver badge

            Re: if you don't hang up the call

            It was so if you answered in the hall, or under the stairs, or the kitchen, you could set down the handset and pick it up in the boudoir, library or study.

            Also such phone systems in many countries used a third wire to disable the bell on all the phones when you picked up to dial out.

            As the phones, and indeed rural party lines, were in parallel, having two off hook would reduce to volume to about half. Also if someone else on the same internal line or party line picked up you'd hear the click of the extra DC load to power the carbon microphone and the volume would reduce. Seldom agitated, infrequently used carbon microphones would also often crackle.

            As kids in the 1970s we used two phones connected via top two wires of the fence with a 6V spring top lantern battery for power. No bell other than a faint tinkle, but good volume.

            In the late Victorian era before valves (tubes) they even put a carbon microphone and 2000 Ohm earpiece in a sealed box sharing a diaphragm. Then add two off 3V batteries, external carbon microphone and 2 x 2000 Ohm earphones as a headset and you had a hearing aid not surpassed by valves till about 1927, and even then the valves needed a 90V HT and 2V lead acid. By 1950 the valve hearing aids used 2 x 0.7V filament valves off a 1.5V dry cell and one or two miniature 22V batteries about PP3 size.

          4. Maelstorm Bronze badge

            Re: Can you got to your windows computer ...

            Being a former wireline telco employee who worked on the switching equipment, I can tell you for a fact that it is still like that here in the USA. Many people still have landlines. If YOU receive the call, and you hang up but the caller doesn't, then it takes up to 36 seconds for the call path to be torn down in the switch. If you are the caller and you hang up, then the call disconnects after 2 seconds. Why the delay? Flash signalling. The flash signal is a hangup that is between 300ms and 900ms long. Most flash buttons on phone are programmed to hangup for 600ms or so.

      2. sanmigueelbeer

        Re: Can you got to your windows computer ...

        Damn. Now I want a landline again.

        This is exactly the reason I got FreePBX, with two Australian, one US and one NZ phone line, and Lenny!

        Unfortunately, we have laws to protect the scammers so I cannot record the conversations between the scammers and Lenny.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Can you got to your windows computer ...

          Unfortunately, we have laws to protect the scammers so I cannot record the conversations between the scammers and Lenny.

          I'd use the Google approach: "'t Was all but an accidental recording, m'lord". More importantly, for a scammer to actually take you to court for this they would have to reveal who they are, which would make that worthwhile in itself..

    2. Stoneshop

      Re: Can you got to your windows computer ...

      "My windows have a computer? I don't think so, I have to open and close them manually."

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Can you got to your windows computer ...

      I once kept the guy on for 20 minutes, working with him, following his directions (which worked surprisingly well on my Linux machine), until he gave up and told me to call Microsoft.

      He was upset when I asked if I should tell them I was running Linux.

  4. chivo243 Silver badge

    Do not call list for Scammers?

    One would think there is a list of numbers NOT to be called? Surely there is one on pastebin? n00b...?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Do not call list for Scammers?

      I think there is and I think we're on it. Haven't had a call for years. I used to simply ask them to hang on for a moment and then put the phone aside for several minutes before hanging up.

      The best one was a salesman from a local double glazing firm (there must have been a collective sigh of relieve from the entire area when they went bust) who rung back for more of the same and then his sales manager rang to say the line kept going dead.

      1. Stoneshop

        Re: Do not call list for Scammers?

        Phone: "Bleedledeedle"

        Me: "Hello, $me speaking."

        Them: "I'd like to inform you of the advantages of $service."

        Me: "Ah, telesales."

        Them: "Nono, not telesales. We'd like to inform you of the advanta"

        Me: "Telesales."

        Telephone: "Klick. Beepbeepbeep"

        Clock: "It's now ten seconds later"

        Phone: "Bleedledeedle"

        Me: "Hello, $me speaking."

        Them: "Why did you hang up?"

        Me: "Observe, I'll be doing it again."

        Telephone: "Klick. Beepbeepbeep"

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do not call list for Scammers?

      Either they are running really inefficient systems - or there are a lot of independent operators. I've resorted to verbally abusing them for the last year - and still they keep calling several times a week purporting to be BT or Microsoft.

      I fill in the BT "scam" page entry - but I suspect all that has done is elicited a genuine BT sales pitch about subscribing to their spam call filtering services.

      Do BT do anything with those submissions. It would be nice to think they do some correlation to identify origins of such calls - or at least automatically block the false CLI in future.

  5. bofh1961

    I love these scammers

    My personal best is keeping the fraudster on the line for half an hour before letting him know it was Linux...

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: I love these scammers

      I can only keep them busy for a few minutes before they work out I do not have Windows or the slightest clue would happen if I actually did what they asked. Is there a website full of screen shots I can use to fake it?

    2. Trygve Henriksen

      Re: I love these scammers

      I've done the half-hour chat, too... I was on the bus, so didn't have anything else to do anyway.

      I did the 'old keyboard, no Windows key', and 'those keyboard shortcuts doesn't work', then 'I don't have Internet explorer, can I use Netscape isntead', and finally, 'that side doesn't have a version for OS/2'...

    3. stungebag

      Re: I love these scammers

      My personal best is keeping an Amazon Prime scammer on for as long as I could, slowly strugglihg to comply with his requests (in a VM). Eventially I got to a carefully crafted fake Amazon page with a series of links to remote access programs. I hung up and contacted the hosting company who took it down very rapidly.

      I know. It makes no difference, but it felt like a little victory.

    4. Man inna barrel

      Re: I love these scammers

      I went through all the instructions, on my Linux box, and of course nothing worked. The chap called "Peter", with an Indian accent, started to get a bit exasperated. I can do a really good doddery old gent act. Anyway, "Peter" eventually said he would shut down my broadband, because of the fault. So I said "Go on then. I dare you. This is just a scam, isn't it?". The he got really upset. I still wonder if he believed the rubbish he was telling me. I put the phone down to put "Peter" out of his misery.

      1. Stoneshop

        Re: I love these scammers

        I put the phone down to put "Peter" out of his misery.

        Ah, you traced his physical location and entered its coordinates into the Orbital Anvil Delivery System?

    5. N2

      Re: I love these scammers

      Yes, I play the bumbling bafoon, which seems to come easier with increasing age, about 20 minutes is my longest.

    6. Maelstorm Bronze badge

      Re: I love these scammers

      I did one with a virtual machine that was running Windows XP. I had a folder called banking and inside it was a file called confidential_banking_stuff.doc.exe. Of course I changed the icon in the exe file to look like a MS Word doc, and I turned off show extensions for known file types. Needless to say, he saw that, downloaded it, and opened it. Next thing that I heard was a lot of swearing as all the computers on his network crashed because he now has WannaCry ransomware.

  6. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    I am perfectly OK with scams and marketing calls ..

    .. as long as they do it on a 0900 premium number so my time is paid for.

    Heck, I may even throw in some heavy breathing, for free. You should hear my labrador when he's had a long run..


  7. Andy Non Silver badge

    I like to wind them up

    "ask why their remote access software for Windows isn't doing so well under Linux, but we suspect the question won’t be appreciated."

    In my experience the moment you mention Linux they hang up, so best not to mention it if you plan on winding them up for a long time.

    My record is keeping a scammer on the line for half an hour with two follow up calls seeking payment (sorry, the wife was still out shopping and she'd got the card with her).

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows start sounds

    I used to have an audio file on my desktop of an hour long of Windows XP startup sounds. Whenever I was called by the lads from India about my Windows computer being faulty, I would tell them that I would start up my computer, warning them that I had had some problems lately. Then I hit play and continued with what I was doing with the phone next to the computer.

    After some time I would get bored and would hang up. But I have encountered a very persistent guy who actually called me back to notify me we got disconnected.

    Alas, XP is gone and so has the audio file when I got a new computer.

    1. Sgt_Oddball

      Re: Windows start sounds

      There is a YouTube video with dialup sounds slowed by x800. That's a good one to have to hand.

      Shame it'd get an advert first. If only there was a way of having the video saved for convenience... Some kind of YouTube downloader... (thanks RIAA)

      1. Stoneshop

        Re: Windows start sounds

        Some kind of YouTube downloader... (thanks RIAA)


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Windows start sounds

        I think that was a Streisand reference, but just in case not:

        1) A more uptodate fork of youtube-dl is still on github as youtube-dlc. / yt-dlc (

        2) The site, which contains all the releases is still up.

  9. Paul Smith

    My preferred line is while appearing to cooperate fully, is to throw in the odd "Does you mother know what you do for a living?", "Is she very proud of you helping people like this?" "Does she know you make your living trying to steal people's money?"

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Based on a colleague's experience a few words of Hindi is enough to scare off the best of them.

  10. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    Y'all got too much time on your hands

    I would grant them about the time it takes to say "fuck off"

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Some of us are retired and devote our spare time to public service.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        hmm , maybe I should play them some recordings of my poetry.

        1. Charlie van Becelaere


          That's funny, you don't look Vogon.

    2. I am the liquor

      You've got more patience than me... I've invariably hung up before the end of the 2-second silence you get while the robo-dialler is connecting the call to an available operator.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Answeting the phone with "Hello, fraud department" usually sees them end the call pretty quickly!

  11. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    So what did the police learn from this golden opportunity?

    well , nothing

    (the only thing you need to know is that it works by gullible people clicking on things)

    Did they catch anybody?

    well , no

    (flash in the pan short term rented numbers)

    1. stungebag

      Why rented numbers? Whay ANY numbers? You can use VOIP and put in any presentation number you like.

  12. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    I find one of the best ways to get rid of a scammer if you can't be arsed to string them along is to tell them you are a police officer. They usually hang up straight away.

    I had one once who I was stringing along with stupid questions and indeed stupid obstructive answers. He then tried to threaten me with the police. "I will need to report this matter to the police if you do not provide us with the informations we require".

    Me: I can save you going to all that trouble.

    Scammer: You are going to give me the informations?

    Me: No, I mean you are already speaking to the police. I'm a detective inspector.

    Scammer: I will need to talk with my supervisor. <click>

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      One of my prepared lines was to pretend to be "the Microsoft help line for reporting scams" and assume the scammer was a victim reporting a scam, tell him that we work very closely with the police in all jurisdictions in dealing with scammers, it would help if could tell us where he was but not to worry, we were tracing his call right now and the local police would arrive with him soon to check his PC and help detect who was scamming him.

      What a pity nobody's rung for me to use it.

  13. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    I do hope ...

    ... the scammer in question reads the Register, and does a (presumably anonymous) "Who Me?" entry. I would so like to hear their side of the story. The Register does publish far too few stories from the cyber criminals point of view.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I do hope ...

      Are you sure about that?

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: I do hope ...

        re: "Are you sure about that?"

        It is Friday, Brexit is as much of a mess as it has ever been, President Trump is in meltdown as valid votes are counted which look like making Biden POTUS, I am under Covid-19 lockdown because 'SOMEONE' could not get even a reasonable test and trace system up and running in the UK, and 'SOMEONE ELSE' decided not to listen to (or try to understand) the science, scientists or statistics. The climbing wall is closed, I've hurt my back, and I am already eating far too much chocolate, and mince pies. Yes, I need a harmless diversion. Besides, if we heard form the cybercrooks it could be interesting. After all, Robert Fisk interviewed Osama bin Laden (three times, actually).

        Or, maybe a lie down in a darkened room is in order?

        1. Sgt_Oddball

          Re: I do hope ...

          "Or, maybe a lie down in a darkened room is in order?"

          Tried that, the kids kept coming down into the basement to find me...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I do hope ...

        Are you sure?

        I'm pretty sure every other BOFH article usually mentions something that could be taken as a cyber crime (if not out right crime)...

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: I do hope ...

      Our son was employed by a dodgy Internet outfit during the summer between school and college. This was based in the US and wasn't doing outright phone scams, on the surface it was a legit-ish SEO operation, but there was an inner core he was traferred to because he was young, enthusiastic, hard working and computer savvy (i.e. a sucker). When I found out what he was doing I suggeted he leave because it was borderline criminal and I didn't want him mixed up in it, it wasn't worth the money.

      So not all scammers are the Indian boilerroom operations you've seen taken down on youTube. Sometimes there's lurking on the margins of a seemingly legitimate company that's based just down the street.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I do hope ...

        [...] I suggeted he leave because it was borderline criminal and I didn't want him mixed up in it, it wasn't worth the money."

        A BBC radio programme had interviews with some scammers in India. When one was asked what his parents thought about it - he said they were really proud that he could make so much money doing exactly that.

        In all societies there are varying degrees of approval of antisocial and probably illegal activities - especially if they make money. In some cultures you are expected to do those activities - even if other people will be hurt in the process.

  14. steviebuk Silver badge


    "Details of FCIB’s secure environment were not disclosed"

    You just got them to connect to a isolated virtual machine. It's not fucking rocket science. People have been doing this on YouTube for years. With one tracking and tracing back to the actual call centre where the guy was calling from while on the call :)

  15. TheManInSpain

    I had great fun with the "Microsoft Tech Support" scam, I kept them on the line for half an hour, before telling them that my machine was running Linux!

  16. Coastal cutie

    I find these calls very useful for testing the smoke alarm - hopefully it deafens them for at least the next hour

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hold music

      I have a variation on that which involves putting them on "hold" while I "get the boss". And then select some extreme thrash punk music on the speakers for them to listen to...

  17. Terry 6 Silver badge

    They don't seem to get this

    A couple of times I've had these. I say "OK I'll get my laptop". Then a few minutes later I'll pick up the phone and say "Should it turn it on?"

    And put the phone down, go put the kettle on or watch the TV or something.

    Then pick up the phone and say "Ah it's coming up now..."

    And so on.

    But they've never clicked that they can't pretend to have found a problem if my device wasn't even on. Maybe they don't care, or assume I don't know this or something.

    1. You aint sin me, roit

      Re: They don't seem to get this

      I've fielded a call claiming that my pc was infected and was spamming out virus ridden emails... at this very moment. "Interesting", I thought to myself, "it isn't even switched on."

      I let him talk me through the process of giving him remote access, his frustration mounting as nothing seemed to work. Not surprising because I still hadn't switched it on.

      But once was enough. Now I just respond with a bored "Oh please just fuck off ".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They don't seem to get this

        ""Oh please just fuck off "."

        That sounds very British - even English - to include "please". Not sure whether the cognitive dissonance registers with them though. I let them start their spiel to this gullible softly spoken "very elderly person" - then gently interrupt - and then let rip at my highest volume. Usually they ring off - but sometimes they still persist - saying that they really are "genuine" BT, Amazon, Microsoft etc.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: They don't seem to get this

          I think it depends how you pronouce the word "please" and whether that pronunciation works on the recipient, eg "oh, pu-leeeze, just fuck off"

  18. Peter Galbavy

    All my scam calls are recorded messages or digitised voices. I feel all left out.

    1. AnotherName

      Always take the Press 1 option to enjoy the ride...

  19. AnotherName

    They don't seem to use any form of block list, as I can receive as many as three or four calls in some weeks, usually Amazon Prime renewal, Microsoft Support, BT internet, "your ISP", VISA Secure and others. No matter that I usually string them out for as long as possible before breaking the news to them that I know it's a scam, they still call back. When I move house to a different part of the country soon, I wonder how long it will take them to find the new number and start the entertainment over again...?

    1. Andy A

      That number is ALREADY getting those calls. Making the calls is ridiculously cheap, but they still have to buy some bandwidth for their voice traffic. One scammer was particularly mean - I estimated that voice channel as about 2 kilobits per second.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "[...] I wonder how long it will take them to find the new number [...]"

      Working alone in the evening in the office - a colleague's phones rang. It was a scammer. Shortly after it was another phone - this went on until every phone in the open plan area had been rung. I stopped answering them after the third one.

      The numbers were in a company DDI block - so were not published. Presumably a robocaller serially going through all possible numbers with our town's area code.

  20. paulxb

    Jim Browning

    They need to watch some of Jim Browning's videos:

    He'd be able to locate their office, access the cctv and shut them down!

  21. Andy A

    Anybody NOT have a VM ready and waiting to sting the scammers along?

    Mine is running the latest Win10, and contains some tempting items on its desktop for them to download while I'm "away" to deal with a non-existent visitor. These ae innocuous on the VM, but in the absence of a certain marker file are quite destructive.

    A quick revert to a snapshot later, and all their nasties are gone.

  22. TDog

    Scam calls and subsequent windups

    So I got one of those phone calls about bad stuff on my PC and my

    Internet going to be cut off.

    Usually I just do the SAS response but I was feeling bored.

    "Look I know it was wrong but it was just last night and surely we can

    do something about it."


    "No really I am terribly ashamed and I will never do it again."


    "I was pissed - haven't you ever been in that position"


    "So I have to deal with you guys' - is there anything I can do to fix

    my mistake?"


    "What - not anything?"


    "Look - just tell your mother I will delete the pictures of her with the horse!"

  23. Graham Lockley

    Ah the joys

    I love these guys (and girls) and enjoy stringing them along (well, its a cheap and harmless hobby). Probably my favourite was getting one whilst sat at a desk in the middle of my local telephone exchange. After about 5 mins of dire warnings about my internet being cut off I said 'Hang on I will have a look at the DSLAM to see if there any problems'. I left him on hold for 5 mins but unfortunately he hung up, criminals today have no patience !

  24. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    One of them

    phoned my then 82-year-old mother at 07:30 in the morning. She was quite naturally very annoyed at being woken up that early in the morning and gave them what for (as it were), before hanging up.


    I learnt something after having a fake "HMRC" call from a young woman who had a strong Indian accent. I repeatedly stated that her parents must be very disappointed with her because her job was scamming people and that she had let down her family by being involved in a criminal organisation. She repeatedly stated that she was from the HMRC and I suddenly realised that she might also have been duped by others and really believed that she was working for the HMRC. She genuinely sounded astonished. It wouldn't be difficut for someone in another country to put out adverts for "support workers" and convince them it was legitimate. There's always another side to any story...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A BBC radio programme found that some scammers' parents in India were really pleased that their child was making so much money doing the scamming. They knew what it involved - and it had no moral stigma for them.

  26. Electronics'R'Us

    Oh the narrow range

    I might be amused if the scammers could come up with something original. Some of the ones I have had:

    Your internet will be cut off due to IP abuse. There was silence at the other end when I asked if they knew what DHCP was.

    This is Microsoft Support and there is something wrong with your computer. My better half likes to respond that 'my husband designs computers for a living and he says it is fine'. Works a charm.

    Your BT line will be disabled unless you install this package <reason> . My line is not from BT.

    Robocall that sounded like someone in a bunker. Left the handset off the hook for 20 minutes. At least I can cost them some minutes.

    Other favourite actions:

    Replay certain recorded parts of Home Alone (particularly the machine gun scene).

    In a very deep voice "Let me get my husband". Used to have more shock value than it does today.

    "You will need to wait until I stop recording the couple next door".

    Occasionally I will use my best Edinburgh accent when answering the phone - "Hellooo!"

    An older but good alternate "Big Joe's bar, grill and firing range"

    One fine day when I was a single dad (and therefore my day is accounted for from 5:30 AM to 8 PM) I was cooking up my son's dinner (3 pots on the go) when the phone range and they asked to speak to the lady of the house. In my deepest voice "Speaking!"

    With sales types who simply won't take the hint, I keep them on the line and critique their sales pitch (they have to make a certain number of calls per hour in some of the call farms).

    I sometimes use the more amusing answering machine recordings one can get.

  27. AndrueC Silver badge

    Details of FCIB’s secure environment were not disclosed, but the Force has revealed that the scammer was told that there had been a security breach on their computer and was asked to open a Windows command line, visit a dodgy website and then download something called “SupRemo.exe”.

    Wow. That's some smooth talking by the police there although I'd have thought they had an official download URI they could suggest rather than relying on something dodgy. Talk about turning the tables on the criminal :)

    Methinks there's a grammar mistake or typo in that part of the article :)

  28. ColinPa

    Occasionally they are real.

    I had a phone call from someone saying they were from my bank, asking how I thought their service was, and could I give my current account number so they could work out which branch I was deal with. I asked them to give me my account number, so I could tell they were genuine, they could not and after a stalemate they hung up.

    I reported it to the bank who said that they had a third party asking people what they thought about the bank. They agreed that asking me for my bank account details to validate they were talking to the right person was a bit stupid. I know my wife's account details so they do not help identify the person.

    I also remember having an hour's presentation on not clicking on dodgy links. A week later we all got an email with a dodgy link ( type of URL) of course we all ignored it. We then got a rocket because no one had used the site. It was another third party company doing research on behalf of HR! I am not sure if they got any valid data, as when we discussed it at the coffee machine afterwards we all had different interpretations of the questions.

    1. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

      Re: Occasionally they are real.

      Yup my bank did that too. I get this call where someone started asking me to verify my bank info (i.e. tell them private information.) No accent or anything, and I have a small local bank so the chance of fraud is relatively low. But I pointed out I could not give out my info over an unsolicited incoming call. They were like "Oh, we didn't think of that..." I called the # on my card and it went to the same person. I don't recall what the call was about... I think they stopped making those outgoing calls at that point, since it was encouraging people to get used to giving their private info out when they shouldn't.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Occasionally they are real.

        I can probably guess the bank... I got a credit card with my bank, and they got rather upset when I was refusing to give out those kinds of details on the call they made to me. Amazing how brainless some people can be with a script in front of them.

        I even tried to give them a chance. "Just name something on the bill" I said... but we just hit a brick wall.

        I cancelled the card due to that idiocy.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Occasionally they are real.

      My electricity supplier Eon called me recently to ask me to set a date for the installation of a Smart meter. I told her I should already be on their records as not wanting one.

      She persisted listing the "advantages" - like not having to send them readings. I said I was happy for them to continue notifying me with an email when they wanted a reading. She then asked for my email address as "it isn't in our records". I said it was a specific one for Eon - which I couldn't remember immediately - and to excuse me as my lunch was ready.

      Sounds like a scam? A few minutes later an email arrived to rate the call from Eon - to the email address that is unique for the meter reading notification.

  29. Zebo-the-Fat


    A call from "BT" saying my internet would be cut off, they got confused when I asked why BT were calling and not Openreach, and how would it affect me when I didn't use either company.

  30. Miss Config

    By Recorded Message

    My latest scammers have got SLIGHTLY more sophisticated in that when I pick up the phone a recorded message is played. This tells me there is something wrong with my IP address AND ....

    if I want to correct it push button 1.

    In other words they realise the possibility that the listener can see through them and so NOT proceed with the call.

    Must admit temptation to ask whether it is my IPv4 or IPV6 address that is causing the problem and see whether the bloke even knows what I am talking about.

    1. Stoneshop

      Re: By Recorded Message

      Must admit temptation to ask whether it is my IPv4 or IPV6 address that is causing the problem and see whether the bloke even knows what I am talking about.

      "I have an RFC1139 range address; it's inconceivable that it's causing problems."

  31. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    I did exactly that

    "The Register is tempted to ask if it’s permissible to keep scammers on the line long enough to ask why their remote access software for Windows isn't doing so well under Linux, but we suspect the question won’t be appreciated. ®"

    I did *EXACTLY* that. I kept the greasy greasy scammer on for about 5 minutes "waiting" for the computer to boot (it booted in about a minute). I downloaded some scam app (over 256kbps DSL we had at that point). I said "Oh, that didn't work" (that copy of Ubuntu did not have Wine installed). They took me to another page where there *was* a Linux version of the viewer, but they said to click on the Windows one so I did. Still now Wine, so I said that didn't work. Finally, just to screw with them, I put the Linux version on (it was teamviewer, off teamviewer's page so I knew it wasn't trojaned or whatever); this was after close to 15 minutes. They logged in for about a second and said "WHAT IS THIS?!?!?!" I pulled the network cable then pointed out "Well, you didn't ask if I had Windows, I'm running Linux." Yep they were pretty pissed. The greasy bastards.

    My favorite on the current scam is it warns if I don't let them scam me, my computer "may became obsolete". If they don't immediately hang up when I hit "1" (which they do way too often) I point out to them my computers are already obsolete. 8-)

    I get illegal robocalls from these scammers like 8 times a day (fraudulent tech support, fraudulent "Marriott" Hotels who are really selling/scamming Mexican time shares, fraudulent credit card refinancing, fraudulent tech support, all are run by the same scamming group). You know what? If they waste my time, I waste theirs. DON'T just hang up, even if you don't say a word to them, their scam call centers only have like 5-10 people in them; they illegally robocall 10000s of calls a minute so 1% staying on the line for a second or two would completely destroy their ability to have live scammers do anything. They never get a single piece of information, but I have unlimited minutes so I have no problem tying up their line. Recently I've just been hitting "1" and telling the scammer "Get Covid and die". After like 1000 illegal robocalls (it's up to like 3-4000 by now) I feel I don't have to be polite any more. I also log the calls and report them to the FCC.

  32. Jason Hindle

    The Amazon Prime Scam

    A Dalek occasionally calls, claiming to be Amazon Prime and asking us to press 1 if we wish to continue using Prime Services. I worry the scammers will eventually wise up and use the voice of she who cannot be named (we call her Martha in this house).

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I let these scammers have remote access to a virtual machine

    One of the scammers installed a batch script on my Windows VM which in turn created hidden .vbs scripts which would push fullscreen fake warning screens with a phone number to call to fix the "virus".

    One scammer was more insideous and ran a program on my Windows VM which scanned all the installed web browsers looking for saved login credentials

  34. paduan

    Scam scam scam scam (to the tune of the Skol advert)

    I love these scam calls. I consider it my civic duty to waste as much of their time as possible. I've had the 'We're from Microsoft' call more than a few times and kept them on the line for upwards of half an hour (I do a really good 'old man' voice, which is getting more and more genuine, sadly) and then when I get bored or they get dangerously close to doing something, well, dangerous, I drop the 30 years in IT hammer on them and exhort them to procreate with the nearest goat.

    Then there's the 'accident that wasn't your fault' calls. You have to con the voice recognition system first before you get a human to abuse. Civic duty again there too...

    And only the other day I had 'Carphone Warehouse' calling me. On a number that Carphone Warehouse definitely don't have. Transctipt:

    Him. Hi. I'm calling you from Carphone Warehouse.

    Me. [after a bit of spiel] Do you know my name?

    Him. I don't need to know your name. The government has given me your number.

    Me. [slightly surprised at the brazenness] The government hasn't given me your number. That would be illegal.

    Him. [getting flustered] Yes they did. They gave me your number.

    Me. I *work* for the government.

    Him. *crickets*


  35. Emile

    Duck Cleaning

    I've had these scammers call many times. It's a competition in the office to see how long we can keep them on the line.

    We also have a bunch of folks calling up for 'Air Duct Cleaning Services'. Since they always wanted to waste my time I would get them to come to the office at 3:30pm on a Friday afternoon at the height of traffic. As a result subsequent follow up questions now involve looking up addresses on google street view. Now I just have to tell them I have no water fowl to clean...

  36. Zebo-the-Fat

    Accident calls

    I had regular calls about an "accident that wasn't my fault" I told them nicely that they had the wrong number and they should take me off their list.

    The calls continued (all from the same number) and I told them I should be off their list.

    The calls continued, up to 3 calls in one hour, I then gave them "I hope you get cancer and your children die in a fire"

    I have had no calls since then!

    Proves being nice does not work!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Accident calls

      I've occasionally used "Oh my God! Did I die?"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Accident calls

      "Proves being nice does not work!"

      I now have a strategy to be a very nice elderly grandpa for them. Once they start to feel comfortable - then I unleash the invective. People find cognitive dissonance very disturbing to their mind.

      A relationships study many years ago said that people get upset when someone is consistently nice and kind - then suddenly isn't.

      The opposite was also true. An apparently nasty person who suddenly shows a much nicer side will then be loved more than one who has always been nice.

  37. Mystereed

    We've had three so far

    The first one only lasted a few seconds because I got too excited and said "I've been waiting ages for one of these calls", when my other half handed me the phone saying it was someone from Openreach. Click... Doh!

    I think they are on a timer because the next two hung up at 20 minutes, almost to the second, having made no meaningful progress. I've never been brave enough to let them actually get in to my network, just wasted their time by pretending to be doing things which take time. I know enough to know you have to be pretty good to be totally safe when letting someone run arbitary code. I haven't set up a VM on an isolated network segment yet, maybe when I retire I'll investigate some best practice disposable setups.

    I just keep polite and misunderstand what they are saying or take it too literally:

    Them - "Can you go to a device which you use to access the internet?"

    Me - "Yes, no problem."

    Them "What does it show on the screen?"

    Me -"It's all black"

    Them - "What do you mean"

    Me - "It isn't switched on"

    Them - "Switch it on please" (this is when you can both hear them get interested that they have someone compliant and also frustrated because they realise it will take a while).

    Them - "What does it show on the screen?"

    Me - "The news"

    After a few more questions I give away that it is the TV, which I use to access the Internet to watch Netflix. Then I suggest I use a laptop?

    Them - "What does it show?"

    Me - "It's black - it's not switched on" (this is where the real frustration starts to creep in to their voice)

    It takes ages to boot

    I then pretend to try the websites like teamviewer which they want me to open. They all fail with a blocked content message. I then helpfully suggest that it might be due to it being my work laptop which I've been told has a lot of security 'stuff' on it, should I use my personal one?

    I then do the "What does it show?" & "Black, it isn't switched on" and long time to boot loop again.

    I'm not sure what happens next as that has been the 20 minute limit where they just hang up. I assume they just give up and move on to the next attempt on their robocaller, but as long as I am not doing anything important, wasting their time gives me a little bit of pleasure.

    I think giving them a bit of an adrenaline rush by allowing them to vent their anger is wrong - just keep them frustrated and depressed about how slow and thick these westerners can be (they have all had Indian accents, though the two I strung along were called Dave & Alex). They probably get paid by results, wasting their time will cause them stress, allowing them to vent will release it? Play the long game - give them ulcers or other stress related conditions!

  38. The Central Scrutinizer

    I managed to keep a scam caller going for about 20 minutes once before he said "are you a bloody fkn arsehole"? and hung up. Made my day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      One rang me back immediately to complain I had been very impolite in putting the phone down on his spiel.

      1. paduan

        This reminds me about the 'we're conducting a survey' calls my late father used to get. When he moved in next door to me I rigged his house up to my second line (a hangover from when I used to need a fax machine that I'd never got round to cancelling) and for several years he blundered around the internet giving away the phone number to all and sundry. I only discovered this after he died when I put a receiver on the socket so I could field calls from suppliers and suchlike. After a while the scammers called asking for him by name... so I politely informed them that he had expired two weeks previously... whereupon they rather insensitively continued their spiel rather than apologise and ring off. This made me see red. Infra red. Volcanically infra red. I'm not sure that I've ever used more swear words in such a short space of time... and most amazingly, after insulting the parentage of one such caller and slamming the phone down, he rang back to insult me. My dander being somewhat elevated, I took it as a challenge. He rang back three times before giving up. I let off so much steam that day.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon