November 6th, 2021

computer typing

NaNoWriMo Day 6 -- 1849 / 9000 (21%)

I'm not going to post snippets every day, but I have managed to meet my target so far this month.

Words written during November: 1849 / 9000 (21%)
Writing days: 6/6

What I do want to write about are scammers. The calls seem to come in bunches. It's almost as though there's some sort of scammer's phone list you can subscribe to which will send out a batch of phone numbers each week. We can go for a couple of weeks without a scam call and then get one a day for several days before it goes quiet again. Before anyone suggests call blocking a) the phone contract we have doesn't have that feature because we're getting the calls on the landline not my mobile and we're not paying for caller display and b) the scammers spoof the numbers, so you're probably just blocking some innocent soul who has no idea that scammers are making it look as though the call is coming from their number.

The scam du jour is the kitchen appliance insurance scam. The current version goes like this. After a mumbled company name which I can never catch, the scammer (usually a woman) says that it's time to renew the kitchen appliance insurance and after asking if everything is working, offers a 30% discount because we didn't make a claim during the year.

In the past, I've just stopped the call at this point by telling the caller that we don't have insurance. They say we have, I say we haven't and that their "records" are wrong, they say they'll correct them and I hang up, only to receive another call on the same theme the very next day. However, the other day a scammer called while I was warming soup and as I could stir the soup and chat at the same time, I played along to see where the scam would go.

I basically just said, "Yes" or "Hmmm" (in agreeing sort of way) to everything the woman said. She then said she'd pass me over to someone else who would sort out the payment. So that's interesting. There are obviously more people who do the calling than who do the actually stealing of the money.

A cheerful sounding man now came on the line. I couldn't place his accent, though there was just a hint of an Australian accent there. Perhaps someone from India who had spent time in Australia?

I can't remember all the details of what was said, but I had a strategy. "If you let me have the company's address," I said, "I can send a cheque in payment." The conversation then went something like this:

"We can't take a cheque. We'll arrange a direct debit."

"Oh, I can't do that," I said.

"It won't be a monthly payment. Just a single payment."

"No, it's that I can't do a direct debit. My bank account is glarded. My money is in a tax clode." Now this is some gibberish I've stolen from Atomic Shrimp's scam baiting videos. (He only does email scams, not phone ones, but I thought I would try some of his fake jargon.)

Slight confusion from the scammer and a little back and forth which I've forgotten, but then he said, "Your bank account has been frozen?"

"No, glarded. It means my money is in a tax clode. It's a bit of a nuisance because you can't do internet banking or set up new direct debits, but it saves hundreds of pounds in tax."

A little more confusion followed until I finally said, "Well, if you won't accept a cheque and I can't do a direct debit, there's no way I can pay," and I hung up.

So there you are. That's what the fake kitchen appliance insurance scam is about. I don't know whether they would content themselves with taking a modest sum or whether they'd try to clean out the account. They obviously bank on the fact that when you buy an appliance, you are always subjected to a high pressure sales pitch to get you to take out insurance. As we never succumb, I know that anyone phoning claiming to be from our insurance company is a scammer. The policies we do have for the car and the house are done through a local insurance broker. But a lot of people are likely to fall for it.

I don't always play along with scammers, but if it's a convenient time I hope to unsettle them a little by taking them off-script. Also, if they're talking to me, they're not scamming someone they manage to catch at a vulnerable moment.