Some phone numbers are more equal than others
December 2, 2016 1:09 PM   Subscribe

I Dialed a Wrong Number and Stumbled Into International Phone Fraud. "Cuba is one of the most expensive countries to call from the U.S. […] To get around this tightly restricted market, a great many fraudulent and ingenious ways of making money have sprung up around calling to Cuba. Global capitalism abhors a vacuum. And so, of calls from North America and Europe, the ones to Cuba are the most likely to be fraudulent in some way, according to the Communications Fraud Control Association’s 2015 global survey. And telecommunications fraud is no small thing. In all, fraud costs the telecommunications industry an estimated $38.1 billion a year."

This is related to the One and Cut or Wangiri scam where a seemingly local number calls (usually mobile) phones, rings once, and hopes for a return call which charge a premium per-minute rate and attempt to keep callers on the line with hold messages or promises of prizes. Also sometimes known as the 809 Scam which is real though exaggerated misinformation sometimes spreads about the scam.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage (20 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sorry, wrong number.
posted by Melismata at 1:35 PM on December 2, 2016


Yikes. I'm going to claim that first sentence of the [more inside] is my attempt to keep you on the post long enough to bill you more. I'm not rambling, I'm demonstrating the technique in the links!
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 1:41 PM on December 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


This explains the fairly large number of one ring calls I have been getting recently. I've been blocking them on the assumption of fraud, but I was wondering what was going on.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:57 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


New phone who dis?
posted by sparklemotion at 2:13 PM on December 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wow thanks for this. It explains some calls I've gotten. My usual policy is: if they don't call back repeatedly and don't leave a voicemail, it's probably a wrong number or something weird and I should leave it alone.
posted by numaner at 2:15 PM on December 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


If you want me, leave message.

If I know you/like you or give a damn, I might, or might not, call you back.

Better yet, text.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:45 PM on December 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


Oddly I got two calls today, from a Swiss and from a Croatian number.
posted by olya at 4:25 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Huh... I think I've fallen victim to a more clever version of this. When asked by my mom to call some cousin or relative to wish them a happy whatever, or congratulate them about something or other, or give my sympathy about the death of someone, or ask how they were feeling or some such (I don't remember, what I was supposed to be calling about...).

Anyway, I dial the phone number in Ecuador, and someone picks up whose voice I don't recognize, but I have a huge family and they have huge families and there are often servants who might answer the phone, so whatever. There is a lot of noise in the background...TV's...people talking...kids running around..

I ask if I can speak to so-and-so. The person answering the phone responds "What?" (clearly unable to hear over all the noise). I repeat my request and they say "Hold on." Then I listen to the background noise for 5 minutes before hanging up. I call back half an hour later and catch on that it's a recording when they say literally the exact same thing in the exact same tone.

I report to my mom who tells me I'm making it up because who would answer the phone and do that and why would anyone do that and obviously I just don't want to call or whatever. Fast forward 6 months when a relative is visiting at my parents house and says she tried to call Ecuador and the strangest thing happened.... VINDICATED!

I use VOIP. Calling ecuador only costs about 14 cents a minute, though, not a dollar. But this "hold on" on ruse is really much smarter since if I heard an audio book I'd know I had the wrong number. "Hold on" is much harder to catch on to.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:42 PM on December 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


Can you skype Cuba?
posted by Oyéah at 6:21 PM on December 2, 2016


Can you skype Cuba?

Yes, but the party in Cuba has to have Internet access.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:25 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


During one billing cycle last year, our business phone bill doubled. After an investigation, we discovered that the tech support LEAD was using an old information number, dating back to at least the 80's, to find and connect to customer phone numbers. No one calls information anymore. Undoubtedly this number had been bought and sold many times over the years, and was currently being used to fleece people. Yes, he is still the tech support lead.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:36 PM on December 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Somewhat related: I once got a cold call from someone in Nigeria. (I'm in Australia.) He said he found my phone number in a SIM card of a phone he bought. It started looking even more scammy when he kept requesting that I call him back, so as not to use up his credit. (Err, no.)

I no longer pick up unknown or hidden numbers. It's the phone equivalent of spam email.
posted by iffthen at 5:30 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


fraud costs the telecommunications industry an estimated $38.1 billion a year.

I suppose that this is the usual inflated industry-generated accounting. To begin with, it assumes that all the fraudulent calls would have been placed anyway if there were no free way to place them.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:41 AM on December 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


After 18 years out of the country, I am completely blown away by the number of wrong numbers and marketing calls, and plain dead-air, I get on either my cell or my landline.
posted by Goofyy at 5:46 AM on December 3, 2016


A lot of the hang up and dead air calls you get are part of what's called a CNAM revenue sharing program, where scammy telecom companies charge your providers for delivering Caller ID data for telemarketing and fraud calls. So they make money whether you pick up the phone or not. They got paid as soon as they delivered the Caller ID. If you are getting a whole barrage of calls from a single source, they're probably making money just by making your phone ring.

And it's fine and well if you personally want to not pick up unknown numbers, but many emergency calls come from numbers you don't recognize, and in a number of situations, you may not be able to call them back. So if someone is trying to contact you from jail, from a hospital or other facility with a centralized switchboard, or from a payphone that doesn't accept incoming calls, you may not be able to get back in touch with them.

It may be a reasonable tradeoff for some, but not picking up the phone doesn't do anything to deter the scammers, and it's not something that everyone can do.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:05 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


It may be a reasonable tradeoff for some, but not picking up the phone doesn't do anything to deter the scammers, and it's not something that everyone can do.

My phone actually labels calls "Spam or Fraud". So the number will be listed as 555-555-5555 whatever, but the name will be "Spam or Fraud." I have no idea where it gets this info, but when I've answered these calls they've been fraud, so I don't answer them anymore.

I do answer Anonymous calls (almost always a hospital -- presumably since having the exact number show up would be google-able and people would be able to figure out what clinic/specialty/issue you're being treated at/for, which is private), and I answer calls from unfamiliar numbers if my landline rings. I don't answer unfamiliar numbers if only my cell rings because I don't give out my cell number, just my landline number which simultaneously rings both phones. Anyone who knows me would be dialing the landline number and they'd both be ringing.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:13 AM on December 3, 2016


One of the benefits of getting my phone service through a prepaid MVNO, as opposed to directly through the network owner is that the service won't even let me make calls that would incur tolls.

I think they have a more expensive plan that includes some international calling, but being forced to switch to Google voice to make international calls calls is a good firewall against this sort of thing.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:04 AM on December 3, 2016


My phone actually labels calls "Spam or Fraud". So the number will be listed as 555-555-5555 whatever, but the name will be "Spam or Fraud." I have no idea where it gets this info...

Phone company techs don't like getting these calls either.
posted by dances with hamsters at 4:53 PM on December 3, 2016


Some providers offer add-on services that will label numbers that have been reported as spam or fraud calls. It's usually opt in, but some phones have it on by default.
posted by ernielundquist at 5:42 PM on December 3, 2016


Melismata: "Sorry, wrong number."

Sorry, Right Number
posted by Chrysostom at 5:45 PM on December 7, 2016


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