So I called the scammers back.
November 23, 2017 7:42 PM   Subscribe

“Six months ago, I got a phone call from someone pretending to be Apple Computers. And, just through sheer force of will, and I guess a lot of free time, me and Damiano managed to figure out a lot about these people.” A story of friendship, sleuthing, and scamming. Full transcript available at the bottom of the page.
posted by Grandysaur (27 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
This podcast and it's sequel kept us thoroughly entertained while driving from PDX to SLC. I just love the enthusiasm and giggling.
posted by mecran01 at 7:47 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, this was an excellent two-part episode. It's worth your time people. It gets weirder and weirder. And then....well I won't spoil it. :)
posted by Fizz at 8:06 PM on November 23


I'm a reply all diehard, since the tldr days, and I loved this (double) episode but really felt like Alex really went limp at the critical moment - he had the chance to have conversation we all have wanted to have and he got coy and metaphorical! I know he felt threatened, but if he was going to wimp out, why go at all?
posted by windowbr8r at 8:12 PM on November 23


Oh this is wonderful.
posted by odinsdream at 8:18 PM on November 23


They have chutzpah, but come on, it was obvs where the call center was.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:36 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]


Before I get into this stuff, can someone tell me how much more or less satisfying this is than the 419eater stuff where they get the scammers to tattoo themselves with silly stuff? Or where they get the scammers to send them money instead? Cuz that's gonna be hard to beat is my feeling. But I'm happy to be proved wrong. I do it all the time.
posted by some loser at 9:07 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]


I mean, it's very literally an organized crime operation. What would you want them to do? Go in guns blazing? Keep annoying these goons until they get the shit kicked out of them? They did pretty much everything I'd expect. They went there and proved definitively these guys would say anything to get out of the spotlight. Hopefully people hear this and learn to be a little less gullible when someone calls saying their iCloud account is hacked by troans.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:07 PM on November 23 [2 favorites]


or compare and contrast to the Hargrove the marxist detective approach? (still available online)
posted by some loser at 9:08 PM on November 23


My big takeaway is that Alex Goldman should get checked by a neurologist, because losing coordination in the heat like that is a symptom of multiple sclerosis.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:18 PM on November 23 [2 favorites]




some loser, you should read it. This is very different than scam baiting. The guy makes a personal connection with one of the managers of the scam company, and keeps up the connection after the guy quits, and finds out lots of details about the company.

If you prefer scam baiting, there's a reddit site, and, more interesting, there's a public service organization in New Zealand with lots of bots that attempt to engage email phishers/scammers. You just forward scam emails to [email protected] and the bots will get to work.

Though their bots are just trying to keep these guys busy, not trying to actually make personal connections like this guy.
posted by eye of newt at 10:08 PM on November 23 [2 favorites]


Story linked in an earlier thread
posted by flabdablet at 10:21 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]


their bots are just trying to keep these guys busy

Pretty sure this is the only way to break this business model with a nonzero chance of success.
posted by flabdablet at 10:23 PM on November 23 [1 favorite]


In part 2, the podcasters go to India to talk to the scammers.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:20 PM on November 23 [2 favorites]


Excellent story, thanks for the links.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:41 AM on November 24


Part two is in equal parts interesting and really dumb. I mean...they go in there with their American hubris...like the heroes of some Hollywood production...stir up some shit, see what happens. And they‘re lucky they are American dudes because all sorts of unpleasant stuff could have happened. It‘s disturbing.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:13 AM on November 24 [11 favorites]


I've not listened to the podcast/read the link above. I instead make this post under the idea that the universe shoves things under my nose and a week or so ago the thing shoved under my nose/ears was Art of Charm 632. Yesterday this same crazy world shoved the word elicitation and then John Nolan with a book called Confidential and the name Stephan Hernan.

So now any of you who want to follow the rabbit trail of how to do what is believed to me to be described in the podcast now has another step down the trail.


(My best scammer interaction to date was to get one to write 2 different letters admitting to a Class G felony that I was able to then shove under the Judge's nose in a felony fraud case. )
posted by rough ashlar at 3:59 AM on November 24 [3 favorites]


I had a scammer come at me over Google Hangouts a few weeks ago. I immediately started acting like I knew who this person was and they immediately started playing along. In the beginning the person said they were in "the store" and needed my credit card number so they could check out, which I mean, what store does that?

But they persisted and I started weaving a story about how the person should already have my bank card after I lent it to them at the party last weekend and omg you didn't lose it did you? She was like, "Yeah baby. I lost it. I'm really sorry. But everyone deserves a second chance. You love me."

So I pretended to be mad at her and said I didn't want to talk right now since I'm on the phone with the bank to cancel the card and god I can't believe you. I told her I would talk to her "after the meeting with the label" on Tuesday and started ignoring her messages. She grew more irate, cursing me, and finally said before disconnecting that because of my treatment of her, she wasn't even going to come to the meeting!

I contacted her on Tuesday asking where she was because everyone else was already here and waiting. She still persisted in wanting cards. Over the next week she contacted me several more times trying to weasel card info out of me.

Finally I just confronted her and asked if we could be scam friends now. Is this a good gig? Do you make much money doing this? What's the schedule like, etc. She didn't really respond to my attempts to make an connection. I could tell she had grown tired of messing with me and she made one last half-hearted attempt saying something like "Are you going to give me the iTunes gift cards or not," to which I responded negatively, and she finally went away and I haven't heard from her since.
posted by glonous keming at 6:10 AM on November 24 [11 favorites]


> It‘s disturbing.

I agree with Omnomnom. I mean, it's a great story up to a certain point, but I started realizing that they weren't just playing the roles of idiot American goofballs, they actually were idiot American goofballs, and I kind of wanted them to get beaten up so they'd learn the world isn't their playground. The turning point came with the line "We had forgotten to like text her or call her or anything, and so she’s super freaked out." You forgot to "like text her or call her or anything"? Yeah, fuck you, take life a little more seriously.
posted by languagehat at 6:41 AM on November 24 [10 favorites]


From the moment they went to Delhi at the invitation of a criminal gang member, I was freaked out on their behalf. Delhi is not the safest city in the world to bumble cluelessly around in at the best of times—even if you haven’t been invited over by a criminal gang and don’t spend all your time alternately irritating the hell out of their ringleaders and then placing yourself completely at the mercy of their security guards. I was very relieved they got out alive and unharmed.
posted by Aravis76 at 6:52 AM on November 24 [2 favorites]


grumpybear69: "it was obvs where the call center was"

Oh, I think I know this one! Is it: "The real call center was in our hearts all along"?
posted by komara at 7:34 AM on November 24 [16 favorites]


Yes, the part 2 seemed such a waste. They really had no plan other than bumbling around. He had actually somehow made a personal connection with the guy, and somehow had roped in his boss too. When he gets to India, instead of beating them up or worse, they actually take them to a restaurant and feed them. They keep asking "What do you want from us?' It is almost like a date asking "Where is this relationship going?"

I suppose part of it is "are these guys a threat?" and they quickly realize how harmless and clueless these guys are.

But they could have used the encounter as an opening. "We are journalists. We aren't here to expose you or we would have done that already. We just want to hear your story. We'll only publish as much as you want to talk about." And he definitely should have played video games with the guy. Keep building on the personal connection and he could have gotten a real in-depth look at the scamming operation and how it works. These guys were acting like they wanted to tell their story.
posted by eye of newt at 9:36 AM on November 24 [8 favorites]


Just because someone is not an immediate threat doesn't mean they're not a threat, or that their friends on the dark rooftop won't push you down the stairs.

I knew as soon as "Alex Martin" dropped his happy act on the phone that he was not anything he claimed to be. He didn't want to tell his story-- he was waiting for the Reply All folks to make their hush-money ask.
posted by zennie at 11:04 AM on November 24 [5 favorites]


And that should have been the real story. Two americans thinking they're there for some sort of justice, two other people sure that the americans want hush money and hinting for the americans to state their demands, against the civil background of hosting dinner. I was kind of shocked Alex never brought it up.
posted by mochapickle at 5:41 PM on November 24 [2 favorites]


I was amused during part I and tense as hell reading part II for reasons Omnomnom points out.
posted by biggreenplant at 5:52 PM on November 25


> It‘s disturbing.

I agree with Omnomnom. I mean, it's a great story up to a certain point, but I started realizing that they weren't just playing the roles of idiot American goofballs, they actually were idiot American goofballs, and I kind of wanted them to get beaten up so they'd learn the world isn't their playground. The turning point came with the line "We had forgotten to like text her or call her or anything, and so she’s super freaked out." You forgot to "like text her or call her or anything"? Yeah, fuck you, take life a little more seriously.
posted by languagehat at 6:41 AM on November 24 [8 favorites ?] [!]


I also worried that they were being too cavalier and underprepared with how they involved that journalist. The idiot goofballs can just hop on a flight back to the US at the first sign of trouble but she has more at stake (safety, journalistic cover, etc) if things get ugly on the ground.

From the headline/write-up, I came in expecting some epic exposé or troll-back story but it seems like a missed opportunity to really investigate and confront a major scamming organization.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 9:46 AM on November 26 [1 favorite]


This is my favourite podcast - consistently excellent.
posted by sinical at 9:24 PM on November 27


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