Abi (abigailb) wrote,

In this age of mobiles and digits, we have come to forget certain quirks of older technology. One such peculiarity is the way that a circuit on a phone line on the British fixed public telephone network can only be closed by the initiator. Or, in English: you can only hang up on a landline from the end that's calling it. If you've been called, there's nothing you can do. I encountered this concept during my childhood, when someone did this accidentally, presumably by failing to place the receiver down properly. We blew a whistle down the line, to try and get them to notice.

More recently, people have been taking advantage of this anomaly, to conduct quite a clever scam. They call you claiming to be the police, and tell you, often with dramatic adornment, that your card has been cloned or stolen and needs to be cancelled. They advise you to phone the number on the back of your card. I had one of these maybe a year ago. The call was very suspicious, so I ignored it, but I couldn't figure out their angle.

The trick is, they never hang up. They fake the dial tone. They fake the ring tone. They pretend to be your bank. They wheedle your PIN out of you. They fake the police. Eventually, they send a courier to pick up the card. And then they go off to the ATM and empty your account.

I was lucky that time, but not everyone is. An acquaintance got taken good and hard. So when they called yesterday, I immediately realised what was going on, scrambled for my iPhone, put the thing on speakerphone, and taped the bastard.

A recording [anyone fancy transcribing it?]

It's quite funny. Especially the ending.

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