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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Stop a Debt Collection Scam From Targeting You? 497

An anonymous reader writes "I'm currently being targeted by an overseas debt collection scam. My landline rings every 10-15 minutes all day every day. I considered getting a blacklisting device to block the incoming calls, but the call center spoofs a different number on my caller ID each time, and it's gotten to the point where I've just unplugged the phones. I'm already on the Do No Call Registry and have filed a complaint with the FTC. Aside from ditching my landline, changing my number, and/or blowing a whistle into the receiver anytime I actually pick up, are there any real solutions out there? Has anybody had luck with a blacklisting device?"
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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Stop a Debt Collection Scam From Targeting You?

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  • Fax machine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:14PM (#45507845)

    Plug in a fax machine.
    If they're using anything decent it will detect the fax signal and remove you from the calling.

    • Re:Fax machine (Score:5, Informative)

      by Deathlizard ( 115856 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:27PM (#45507973) Homepage Journal

      Setting your answering machine to 6 rings seems to work for us. they usually stop after the 4th ring and flag the number as dead since they assume everybody has an answering machine.

      Another option is to use a thrid party call screener like nomorobo or Google Voice, but I've never tried those so YMMV.

      • Re:Fax machine (Score:5, Informative)

        by kilodelta ( 843627 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @03:02PM (#45508309) Homepage
        Or if you want, on fourth ring play SIT tones. Some of the robo-dialers recognize that as number out of service too.
        • Re:Fax machine (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Mateorabi ( 108522 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @06:46PM (#45510089) Homepage
          You can purchase a commercial device that spoofs some sort of disconnected/out-of-service tone just as you pick up the receiver. To normal humans it sounds like a quick beep, but to the auto-dialer software it makes it think the number is no longer valid and removes you from the list without handing it off to a human rep. They tell you to expect some calls with no one on the other end for a bit, while you are in the process of being auto-removed from various lists.
      • Re:Fax machine (Score:5, Interesting)

        by EdIII ( 1114411 ) on Monday November 25, 2013 @05:02AM (#45512833)

        Fax tones are not something that will stop them. That strongly implies the number is live and capable of picking up the phone. Since this is a residential target it will be assumed that it's not dedicated. Only some very old people I know still have dedicated landlines for fax machines these days.

        The only thing that I know works are SIT tones. That *is* interpreted by almost all systems as an indication the number cannot be routed to, or is out of service. Most of them receive that information via out-of-band signalling anyways so the fax machine negotiation noise isn't even looked at it either (that's in-band signalling). A debt collection service would be murdered on cost unless they were VOIP, so while it's possible that fax is supported, it's also highly likely it's not implemented in code. Either way, that's a shit disposition flag to be resting the fate of your sanity on.

        Unfortunately, since the poster does not want to get rid of the landline, they need a blacklist device cheap. That's still going to require at least a dedicated machine and a pair of FXS/FXO ports. I know you can get some of that stuff as cards or USB devices.

        Assuming you have all that it's rather trivial to set up Asterisk to drop the call before even answering it based on CLID matches. It's also fairly easy to set up a minimalist IVR that plays a message and asks the person to wait before it's connected. You could even go so far as to ask a CAPTCHA like question. Ask them to press a random number to be connected.

        The most difficult part about this solution is needing to keep the land line.

        I know many people that have debt collectors all over them. Very few walked away unharmed from Wall Street's greed finally blowing up. Anyways, I created a few systems with Asterisk, some old VOIP adapters, and a CLID based blacklist system for friends. Works quite well and after a few years now people hardly get any calls at all.

        It costs $10-$30 to port a number to VOIP. I would highly suggest that and a nice VOIP phone for the house. Makes everything cheaper and more flexible for solutions in the future.

    • fwd ur number (Score:5, Interesting)

      by schlachter ( 862210 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:45PM (#45508171)

      temporarily forward your number to another debt collection agency. let them battle it out.
      let ur friends know to contact u via your cell in the interim.

      • Re:fwd ur number (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Kvasio ( 127200 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @03:19PM (#45508483)

        no, temporarily forward your number to the FTC. That should make them do something about US operators allowing spoofed CLID.

        On my domestic (non-US) market, I remember only one incident of spooffed CLID. I asked my operator to check from which operator the call originated. I sent them polite email asking to consider preventing such incidents, otherwise the telco regulator will be informed. Did not occure again (so far).

        • by Splab ( 574204 )

          Just because they are representing different caller ids, doesn't mean it's spoofed. You can pick up ranges for very little money - a couple of hundred US numbers and a trunk is about $100 a month + traffic.

    • Re:Fax machine (Score:5, Informative)

      by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:52PM (#45508233)

      Plug in a fax machine. If they're using anything decent it will detect the fax signal and remove you from the calling.

      A good idea in theory, but not in practice. They don't remove your number when detecting a fax machine at first. It takes multiple attempts; as you said, if they're using anything decent... then they know you're a residential line, and if they have no other phone number, it'll typically assume it's a dual-purpose line and keep you on the list.

      These robo-dialers are listening for particular frequencies that are in the human vocal range -- that's why when you pick up and say hello there's a slight pause. That's because it is routing it to a person... they know that, say, only 1 in 50 will pickup, so they make 50 calls whenever someone becomes available.. and route the 1 that answers to the available rep.

      Hanging a fax machine off the line will keep it from going to a person, but it won't get you dropped from the list; not if it's a residential line. now if it's your work phone... it'll probably do the job quite nicely.

      • by tchuladdiass ( 174342 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @05:12PM (#45509349) Homepage

        That's why whenever I don't recognize the phone number, I'll pick up but don't say anything. If it is a human on the line, they will eventually say hello.

  • by HarrySquatter ( 1698416 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:15PM (#45507851)

    I'm already on the Do No Call Registry and have filed a complaint with the FTC.

    Why would an overseas debt collector care about the Do Not Call list that is only enforceable within the US?

    Aside from ditching my landline, changing my number, and/or blowing a whistle into the receiver anytime I actually pick up, are there any real solutions out there? Has anybody had luck with a blacklisting device?"

    Can you not simply block international calls? Do you routinely get calls from people overseas that it would matter?

    • Unfortunately due to the way the telecoms system is set up, if you control your own CLID then you can set any number you want to be displayed at the other end, which means you can mask international origins. Also, there are many many ways for an overseas call centre to have an origin point from within a specific country (its a lot cheaper to do VOIP internationally and then go legacy at the final few hops).

  • landline? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:15PM (#45507853)

    what's a landline?

    • Re:landline? (Score:5, Informative)

      by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gm a i l . c om> on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:33PM (#45508023) Homepage Journal
      For purposes of this story, a landline is a phone shared by all residents of a single-family dwelling. In the United States, landlines offered unlimited minutes to local and toll-free numbers long before cell phones did.
  • by Grand Facade ( 35180 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:15PM (#45507857)

    If they are spoofing ANL data what criteria will be your blacklist be doing blocking by?

    Time for a new phone Number

  • Why not.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by carbuck ( 1728596 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:16PM (#45507859)
    ...just change your number. I know you said you're looking for alternatives, but, if you have your phone unplugged already, then you're not able to receive calls. Unless you need to call out and have your number recognized, it might just be easier to change it. I'm not sure what sort of device will be able to blacklist random numbers without missing some calls that you actually want to receive.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:16PM (#45507863)

    What you want is a whitelisting device, not a blacklisting device so that it rejects any number not part of your known contacts.

  • Screening your calls (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:17PM (#45507885) Journal

    There are companies you can hire to screen your calls.
    All your calls are forwarded to them and they'll answer the phone.
    You give them instructions on how to handle your calls and they'll only pass through the calls that you want.

    • ..and that screening company will quickly drop him as a client
    • by Grampa John ( 1817948 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @06:24PM (#45509913)
      We had a similar problem a few years ago. Although it was not a debt-collection scam, some sort of bot was calling many times/day and all through the night. Really annoying. So we talked to our provider (the local cable company) and they set up an interception service that forces callers to affirm that the call is legitimate by hitting a couple of numbers before the call comes through to us. We have not had a robocall since then. We can whitelist numbers so they don't get challenged, but have not done much of that. We pay perhaps a dollar/month for the service.
  • find an old modem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:18PM (#45507889) Homepage Journal

    put it on auto answer. preferably so that it doesn't hang up if it can't negotiate.

    someone, somewhere, is paying for those calls somehow and this can maximize that and tie up maximum resources from the caller.

    or an answering machine that has just "hello? helloo??".

    obviously you aren't using the phoneline for anything now anyways..

  • Is it really scam? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:20PM (#45507911) Journal

    Are you so sure its a scam? Are you sure you were the one being scammed? That sounds like an awful lot of persistence and effort for some confidence man to go thru.

    I would think by now the nominal scam-er would have determined you are not being taken in by it and moved on to try their grift on some other mark.

    If I were you I'd get a credit report and make sure someone had not stolen my identity and opened a bunch of other credit lines that these guys are now trying to collect on because some other fraudster used your name.

    • by Jeng ( 926980 )

      This is actually a very common scam. When my co-worker was having this problem I would google the number and there would be many websites with people complaining about it.

      These people tend to live in nearly-third world conditions and work incredibly cheap so it is actually very worth their time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PaperGeek ( 1045780 )
      It sounds very much like a scam my wife experienced. I can't figure out what they mean to get out of it but it is not legitimate. We had these calls for weeks, at all hours of the day and night, asking for someone who's never had this number (not in the last few years). On several occasions I asked who are you trying to collect this debt for? And the answer was, The Lending Club. I contacted the Lending Club and was promptly answered by a guy in their fraud department, who was very helpful, and told me th
    • by taustin ( 171655 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @04:43PM (#45509173) Homepage Journal

      If they're calling every 10-15 minutes, it's a scam by definition. It's illegal for debt collectors to all that often.

  • by smist08 ( 1059006 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:22PM (#45507921)
    I tend to just answer, and then say "Just hold on a sec..." and then put the phone down and continue watching TV. Like someone else said that then costs them time/money. If my father in law is visiting, I just hand him the phone and he can tell stories from his childhood endlessly. He loves an audience.
  • by bev_tech_rob ( 313485 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:23PM (#45507931)
    Didn't some company come out with a device that would send out the tones that you get when you call a disconnected line? That way the auto-dialer that the scammers are using would mark the line as disconnected and stop calling. Or you could setup an answering machine to answer the line with those tones...
  • Answer the phone. Find out who is calling. Tell them not to call you again. THEN you will have info to file a complaint.

  • Tie them up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jeng ( 926980 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:25PM (#45507955)

    I had a co-worker who was getting harassed on her work line from a fake money collection organization. So I started calling them, and calling them, and then they discontinued their number.

    They then started calling her again a few months later and it took even less time for them to shut down that number.

    As far as I know she hasn't had another call since.

    Oh, and if at all possible try to figure out where they are calling from and try to use the differences in culture to insult them. Like calling them shoe lickers or something. Just calling them regular english put downs aren't as effective.

    Also you may want to try the "why not do something better with your life" talk, after all a lot of times these people are better educated than many of their peers and could make a significant difference in their community if they weren't intent on trying to scam those rich dumb people from that rich dumb country.

  • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <> on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:36PM (#45508063) Journal

    Try the whistle every time they answer. If that fails, try Asterisk + Lenny: []

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:37PM (#45508075) Homepage Journal
    I run an android call blocker with a whitelist to screen out telemarketers (who are apparently quite happy to ignore the do-not-call registry,) job recruiters and the occasional ransom demand from those guys in Mexico. Since you're on a landline, it's a bit harder. You could plug your phone into a SIP gateway and set up asterisk on some machine that you have on all the time. Then you could set the system up to only ring your SIP phone for numbers on the whitelist.

    Normally I dump everyone else to voicemail, but they could still tie up your landline and fill up your voicemail box. If they're robodialing you, you could drop anyone not on a whitelist into a voice menu system that requires a couple of button presses that requires a couple of button presses to get to voice mail, and disconnect them after 10 or 15 seconds if they don't press a button.

  • by Planesdragon ( 210349 ) <slashdot@cPERIOD ... minus punct> on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:42PM (#45508127) Homepage Journal

    Pick up the phone. Ask them who they're calling from, have them spell your name specifically, state you "do not recall" such alleged debt. If you can, record the call. ("It's for my own records" if they ask.) Don't ever give them ANY information. If they insist on collection, ask them to send you a physical claim. If such arrives, find a defect and tell them about it when they call back. (unless, of course, they have an actually-toll-free number, which they have to pay for.)

    Oh, and always, ALWAYS make them repeat themselves. Repeat yourself ad-naueum, as well.

    Just don't make any false statements, or agree to the validity of any debt you are not willing to pay.

    (Honestly, though, I'd expect a scam to drop at "I'm recording this call, and your name is?")

  • by clinko ( 232501 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:44PM (#45508159) Journal

    I had success by porting my landline to Google Voice Account, which has global spam filtering [].

    First, get an AT&T GoPhone ($20). Then port to Google Voice ($20), choosing AT&T as the option.
    You are asked for a transfer id that you will need to call AT&T for... It is NOT on the phone, and not available without calling AT&T's support #.

    I don't know your story, but this also makes you more flexible to either drop your current landline, or move to a cheaper provider (likely).

    Either way, Google Voice does wonders at spam filtering, but some still make it through. Best of luck!

  • by Cito ( 1725214 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @02:57PM (#45508273)

    I have a portable phone/answering matching on landline with me DSL bundle. I kept getting this call from India about credit card problems even though I dont own a credit card, my credit is sooooo bad I destroyed it when I was 18 and got sued by banks which I never showed up or paid and since I own no assets they wasted money suing... Now I'm in my 40s

    Anyhow the trick to stop the shit India calls coming in 4 and 5 times per day was sadly be as offensive and racist and vile and shocking as possible, become a Chan kid as if they od'd on Ritalin hehe

    I had some chick get so mad she was screaming at me in a foreign language, the a supervisor took over her call and acted as ic was going to apologize, so I blasted him with racist to sexual to US outsourcing call centers so they can make 50 cent an hour blah blah. He got to yelling in his own language, I kept having fun looking up how to give death threats and rape daughters in their language. The line goes dead ....

    Its now been a year and 2 months and my phone has not range once except for my family and occasional doc appt reminder

    Go nuts and go the sicker the better, it works and you'll enjoy the cathartic moment of destroying them to the point they start screaming some foreign gibberish while you laugh and know them dumbasses won't call you ever again.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @03:02PM (#45508319) Homepage

    set up an asterisk pbx. whitelist numbers you want and send everything else to a blackhole that is the "this number is disconnected" recording.
    you can whitelist your entire area code so it's easy to block everything else.

    • Re:Asterisk (Score:4, Informative)

      by Nkwe ( 604125 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @04:38PM (#45509137)
      Asterisk is a good solution if you can and don't mind hosting it (or having it hosted somewhere). I set up a simple IVR system within Asterisk that answers the phone and plays a simple message: "I don't take calls from robots, press 'H' for human to prove you are not a robot." If you press 4, then my phones actually ring and then go to voice mail if I don't answer. If you don't press 4, the call gets dropped and I am not bothered. This has eliminated the problem with robocalls for me. I still get an occasional manually dialed polling or sales call. However if someone, even a salesperson, bothers to actually make an effort and dial the phone, I don't mind talking to them, even if only to say that I am not interested. I did white list the local reverse 911 number because that sort of robocall I might want to hear. (For the non-US readers, reverse 911 is a system that allows governmental emergency services to call everyone in a city or neighborhood to play an automated emergency message.)
  • by gregor-e ( 136142 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @03:06PM (#45508361) Homepage
    I'll add my voice to the chorus suggesting Google Voice. By the time the user is asked to give their name and wait while Google Voice rings all of your phones, telemarketers give up. At least, I haven't gotten a single telemarketer since switching. Now, some of your friends may not have the patience to wait a few extra seconds either, but maybe that just proves they're not real friends.
  • by sandbagger ( 654585 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @03:08PM (#45508385)

    Set up a whitelisting system. Meaning, calls you enter into the white list are passed on to you. Everything else gets forwarded to my mentally ill mother.

    Now, before anyone says this is cruel, she LOVES talking on the phone. In fact, if it were an Olympic sport, she'd be on the podium each time. In fact, I have to keep her number blacklisted because she'd call me 400-500 times a month.

  • Use Google Voice (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @03:17PM (#45508479)

    If you use Google Voice you can set it to ask each caller to say their name before it will ring your phone. That's enough to stop practically all automated calling systems.

    It's $20 to port your number to Google Voice, but then everything else besides outgoing international calls is paid for by Google spying on you. []

  • Change your number (Score:5, Informative)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @04:11PM (#45508939)

    I work for a phone company in the US. There's basically no way to stop these. When the call comes in, there's no way to know where it came from. Just change your number. You could do some things to try and get off their list but the fact of the matter is, if you're on their list, you're on THE list and this wont be the last problem you'll have. Your number will get sold and re-sold.

    Lastly, to get targeted the way you did usually means they got a "hit" on your number... meaning one of their cons worked. If you're not already aware of them ripping you off, you should check your finances carefully to be sure they haven't already gotten some money from you. If they're calling you that much it's because they think you bit before so you'll bite again.

  • by Oceanplexian ( 807998 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @05:29PM (#45509489) Homepage
    If you're up for it, just run the calls through an Asterisk server running off a 800 number or PRI from a provider that actually gives you the real caller data.

    At that point you'll have the real ANI instead of the CPN (caller ID). Grab that number, track down who owns it, then get a lawyer to serve them with a cease and desist.
  • by toonces33 ( 841696 ) on Sunday November 24, 2013 @05:34PM (#45509535)

    They had an epic screwup many years ago. One month I paid the bill, and instead of deducting the amount on the check from the balance, they added it so the next bill showed a past-due amount that was exactly double what the previous bill had been. Calling their customer service was useless - you would wait in the queue for 45 minutes only to find out that their "computers were down" and there was nothing they could do. This went on for days. Eventually I thought I got it all taken care of, and then out of the blue 6 months later I started getting calls from a collection agency. I started sending some rather rude letters to the CEO after this - eventually they admitted the problem.

    It was nearly 30 years ago, but to this day I refuse to have anything to do with Sprint.

  • Almost All (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 ) on Monday November 25, 2013 @07:10AM (#45513177)
    Debt collectors other than the original lender all tend to be committing fraud one way or another. Here is one answer that has worked for me. You get a nonsense collection call. Listen to the pitch and then ask that since you were polite enough to listen would they listen to you for a moment. If they say yes you have set the hook. Tell them you would bet money that they were recently hired. The chances are that that is quite true. Collection companies try to claim to pay on a percentage of recovered money. Then ask the collector if the people sitting around him seem to be recent hires as well. Next tell him it is a scam to get him to work for free. The way it works is the guy will get two weeks in and even if checks have come in they company will not admit it or post it. After two weeks they will fire him for lack of collections and he will never receive a penny for his efforts. I have done this and the collector instantly confronted the phone room manager and loudly quit on the spot. The manager was the owner and he called back ten minutes later and said I could not do that as advertising for new help was expensive. I told him i would do it every time a got a call. companies sell these debts for a couple bucks each so the initial lender can charge them off against taxes, The supposed collector owns the debt but he may only collect on one in 500 debts he purchases. So if you are costing him money by causing his employees to quit he will take your suggestion to rip up the debt paper absolving you of the debt. Get them any way you can.

May all your PUSHes be POPped.