back to article Faking incontinence and other ways to scare off tech support scammers

If it's Friday, it must be time for On-Call, our weekly column that recounts readers experiences of being asked to dodgy jobs at dodgy times for dodgy reasons. Last week we featured the tale of a tech support chap who took a call from a tech support scammer and managed to keep him on the phone long enough to get him logged in …

  1. Torben Mogensen

    Quick solution

    While playing elaborate pranks on the scammers may be fun, you are wasting your own time as well as theirs -- and your time is probably much more valuable, to you at least.

    So when I get a call from someone claiming to be from the Microsoft Tech Support Centre or some such, I just say "No, you're not" and hang up.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Quick solution

      There is an even better one:

      "I believe you have the wrong number, this is X city police department, fraud squad, would you please be so kind to provide your name, address and telephone number we will get back to you shortly".

      1. Shady

        Re: easy pickings

        Ha, reminds of a old website long ago where you could enter a "friends" details - whereupon they'd receive a very authentic looking email from the FBI (this was 20 odd years ago) informing them that they had been monitored viewing very illegal pornography and they would be contacted shortly....

        I did this to my (normally) very jovial, ebullien, porn-loving friend whilst he was sat close by so I could monitor his reaction. He looked so close to death I never dared own up.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quick solution

      One word in your message makes it worth it. "Fun"

      When the fun stops, stop - but not until then.

    3. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Quick solution

      While playing elaborate pranks on the scammers may be fun, you are wasting your own time as well as theirs -- and your time is probably much more valuable, to you at least.

      This is not the proper BOFH spirit!

      NOTHING is more important than having fun taking the piss out of these scammers.

      (Oh, except preparing a roll of carpet, a bag of lime and a large block of cement for the next luser who dares to raise a support ticket)

    4. regadpellagru

      Re: Quick solution

      "While playing elaborate pranks on the scammers may be fun, you are wasting your own time as well as theirs -- and your time is probably much more valuable, to you at least.

      So when I get a call from someone claiming to be from the Microsoft Tech Support Centre or some such, I just say "No, you're not" and hang up."

      Well, yes, exactly that. I don't really have scammers' calls but a never ending stream of People calling "on behalf of " my electricity Company to sell me solar Panels ...

      I'm doing this way:

      - get the phone set open

      - wait to make sure I detect a Sound detection algorythm

      - say hello

      - get the noise of phone set on from their side

      - put the phone off

      Done, quickly, without the usual bullshit.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Quick solution

        "I'm doing this way:"

        "wait to make sure I detect a Sound detection algorithm"

        Have the word "Hello" followed by a pause on the answering machine. I do that, and turn off the ringer. The message is short and to the point, so legit callers don't have to wait long. If I hear a human [that I want to], I pick up the phone. Otherwise, I don't need the disturbance in my day.

        Phones are not fires. Phones are not floods. Phones are not incoming tornados nor meteors hurtling down on top of my head. Phones are not gushing blood spewing out of a serious life-threatening wound.

        A ringing phone is NOT an emergency. I leave my phone ringer OFF.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quick solution

      > While playing elaborate pranks on the scammers may be fun, you are wasting your own time as well as theirs

      It's not a waste of your time to waste theirs. All the time they are on the phone to you they are NOT on the phone to someone who might get taken in.

      You are doing society a service and if enough of us waste enough of their time then the whole thing stops being financially viable for the boys in Kolkata.

    6. Kane Silver badge

      Re: Quick solution

      "While playing elaborate pranks on the scammers may be fun, you are wasting your own time as well as theirs"

      Yars, but any time that is spent (not wasted) keeping them busy, means they are not scamming anyone else.

    7. Olivier2553

      Re: Quick solution

      "While playing elaborate pranks on the scammers may be fun, you are wasting your own time as well as theirs -- and your time is probably much more valuable, to you at least."

      Contrary to them, you know what is going on and you can multitask. If you miss something they sau, it is not critical, while they must hand on to the phone to score.

      While you ask them to wait, you can do something else, they cant have multiple call simultaneously.

      And honestly, lagging them does not require such brain resources that you cannot do anything else at same time.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Quick solution

        While playing elaborate pranks on the scammers may be fun, you are wasting your own time as well as theirs -- and your time is probably much more valuable, to you at least.

        The answer to this is some kind of phone bot. I came across a site run by a man who'd written a bot to handle cold-callers. Mostly it just says "Uh-huh", "OK", and "Yeah", but occasionally it comes out with something like "You'll have to repeat that... I've been taking sleeping pills and I've just woken up." or it shouts a request for coffee to somebody else in the house. There's an amusing recording of an insurance salesman interacting with it.

        Elsewhere, there's a great recording of a guy who freaks out a telephone canvasser by pretending to be a cop investigating the murder of the person being called.

        1. Tim Seventh

          Re: Quick solution

          "The answer to this is some kind of phone bot. I came across a site run by a man who'd written a bot to handle cold-callers."

          The infamous reply with Huh, mmm, Yes, and There's a bee on my arm guy. I believe this is the source you were talking about.

          www.jollyrogertelco.com/

          1. r4co0n

            Re: Quick solution

            Jolly Roger Telephone

            That's the right domain: http://www.jollyrogertelephone.com

            YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3OxCWLEmoIhNMm-hnvBm9Q

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quick solution

      To be honest, saying "No you're not" is 3 words more than necessary. I just hang up, I've never had one call back.

    9. Chemical Bob

      Re: Quick solution

      I just put them on hold and see how long it takes for the light to go off.

      1. Mi Tasol

        Re: Quick solution

        I agree if I am in a good mood.

        But if they interupt me at the wrong time I tell them " bullshit ar***le because I don't have a computer you lying !@#$%^".

        It is surprising how slow some are at hanging up at that.

    10. BlackKnight(markb)

      Re: Quick solution

      no it really wasnt at the time i was quite bored.

      I just regurgetated the worst of my help desk calls from back in the day (some really did leave scars).

      He did stay on the line for about 45mins, untill i got bored again and told him he had no chance. you wouldnt believe the langauge. :D

      for marketers, i politely say im not interested, followed by letting them speak to one of my young kids. or just placing the phone down and going back to what ever it was i was doing.

    11. phuzz Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Quick solution

      No need to waste your own time, just tell them to hang on while you find a pen, then leave the phone next to the radio/tv and go on with your day.

      Eventually they'll realise you're messing with them and hang up, but it can take a long time before they give up hope.

    12. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

      Re: Quick solution

      Sorry, you don't get to decide what my time is worth to me.

  2. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    I string them along for a bit occasionally interjecting random words and phrases. Like "OK, I see the command prompt. What should I do now? 42" or interrupting them by saying "fried eggs" and then they say "sorry" and I say "nothing". It slowly builds up their anger until I get bored and tell them something extremely nasty about their genitals.

  3. Chris King Silver badge

    Freak 'em out !

    I haven't had to deploy my "emergency" phrase yet, but I fear one day I shall have to...

    "You sound yummy, will you be my friend ?"

    Bonus points if I manage to sound dangerous-yet-heavily-medicated while saying it.

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Freak 'em out !

      But what happens when they do want to be your friend?

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Freak 'em out !

        "But what happens when they do want to be your friend?"
        Suggest that you will be happy to use a condom?

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Freak 'em out !

        "But what happens when they do want to be your friend?"

        get full contact info, then thank them and tell them you're going to send all of that info to the cops (to avoid callbacks). Then do it (along with the time of day and a proper summary).

    2. Robin Bradshaw

      Re: Freak 'em out !

      By be my friend did you mean harrass them into joining your professional network on LinkedIn? :P

    3. druck

      Re: Freak 'em out !

      Or how about setting up a throwaway VM with some nice FBI wallpaper to give them the shits? Or maybe they be even less likely to mess with one that has an ISIS flag adorning the backdrop.

  4. John H Woods Silver badge

    There's got to be a small market for booby trapped VMs to point these pesky pests at ... I'm sure we could come up with a list of features ... maybe a Linux VM masquerading as a Windows box that coukd infect them with ransomware? Or delete their call lists?

  5. Ian Emery Silver badge
    Megaphone

    So many good ideas, but most take so much time; I just talk really quietly, then use a loud whistle.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      "I just talk really quietly, then use a loud whistle."

      an old modem might help. command it to 'answer' and the first couple of tones are ear-splitting.

      /me imagines a phone scammer throwing down the headset in either case - can't remove it fast enough to avoid ear damage.

      1. Fatman Silver badge

        RE: old modem

        Back in the '90's my employer would be hounded by assholes trying their copier supplies scam.

        I had a dial up modem attached to the pc, and wired in parallel with the 'guts' of a 1A deskset1.

        One day this asshole calls up, and tries to pull his shit over on me, and I wasn't having it. I fired up the modem program and had it dial a number. As the modem started to bang out the tones, I screamed out at the top of my lungs: "God dammit Sarah, you stupid c--t! Can't you see that I am using this line!" I then hung up on the SOB.

        The boss walked in, and had this puzzled look on his face, a short explanation resulted in a smirk as he walked out of my office.

        1 For those who are too young to know, the 1A key systems were electro-mechanical in nature, using a 'fat' telephone cable (25 or 50 pairs), and one or two rows of line selectors ('keys')

        If you want further reading:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1A2_Key_System

  6. kmac499

    “So … uh…what are you wearing?”

    Brilliant; beats all of mine for a quick disconnect.

    My growng list include..

    Which computer? this is a Data Centre

    Will this make my pirate copy legal?

    I already have antibacterial software, that's right antibacterial it works with things bigger than viruses

    etc...

    Tis the duty of all IT savvy folk to waste as much of these scums time as possible.. and it's fun.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      I helped get one of the UK power companies prosecuted after they annoyed me too much on the door step. It was most satisfying to see them get fined.

    2. Montreal Sean

      Infected

      "Are you sure my computer has a virus? I ways wear a condom while surfing porn. Can you come check me after you clean my computer?"

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I usually put the phone down on them as soon as it is obvious it is a cold caller spiel. One rang me back immediately to complain that I was being very rude - and that his god would curse me.

    A doorstep chugger had the door shut in their face when they wouldn't take no for an answer. He then kept ringing the bell and shouting abuse through the letterbox for several minutes.

    1. Chris King Silver badge

      "One rang me back immediately to complain that I was being very rude - and that his god would curse me".

      I had one say his god would curse me...

      "Maybe, but I think he'll be too busy cursing potty-mouthed scumbags like you !" *click*

      1. Soruk

        If the caller is Indian (or that neck of the woods), I sometimes do...

        "May your gods smile upon you and bless you with many children. All of them girls."

        ....and if their accent is so thick you can barely make out what they're saying...

        "I'm very sorry, I don't speak Urdu".

        [Yes, I know, Urdu is spoken in Pakistan, not India]

    2. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

      Re: A doorstep chugger

      These people are not very bright. I once told one that I didn't sign up to anything proposed by cold callers. He kept insisting for a couple of minutes that he was not a cold caller.

      Back on topic, telling a tech support scammer that I'm not using Windows usually elicits the hopeful response of "a Mac?" Simply answering "No." tends to cause an immediate call termination.

    3. Phil W

      "that his god would curse me."

      Correct response to that : "Yeah but my god is bigger than your god and can beat your god up."

      1. SunfflePungus

        Arguing about who has the better imaginary friend, a great way to pass the time.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "He then kept ringing the bell and shouting abuse "

      It's at this point you open the door and ask if they want to join you in a game of baseball. Except you've only got a bat handy.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge
        Devil

        Excellent. I was wondering what a nice bucket of water tossed out the front door on them would do...? Throwing the bucket after the water would be optional. Since we're overdue for our religious nutcases (two guys, white shirts, black ties, riding bicycles) I'll test it on them.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge
          Devil

          "Throwing the bucket after the water would be optional."
          Our local rural supplier still sells galvanised iron buckets. Much more effective than the plastic sort :-)

          My face technique with god-botherers is to start a discussion of Leviticus. "What? You tell me it's the inerrant word of god and you've never read it?" Worth it for the look on their faces. Yes, I am the spawn of Satan :-)

        2. PNGuinn Silver badge
          Happy

          re: a nice bucket of water tossed out the front door on them

          Years ago my dad told me that when he was a kid the milkman made a comment to his mum that his dad took some exception to.

          Apparently grandad came to the door, picked up the milkman and physically hurled him down the path. Followed by his crate of milk bottles.

          Some time later the dairy manager came round to apologise.

          Happier days.

          1. Phil W

            Re: re: a nice bucket of water tossed out the front door on them

            I hate to tell you this but I think that milkman might be your real grandfather.....

    5. PatientOne

      "One rang me back immediately to complain that I was being very rude - and that his god would curse me."

      Option one: Sing " My god's better than your god" (the lyrics are out there, trust me - just can't remember them off the top of my head)

      Option two: Inform them that "My god's a Fun god, my god's the Sun god, Ra-ra-ra-ra-ra"

      Option three: Ask them what their god does to sinners like them.

      Option four: Reply with "from hell's heart i stab at thee for hate's sake i spit my last breath at thee"

      Or laugh

      Or hang up.

      Depends on how much time you feel like wasting, and remember - if they call back they might forget to hide their number so you can pass it on to the ICO/Oftel etc. After all, they've just threatenned you over the phone, and as they made the call - that's illegal :)

      1. Clockworkseer

        "Option one: Sing " My god's better than your god" (the lyrics are out there, trust me - just can't remember them off the top of my head)"

        As I recall:

        "My god's better than your god,

        and my god's bigger than yours

        My god's coming round your god's heaven to show your god what for"

        Glorious tuneage.

        The old classic is "How did you get this number? Please stay on the line while we trace you No civilian should have this number."

    6. John Tserkezis

      "A doorstep chugger had the door shut in their face when they wouldn't take no for an answer. He then kept ringing the bell and shouting abuse through the letterbox for several minutes."

      Following some choice abuse, I had one scammer call be back 3 times saying "you can't say that to me!"

      Turns out I could.

  8. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Bugrit, millenium hand and shrimp

    Told him, I did

  9. Drat

    Jedi mind trick

    "Let me turn my computer on. Whilst it is booting up I have a very special message for you from your god, who is extremely unhappy you have fallen in to a life of crime. You should go an tell the local police what has been happening, it is the only way of saving your soul..."

  10. Felonmarmer

    I tell them about a documentary I saw showed how people who work in call centres like these are frequently ripped off by their bosses with stories of payroll errors that mean they won't be paid till next week, and then next week there's another excuse until finally they give up and leave.

  11. Andy Non
    Happy

    Play along with them...

    I kept one on the line for half an hour, pretending to be an old bloke who didn't know much about computers. The computer belonged to my son and was upstairs, so I had to slowly trudge up and down stairs to turn it on, wait for it booting, then do every single thing he instructed me to do. Plus my typing isn't very good, so I tend to make a lot of mistakes and get lots of error messages. After half an hour of this he asked for my card details to which I replied the wife had the card and she was out shopping so he agreed to phone back later. A bit later on he phoned back, but "sorry mate, she's not back yet". He never phoned back again. While I'm wasting their time they aren't scamming someone else. I never mentioned that I'd spent the whole time in my armchair while watching TV and my computer runs Linux anyway.

    1. Roger Greenwood
      Happy

      Re: Play along with them...

      "wasting their time they aren't scamming someone else"

      This.

      It is our solemn duty, while trying not to laugh.

      (Personally I prefer "Code in .." a few times, then "Hold the line please while I trace the call")

  12. WonkoTheSane
    Trollface

    (Reposted from a BOFH 3 months ago)

    My usual response to cold callers goes as follows:-

    Caller: "Scam scam scammity scam?"

    Me (Best 1930's BBC accent): "I'm terribly sorry old chap, but I'm afraid I don't speak a word of English. Good day to you!" *hang up*

    If they call back, I say (crossly) "I said GOOD DAY SIR!" *hang up*

  13. Martin Summers Silver badge

    I tried the emotional tactic once asking the guy on the other end whether his God would be happy with him for his actions. He ended up screaming noise, yes noise not words, down the line at me while I continued on my religious emotional rant in return. It went on for some time til he hung up. Perhaps telling him he would burn in hell for his actions was a bit too far...

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Those in call centres

      People who like cold calling (and there are some) love the adrenaline rush of getting one over someone. They love the victory of your defeat. There is no empathetic side to them. Psychopaths? An easy word for someone who likes quick wins, has shallow emotions, wants thrills. I assume the person on the other end is one of these and so nothing I can say will do anything but trigger their rage at being thwarted. I know my solemn duty is to keep them on the line for a long time, but I usually can't bear it.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Those in call centres

        I can say will do anything but trigger their rage at being thwarted. I know my solemn duty is to keep them on the line for a long time, but I usually can't bear it.

        Can't bear it?!? Hand in your BOFH badge now!

        Just pretend to be a compilation of the worst traits of the worst suicide inducing users you've ever had inflicted on you to deal with. I actually had one scammer repeatedly screaming down the phone in frustration at me "following his directions" a little to literally. Well, it would have been if the Win98SE box running purely in my personal virtual memory (virtual nightmares, really...) was actually a real PC. Wasn't at a PC at the time so I improvised.

        Scammer: "ok, goto type scammer.com into the address bar"

        me: scammerdotcom says the page can't be displayed)

        <5 mins of increasing frustration on his part>

        me: Oh, you meant that "dot" should have been a full stop? Why didn't you say that?

        Scammer: I DID SAY THAT YOU #%#$

        me: <sob, hurt voice> but I'm just doing what your telling me to do, your instructions aren't very specific and I'm terrified that your going to leave my computer with this virus on it and etc etc etc...

        He calmed down and was brought back to the brink another two or three times, lastly by the discovery that my "virtual" box was running win98 rather than vista or win7. Poor thing.

        Ended up with their "supervisor" who made better progress, though IE 4 wouldn't display the website, they wanted me to send an RDC help invitation to get around that (on 98!?!) so eventually pushed them into realising IE4 was a bit old so tried to download firefox, which wouldn't run, "magically" let their 4th attempt at installing a different web browser to work before they gave up, then they had to talk me through uninstalling the AV, firewall, etc with reboots at each stage (and getting hung up on the old press any key thing to continue thing, I couldn't find it on the keyboard!) only to finally download their program and in their moment of triumph having finally got the program to run...

        The piece de resistance...

        Me: Yes! it's run. Oh. Was it meant to pop up that warning?

        scammer #2: Yes, that's perfectly normal. Just click on yes.

        Me: <upset> But it doesn't give up that option!

        them: What does it say...?

        Me: it says "A Fatal Exception of OE has occurred at 000, uh lots of numbers and "This application must be terminated" with a blue background.

        Them: <fraught silence>

        Me: <innocently> Was it supposed to do that?

        I have heard a few phones slammed down on me in my career after telling people "no", but never one anywhere near that hard.

    2. Sanguma

      Perhaps telling him he would burn in hell for his actions was a bit too far...

      And you missed out the little details about how his devil loved, abso-effing-lutely loved mountain oysters and kentucky fried toes?

      for shame. Oh ye of little imagination ... :)

    3. Robert Moore
      Thumb Up

      Perhaps telling him he would burn in hell for his actions was a bit too far...

      Not at all.

      I prefer asking if their mother is proud of them, for ripping people off.

      Alternately the "Hold on for just a sec." then putting down the phone and continuing with whatever you were doing is quick, easy, and effective.

      1. Col_Panek

        Better to put the phone next to your computer speaker playing music, so they think you're on hold.

  14. DailyLlama

    My mum can barely turn her computer on and do anything other than play solitaire, but she's repeatedly told phone scammers that "my son works for the National High Tech Crime Unit, so can you hold for a moment, while I turn the trace on please?"

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      Get your mum some cookies

      And some good tea. She's definitely deserved it.

  15. windy_miller
    Devil

    Put them on hold

    I find the best course of action is to put them on hold...

    Scammer: "Hello, blah, blah, blah"

    Me: "Hmm yes that does sound bad. Can you just hold on one second?"

    If you keep coming back every minute or two ("Can you just hang on a bit, I'll be with you shortly") you can string them along for ages.

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Put them on hold

      I don't have a 'hold' function, I usually use one of two variations:

      a) if they ask to speak to the manager, I reply that "He's with a client at the moment - oh, wait, he's just seeing them out. He'll be with you in a minute" then put the handset on the desk and leave them to wait in hope.

      b) Start talking to them and then say "Oh, hang on, there's someone at the door. I'll be back in a moment" and again put handset on desk

      Best I've managed so far is 6min 35sec before they give up.

      And for a simulation of 'hold' switch to a really weird Internet radio station in the background - Hot gospel preacher?

      1. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: Put them on hold

        I don't know what it is about your post that put this idea in my head, but...

        "Could you hold on a few minutes - I just need to finish up with my girlfriend.." and go to a porn site and start something (un)suitable playing (with the speakers on). Wander off and make a snack.

      2. PNGuinn Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Put them on hold

        "Scammity ..."

        Hello ... <listen for 15 seconds or so> ... <interrupt sounding a little urgent>

        Sorry ... can you hold on for a minute?

        Getup, go for a pee, flush (next door room, so hopefully audible).

        Sorry ... no, I was busting for a pee ... what? No, not interested, goodbye.

    2. CustardGannet

      Re: Put them on hold

      Me: "I've got a pan of food on the stove - can you just hang on ?"

      Walk into kitchen, rattle a couple of pans, start doing washing up...

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Put them on hold

        start doing washing up...

        Talk about the cure being worse than the disease! Anyway - I don't need to wash up - I have cats and dogs to clean the plates for me..

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Put them on hold

        For added point, do a loud scream and yell "Oh my god... " followed by "Fire... call the fire department". A bit of screaming about "it's got me" and then hang up.

  16. Ol'Peculier

    I've never had a Microsoft call, but like others have stated, it's our job to keep them trying to scam us rather than those more vulnerable.

    I do have fun with others, with ambulance chasers: I say I can't talk due to the CAA being involved. When they ask who they are, I say "It's the Civil Aviation Authority, it's because of the plane crash"

    People trying to flog phones: "Do you have any family that would be interested in this offer" Me, after a short pause and a sniff, "Both my parents were on the plane that got shot down over the Ukraine"

    ...amongst others...

    1. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

      A friend of mine had someone call up "This is about the accident you had...". It turned out that my friend had indeed had an accident, which had left him concussed and with very little short-term memory. There then followed a long and (for the scammer) most frustrating conversation as the scammer was mistaken for an online grocery, a vet dealing with the castration of a pet cat, a hospital, someone whom he'd forgotten the name of and so on, over and over and over again.

      The scammer ended up beside himself with frustration, yet not quite able to put the phone down since he was never openly abused or mocked.

  17. Johnny Canuck

    Lenny

    Basically a script which repeats a few phrases from a befuddled old man - pretty funny.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWrkDOt_IfM

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: Lenny

      Reminds me of about a hundred years ago, when I had a Nokia feature phone with the ability to play back a recording during a phone call. I had a few 'one sided' conversations recorded, and I'd prank people I knew by ringing them and starting one of the recordings. My favourite was a recording from a taxi firm trying to confirm a booking.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chod dunga madar chod!

    If you enjoy messing with these guys, then try saying the words above (it means f-you mother f-er in hindi) ... they'll then call back multiple times every day and you get to mess with them more often!

  19. TheMole

    Put a 3 year old on the line

    When my daughter was younger, I used to tell scammers that I was too old to understand technology, but that my daughter knew more than I did and ask if it was ok to put her on. She was a very chatty toddler and would happily witter away until they hung up. Usually 2-5 minutes.

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Put a 3 year old on the line

      You are leading her into the paths of righteousness, friend.

  20. mhoulden
    Trollface

    One of my favourites is still the person who put the phone next to a radio tuned to the Today Programme and let the caller have a long conversation with John Humphreys. Bonus points if you can do it during Thought For The Day and get them to have a discussion about religion.

  21. EastFinchleyite

    Start the trace

    When I get a call from any kind of scammer (tech support, double glazing, solar panels whatever), I use the same tactic. Partially cover the phone and move it about 18 inches away and then say to a non-existent colleague "I have another one, You start the trace and I'll keep them on the line".

    I then go back and appear to be very interested. If they don't hang up quickly I do another bit with my "colleague".

    Normally works well.

  22. wolfetone Silver badge

    "...all showing a site so extremely graphic we're going to spare you the name and URL..."

    So er, it isn't Lemon Party then?

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      "...all showing a site so extremely graphic we're going to spare you the name and URL..."

      So er, it isn't Lemon Party then?

      yeah it's hard to find something that's truly shocking any more. anything listed in wikipedia as a "shock site" would be one of THOSE classics, no longer shocking any more.

      But if you search on rotten.com or /b on 4chan or "one of the other sites" long enough you'll probably find something that's so bad it makes average people vomit uncontrollably. THAT is the one to use! Bonus for content that's blatantly illegal in India or wherever they're calling from.

      /me hears "you spin me right round baby right round..." in the background

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        But nothing is as accurate to label you as gay after 15 spins?

  23. Pompous Git Silver badge

    Usually...

    ... the scammers ask for Mrs Git by name. I ask: "How do you know Mrs Git?"

    Caller says: "I don't know her. I just need to speak to her."

    The Git says: "I believe you are her lesbian lover and that it's you who killed her! This is a crime scene and everything you say is being recorded for evidence."

    [Click]

  24. JimC Silver badge

    If I'm reading a book I'll sometimes read them a few paragraphs of whatever I'm reading.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      "If I'm reading a book I'll sometimes read them a few paragraphs of whatever I'm reading."
      What a great idea! I just put Finnegan's Wake next to the phone :-)

      1. Mike Richards Silver badge

        Not the Computer Misuse Act? (Trust me - you won't believe the twist).

      2. Sanguma

        I just put Finnegan's Wake next to the phone :-)

        Is there a Finnegan's Wake audio book? What about audiobooks for Shakespeare? Marlow? Goethe?

        Combine that with Eliza, and [...] Profit!

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Good idea. I always have planning regulations and building codes at hand. Riveting!

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Good idea. I always have planning regulations and building codes at hand. Riveting!

        There's always the full text of the new GDPR. That'll put you to sleep any time.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dump the landline

    best solution (over a year clear now)

    1. Peter2 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Dump the landline

      Great idea. Do you dump the VDSL running on it as well?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Great idea. Do you dump the VDSL running on it as well?

        Er, no idea - I have fibre to the door, so no need for any DSL.

  26. Blacklight
    Megaphone

    Lenny

    I've just installed Lenny onto our PABX as a handy extension. Now I'll probably get no calls...

    I also love that other default message (with the correct English pack) that says "All members of the household are currently assisting other telemarkers. Your call will be answered in the order it was received"...(and then dumps them on permanent hold music)

    1. johnmayo

      Re: Lenny

      This one?

      https://youtu.be/8-yU5Ekv14U (Telemarketeer hold music)

  27. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
    Happy

    Get a landline call blocking box for tenner, sorted!

    I have had my share of fun with them ( I usually pretend to be an immigrant worker with very minimal English ), I got a second-hand call blocker box off eBay for £10 and 99% of these scumbags get cut off the second they reach my call blocking box without me even knowing of their existence.

  28. Dharkharon

    Make it a competition

    I have an old phone with an incredibly annoying 8bit version of greensleeves as a hold function. I usually tell the caller that I need to get an adult or similar excuse and then put them on hold to see how long they last. Current record is a PPI caller on 5 minutes. Tech callers usually give up in the 2 minute region.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I used to pass the phone to my toddler - that would always work.

    Nowadays, when they say "I'm from [company]", I just say 'cool, so am I - do you want to call me on my internal number instead'. Drrrrr hang-up

  30. tedleaf

    Next scam caller gets the "what are you wearing" one.

    Then the next after that gets the "concussed" treatment..

    The one that worked well for me,in that it got one if my numbers removed from lots of lists was telling the persons supervisor that the number they had called was a national chemical incident hotline and that they were causing absolute panic every time they rang it and that if it didn't stop,Ofcom/serious fraud office would be informed and that they would be prosecuted with costs and compensation claims s well,that particular mobile number was very quiet for two years after a few weeks...

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ring ring

    Hullo. Microsoft security. How may I direct your call?

    Click, brrrr

  32. Richard Scratcher
    Paris Hilton

    Sorry, my computer is in the other room... hang on...

    "Hello, my name is James and I'm calling from Microsoft support. We have detected a virus on your computer."

    "Oh, dear!"

    "Don't worry Mr Smith, we can fix it for you today over the phone. Is your computer switched on at the moment?"

    "It's in the other room, hang on a moment."

    [Lay the phone down for a couple of minutes]

    "Hello?"

    "Hello. Is it switched on now?"

    "No, I've had a look and it's not switched on at the moment. Would you like me to switch it on?"

    "Yes Mr Smith, we need you to switch it on."

    "OK, hang on a moment, I'll go and switch it on."

    [Lay the phone down for a couple of minutes]

    "Hello? I've switched it on now"

    "Can't you take your phone to the computer?"

    "No, it's in the other room, the wire won't reach."

    "Oh... OK I need you to open the Windows Event Viewer.."

    "OK hang on a moment.:"

    [Lay the phone down for a couple of minutes]

    "Sorry, did you say Windows Event Viewer?"

    "Yes please, Windows Event Viewer."

    "OK got it, Windows Advert Viewer. Hang on a moment.:"

    [Lay the phone down for a couple of minutes]

    "Hello? Are you still there"

    "Yes, I'm still here mr Smith."

    "Right, It's all gone blue."

    "All gone blue?"

    "Yes all blue, and there's some writing. It says... it says... Oh damn! Hang on I'll go and read it again."

    [Lay the phone down for a couple of minutes]

    (And so on)

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fun for the family

    I've usually found that asking "Is your mother proud of what you do?" will reveal that the caller is far more fluent in English swear words than you might have expected.

  34. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    All you need is here

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/04/29/it_helpdesk_creates_oh_hold_hell/

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    can you not get them to call back on the BOFH premium line?

    All proper places with a BOFH charge for service desk calls, while protecting the free/standard rate numbers like the ark of the covenant.

    cant we charge them for "fixing" our PC I dont know how long it takes to set up a line, but that seems a good reverse scam...

  36. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Whenever possible, work as a team.

  37. IHateWearingATie
    Gimp

    Damn it.

    I only get these damn calls on my work mobile during the day, never at home.

    I suspect purring "what are you wearing, I hope it's black leather" when sat at a desk in the clients office may be a career limiting move...

    1. Montreal Sean

      Re: Damn it.

      "career limiting move"

      Maybe not, it might open up a new sideline business for you. :)

  38. Marty McFly
    Pint

    Time waste

    I took one for an hour and a half once. Had a VM all set up for that purpose on a closed network. Let them load their remote control software. I held on as long as I could until they insisted on a credit card number to continue.

    They are very good at what they do. To be completely transparent, their technical skills are better than a lot of front line tech support people. It is a shame they are scamming rather than working for a legitimate company.

    Recently, I have been telling them this is an office phone. I ask them why IT is calling on an outside line rather than on an internal extension. They will usually hang up.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Time waste

      They are very good at what they do. To be completely transparent, their technical skills are better than a lot of front line tech support people. It is a shame they are scamming rather than working for a legitimate company.

      ITIL says that you should not recruit technical staff to main first line servicedesks.

      ITIL was written as "how to get a functional servicedesk with the civil service pay structure". First line is expected to be paid 12k starting pay, up to 15k with about 5 years experience IIRC. The manual sayath that it's difficult to retain competent technical staff on such a wage. Second line is barely better for the same reasons and the structure is built around expecting that you can only afford one or two actually competent people at 3rd line, with us protected by legions of minions with such narrow training that they can't get a job in a different environment but are somewhat operationally effective.

      Why managers decide to ignore certain bits of ITIL (like deliberately hiring minimum wage idiots) but then decide to rigidly enforce other parts of the ITIL structure (written assuming minimum wage competence) eludes me.

  39. Androgynous Cow Herd

    Telephone Judo

    This is a bit more subtle, and plays to the fact that I myself have worked in (inbound) call centers.

    The object of the game is to get as much information about the caller as possible without giving up anything about myself.

    I will usually let them talk for a minute or so, then interrupt them to say "Wow, you have a great phone voice and manner. Let me ask you, are you satisfied with the pay where you are working?"

    When they admit they are not, I will go on to pitch them on some better scam, something like reverse mortgage or time shares, so there is crazy commission involved...and tell them that I am staffing the call center now. How can I get more information to them?

    Almost every caller I have run this on has supplied me with their name and at least some contact information. I don't do anything with that info, I just count acquiring is as a win at telephone judo.

  40. Andy Taylor

    I refer you to my comment from last week:

    Remember extension 666?

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/04/29/it_helpdesk_creates_oh_hold_hell/

    I've recently set this up at home, so any unwanted calls can instantly be put through to extension 666 which is an endless repeat of this audio purgatory.

    Oh, and my younger daughter answers the phone "Hello, IT" which confuses most callers. I'm tempted to teach her the factory reset codes for popular VOIP phones too.

  41. John Crisp

    From the comfort of my terrace with a cold beer.

    "I can't get your instructions to work"

    "No problems sir. Just press the power switch to power off the computer, then press it to power it on"

    "OK"

    Wait....

    "Hang on... there's smoke coming out of it"

    "Pardon?"

    "Smoke. From the box. What have you done?"

    In panicking voice "Errrrr...."

    "AND NOW THERE'S FLAMES...... you bastard"

    "ERrrrrrrrrrrr.... click.... burrrrrr"

  42. Herby Silver badge

    Fun to watch...

    There are MANY you-tube videos of them doing "work" on VMs. Almost all of them use silly things like 'tree' commands to do a "scan" then the guy on the other end pastes in a nasty message at the end saying ...infected...trojan...virus... or some such. One guy salts his VM with all sorts of booby traps and watches the fun ensue.

    There is one example where a guy gave a fake credit card number and captured the customer service guy scammer calling up the credit card processing page on HIS VM. He wanted to go in and refund all the charges. Another actually got the remote guy to lock up his own computer (syskey).

    Some are pretty interesting.

    My one experience was with a guy trying to get a windows command window up (windows-R), but nothing happens on my Linux machine. It took about 5 minutes for him to realize this.

  43. VictorMeldrew

    I find a Brian Blessed style bellow of "FUCK OFF YOU CUNT" is a great stress reliever

  44. Gary Gough

    They seem to be getting smarter, the last one was only on the phone for seven minutes before he started swearing at me and hung up. My record is 45 minutes, "Someone is at the door, hang on" and going to make coffee was good for 15 minutes of that though. I consider it a public service to waste as much of their time as I can.

  45. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Insist you're running Windows 94.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Last Wednesday I got "Microsoft Security" to the point where his supervisor was involved and they wanted me to load teamviewer. I asked, "Do you think I am a moron? I'm not going to give a stranger access to my computer. What sort of f*ing idiot are you?" He very rudely hung up without fixing my computer. I am thinking of lodging a complaint with Microsoft about his attitude!

  47. bofh1961

    Just be nasty

    I just tell the guy to; "Get cancer!"

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Creep Em Out

    In horrified tones:

    "Are you.... are you..Dead?"

    Any conversation from that point on is with a corpse, and I'd have lots of question about where they're calling from.

    1. Jc (the real one)

      Re: Creep Em Out

      I get too many , and do my share of keeping them busy when I feel inclined. Recently , I was having a bad day and landline rings...starts talking about PPI in what sounds like the usual recording. Oh F*** off , I shouts , but before my handset went down I heard the female voice say "oh!!!". Well, it sounded like a recording to me lol

      Now I *DO* like the Eliza idea - any pointers to some phone answering software?

      Jc

  49. Lith

    Had one today.

    Unfortunately he didn't want to wait for my WiFi dildo to boot and hung up.

  50. Col_Panek

    The only defense?

    Possibly the only good defense against these is NoMoRobo, where you forward your call to nomorobo and the caller has to key in one number to be forwarded back to you. I haven't tried it yet.

    We get daily calls from "Bridget" who wants to "lower our interest rate". Most of these guys spoof phone numbers so when we see some bizarre area code we let the answering machine take it. Many of them will hang up when they hear the beep, which is possibly a robot doing the hanging up. I wonder if I could start with a beep just to force the hangup.

    Harrassing the caller or wasting their time would only work if everybody did it all the time. These places spring up like mushrooms on cow shit and getting just one to stop won't work.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: The only defense?

      "Possibly the only good defense against these is NoMoRobo"
      Some months ago I purchased what's called a Telstra Call Guardian phone; it's quite inexpensive. Caller is greeted with the announcement that the telephone is protected by Call Guardian and to get through must announce themselves. When I pick up the phone I hear who it is and press 1 to let them though, or 2 to send to record message.

      If we had caller ID we could add friends to trusted list and they would get straight through, but Mrs Git says they're not worth the extra spend.

      There has been a dramatic reduction in cold callers and this thread recalls for me the frustration I used to suffer. Three calls from "Microsoft" in less than an hour FFS!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The only defense?

      For my message, I recorded the "out of order" tone at the beginning, hoping that would cause robocallers to hang up.

  51. John Miles 1

    It's boring but it works totally

    I'm on a trial of an new call screening function from my phone provider - have not had a scam call since it started.

    Life is almost boring now - my driving history has improved dramatically, I've had no PPI loans and there are apparently no problems with my computers. If only one could do the same for Email.

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: It's boring but it works totally

      "If only one could do the same for Email."
      Amen. And awomen, too...

  52. Jerry G.

    I play them along for a while... I go through the motions of their crap and misinformation about my system until the point where they want me to download a public type of remote computer entry program. At this point I pretend to be installing it. I keep telling them I get an administrator rights error not allowing the program to install. This gets the Scammer very annoyed. Some of them ask me to see if I can call the administrator and tell them I have a call from MS and there is a serious problem with the computer. I pretend to be dialing the admin person on my other phone. I act like I am talking. I then come back and tell the Scammer they want me to bring the computer back to where I work. Most of the time the Scammer hangs up right away! This is after wasting at least an hour of their time, and being entertained at how they work.

    What gets rid of them very quickly, is right away you tell them your computer is on Linux, and you have no admin rights. Tell them it is a company computer that does not belong to you and there is no local email installed. The Scammer will usually hang up on you right away.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Annoying Twats

    My tactic is not just used against scammers, I also use this against cold call centres. They always ask for Tracy, so I assume whoever Tracy is has given someone at some point a random or wrong number, but I now know where Tracy lives - Glasgow., and what street and flat number.

    I should first point out that I am a deep voiced bloke, and they usually start out with "you don't sound like a Tracy ", I just tell them that I am pre-op transgender, some leave at this point, those that don't get a blast of my very loud whistle. I have even had them ringing me back from their personal mobiles, obviously with a plan to give me a dose of my own medicine. Being a burner phone the calls only ever come from scammers or cold callers, so I can choose which I answer.

  54. earl grey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Hello, I'm from MS support

    Yeah, i have a call on my other line...hold on.

    You're from MS support...too? I already have someone from MS support on the other line.

    You want to talk with them to get the problem fixed. Hold on, i'll transfer you.

    Hang up.

  55. Derek Kingscote

    It's Sport

    When they ring me, I regard it as sport; and I can have some fun at their expense.

    Most recently during the course of the call I told one "Microsoft support" caller that I was running Windows 95.

    That elicited a "Bloody hell"

    such joy !

  56. Guy Geens

    Investment scam

    I don't think I ever had a scam support call.

    I did have some fun with an investment scammer. They claimed Apple would be buying a fairly unknown Chinese car company. (I did recognize the name, and I knew they would be too large to be bought).

    I let him make his sales pitch, promising incredible returns. I was tempted to say "There is just one problem here: Apple is not going to buy this company." Instead, I asked for more time to think it over. When he called back, I just declined the call. He tried a couple more times and gave up.

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