Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Communications Privacy Your Rights Online

Auto Warranty Robocall Scammers Busted 358

ectotherm writes "The nice people behind the recorded phone messages stating 'By now you should have received your written note regarding your vehicle warranty expiring...' — the ones who instantly hang up when you ask for the name of the company — have been busted. Fox News did a little background digging on the four people charged." Don't know about you, but I received three or four postcards in the mail from these scammers, as well as uncountable robocalls. The FTC says they cleared $10M since 2007.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Auto Warranty Robocall Scammers Busted

Comments Filter:
  • My call... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:47PM (#28344069) Homepage Journal

    ...went something like this.

    "WTH is this? Scammers?"

    *Press 1*

    "Hello, what's the make of your vehicle?"

    "May I ask who I'm speaking to?"



    After receiving (and hanging up on) a few more of these calls, I can't say I'm sorry to see their asses getting handed to them in court.

    • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:51PM (#28344087)

      My first two went like that. Then I tried keeping them on the line as LONG as possible.

      The operators they got were some quick talkers. I raised a very very specific issue with my car and he knew about ALL of them. He knew other people asked about that exact same thing. You also had to know the right buzz words (75k miles. 2-4 years old, etc).

      After I got past level 1 I started giving them VINs from stuff I found on Auto Trader. It was a crap shoot on how long I lasted after that.

      • Re:My call... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by asynchronous13 ( 615600 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:53AM (#28344409)

        They called my lab repeatedly while I was a grad student, after several calls I kept a log with time, date, and apparent Caller ID number (which was always bogus) and any info I could get out of the operators. But hey, I was a grad student, so I had time to kill, I just kept them on the phone for as long as possible.

        scammer: Your car warranty is expired, would you like to renew your auto warranty?
        me: expired?
        scammer: yes, wou---
        me: are you sure my warranty expired?
        scammer: yes, would you like to renew your auto warranty?
        me: well, which car are we talking about?
        scammer: The newer one
        me: the new one? i bought them at the same time.....
        and when I got bored (rare) or sensed that they were about to hang up (usual)
        me: I'd like you to know that I report every one of these calls to the FTC (and I really did: http://www.ftc.gov/phonefraud [ftc.gov] )

        I think my number finally got blacklisted by their phone operators or something, after awhile they just hung up on me every time. Once the operator just tried to heckle my school's sports team. (its tough to rattle a geek by making fun of a football team) I *always* pressed '1' when I got those calls, must have logged at least 30 calls on the FTC website.

        • by Gary W. Longsine ( 124661 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @02:23AM (#28344877) Homepage Journal
          The real problem here is the phone companies. I tried reporting this issue to AT&T a few times, and found them to be singularly disinterested. They wouldn't even tell me who kept calling my cell phone over and over, trying to sell me the same thing over and over. The scammers were clearly robo calling as they didn't know *who* they were calling. I received from a few to several of these calls each week for several months.

          Scams like this undoubtedly generate hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of dollars a year in revenue from long distance and 800 number services, which probably include helping the scam artists hide their contact information from their victims. The phone companies had no interest at all in this problem, even when clearly thousands of legitimate customers complained about it. Not only were they making money from the scammers annoying calls, but the phone company also offered me the chance to pay an additional monthly fee to stop solicitation calls. When I asked point blank, they admitted that the service would not stop the robotic calls about which I'd called to complain. In addition to that, the phone companies were charging air time to victims, when the robotic caller dialed cell phones (like mine).

          The phone companies, all of them, are complicit in this scam, and should be jointly prosecuted with the scammers.
          • by Burning1 ( 204959 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @02:53AM (#28344999) Homepage

            "Never attribute to malice what could more easily be attributed to stupidity."

            The phone techs you talk to when you call AT&T have access to a lot of tools and information you may not have access to, but ultimately, they are limited to handling the kinds of issues they have been trained to handle. Getting new material to these techs takes a long time and a lot of work. Chances are, they didn't help you because they don't know how to respond.

            The revenue these slammers generate is a drop in the bucket compared to legitimate AT&T business. Your average scammer's wet dream would be to pull in the kind of money that a single dial up provider spends on their monthly phone bill.

            • by hvm2hvm ( 1208954 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @03:19AM (#28345105) Homepage
              "Never attribute to malice what could more easily be attributed to stupidity."

              I'd go for "Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice" since if they get so many complaints but still don't know how to handle them, they obviously don't care enough about customers to try to understand what's going on.

              Allow me a car analogy :P: if you go in the wrong gear in a parking lot and run over someone (because you went in the wrong way) you might say it's not your fault, you're just not that good at thinking. But if you do that 10 times then you may be retarded but you are also not trying to better your driving such that you won't run over people. At that point we're talking about malice.
            • by plague3106 ( 71849 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @09:06AM (#28346613)

              The phone techs you talk to when you call AT&T have access to a lot of tools and information you may not have access to, but ultimately, they are limited to handling the kinds of issues they have been trained to handle. Getting new material to these techs takes a long time and a lot of work. Chances are, they didn't help you because they don't know how to respond.

              And this is totally irrlevent. You call AT&T about a problem, and you should expect them to do something. Saying "oh the poor tech doesn't know anything" is horseshit. He's still a part of AT&T, and by making excuses for the poor tech you're making excuses for AT&T.

              • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @11:44AM (#28348265)

                I worked for Verizon 10 and a half years fielding all kinds of calls about stuff like this, general repair problems, service order issues and etc. I can tell you first hand that there is absolutely nothing the representative you get on the phone can do about any of this. I even put in a few repair tickets to try to get help from the Central Office tech or a field tech, but there isn't much they can do, either. Congress is finally considering making caller ID spoofing illegal. However, the way the phone system is designed means that robocalls are one of the things that scammers can do to game the system - even if caller ID spoofing were not possible. The system is set up to allow anyone to call anyone else for any purpose - thus the "common carrier" statutes that everyone on /. likes to talk about and accuse the ISP's of breaking.

                There is simply no way of communicating the fact that the rep is receiving lots of complaints about scammers to anyone that can do anything (the FCC and FTC). The reps are not allowed the time to lodge complaints with those two organizations on your behalf - even when the rep has Internet access to those organizations' web sites. So, if you want to lodge complaints about a scammer, you need to do it with the FCC and FTC, because the phone companies and their reps cannot stop the calls themselves or they break the common carrier statutes.

                Generally, the reps have 4 minutes (as a monthly average) to interact with you over the phone. If they exceed this monthly average, then they are disciplined. At Verizon, they generally have only 30 seconds of "work time" (as a monthly average), which is the time they spend doing something after hanging up with you and before becoming available for their next call. It is very easy to exceed these averages and the reps have to work very hard to stay under those averages on every call. If the rep gets too interested in providing actual customer service, they will exceed those averages very quickly and be terminated if they continue to provide actual customer service. So, perhaps you can now understand why they try to get you off the phone so quickly. They are trying to do the best job they can according to the parameters that those who sign their paychecks have defined.

              • You call AT&T about a problem, and you should expect them to do something

                Honestly, the phone company (AT&T, Verizon, whomever) likely doesn't have the information needed to solve your problem anyways. If you are calling because Bogus Warranty, Inc at 800-555-5555 called you, that's great but your phone company can't even verify that the number belongs to who you think it belongs to; they don't have that information - nobody at your phone company does. And to make it even better, the phone company has no right to access that information.

                You know how when you get spammed,

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Belial6 ( 794905 )

              "Never attribute to malice what could more easily be attributed to stupidity."

              That is what the malicious want you to think.

          • by mi ( 197448 ) <slashdot-2017q4@virtual-estates.net> on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @04:37AM (#28345451) Homepage Journal

            The phone companies, all of them, are complicit in this scam, and should be jointly prosecuted with the scammers.

            No. See "Common Carrier [wikipedia.org]". You really don't want the phone companies to be able to refuse service to anybody...

            The real problem is the government's indifference — took millions of complaints over years for them to enforce the law...

            • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @07:54AM (#28346169)

              "You really don't want the phone companies to be able to refuse service to anybody... "

              I disagree. They should be, and are, able to refuse service to consistent abusers of the phone system itself. It's the law that companies making automated calls like this must have a legitimate phone number provided for caller ID. It's the law that they take you off their phone list if you request it. It's the law that they abide by the do-not-call list.

              They were breaking the law and abusing the phone system from the moment they engaged their robocallers without such requirements being met, which means AT&T (or whoever) had every right to disconnect them upon doing due diligence to investigate the complaints of their customers, or at least threaten to do so if the company making the calls didn't clean up their act.

              Companies that do this kind of business must be flagrantly obvious to a company like AT&T -- there are *millions* of outgoing calls, and the automated nature of them would be easy to detect from the logs. As far as I'm concerned, any company that signs up to do that kind of business should receive special scrutiny. Maybe they should be required to be licensed before they can attach their robocall equipment to the lines and start the calling. Don't follow the rules? You're service is suspended.

              • by KillerBob ( 217953 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:12AM (#28347199)

                I disagree. They should be, and are, able to refuse service to consistent abusers of the phone system itself.

                The problem is the slippery slope. While it's a tired analogy, in this case, it's completely apt... if they can refuse service to consistent abusers of the phone system, how do they define consistent abusers? And what happens when they start making exceptions to that definition, and broadening the rules?

                For a utility like the phone service, it makes more sense that they shouldn't be allowed to refuse service to anybody.

                This particular case is further complicated because, from conversations with my own telephone company about it, they were using a PBX with spoofed information. They kept finding new ways to connect to the phone network, because people kept finding ways to block them.

                It's also worth pointing out that they had expanded their operations into Canada, and had been harrassing Canadians since about February of this year. It's possible that the reason they were caught was because they started breaking international law and treaties that the US has signed with its allies, and not because the US government got millions of complaints about them over several years.

              • by Chyeld ( 713439 ) <chyeld&gmail,com> on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:06PM (#28348585)

                I do not want the telcos in the business of enforcing the law.
                I do not want the telcos thinking they need to 'evalutate' my use of their service.
                I do not want the telcos spying on me for the government.
                I do not want the telcos in any more of a position of power than they already have.

                We have someone who is in charge of enforcing the law.

                What I want is for those people to step up to the plate more often (and to be allowed to, since more often then not it's a problem with resources on their side that prevents more of this being caught).

            • Not quite (Score:5, Interesting)

              by JaneTheIgnorantSlut ( 1265300 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:43AM (#28346423)

              The real problem is the government's indifference — took millions of complaints over years for them to enforce the law...

              Millions of complaints had nothing to do with it. IIRC, Senator Schumer got one of there calls and the rest is history.

              Note to telemarketer: scrub congressmen from phone list.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by fataugie ( 89032 )

                I heard (I live in NY) that they got his unpublished personal cell phone number....That was what did it.

                I've been getting these assholes on my cell, but not at home phone.

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by harl ( 84412 )

                  They didn't get anything. By all accounts they were not operating from a list instead were simply dialing all possible numbers. Lists cost money and if you war dial you call all the no-call and unlisted numbers.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              The phone companies, all of them, are complicit in this scam, and should be jointly prosecuted with the scammers.

              No. See "Common Carrier [wikipedia.org]". You really don't want the phone companies to be able to refuse service to anybody...

              Depending on which part of the OP you're disagreeing with, I'd say you're right or wrong.

              Common carrier status does probably give them legal cover for what they're facilitating.

              But as far as being complicit, there is little doubt.

            • by Nerdposeur ( 910128 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:58AM (#28347707) Journal

              You really don't want the phone companies to be able to refuse service to anybody...

              I seem to recall reading in my Terms of Service that if I were to use my infinite mobile-to-mobile minutes to set up a long-distance baby monitor, they would terminate my service. Only "normal conversation" (or some such term) is allowed.

              If they can terminate service in their own interests, they should be able to do it in the interest of their customers.

            • by aquabat ( 724032 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:15PM (#28349883) Journal

              What I know about Obama, is that I had a job, when Bush was President.

              Dick Cheney, is that you?

          • by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:47AM (#28346453) Journal

            I tried reporting this issue to AT&T a few times, and found them to be singularly disinterested.

            Or were they cingularly disinterested?

        • Re:My call... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Kamokazi ( 1080091 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:38AM (#28346393)
          Kinda off topic, so mod me down if you want, I got karma to spare, but you seemed to indicate you enjoyed messing with these guys, so you might also enjoy one of my favorite pasttimes...messing with 419 Scammers. 419 is the criminal code dealing with Advanced Fee Fraud in Nigeria...long lost relative died and left you millions, you've won the lottery in Nigeria, etc...all that junk you get in your email. It can be a lot of fun to mess with those guys, and the overall goal is to waste their time so they don't scam as many real victims. Most are from West Africa but they can be from anywhere in the world...the number coming from developed nations has increased a lot lately. Check out this site here if it's something you might be interested in trying: www.419eater.com
    • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @03:51AM (#28345263)

      "Hello, what's the make of your vehicle?"

      "May I ask who I'm speaking to?"


      That's better treatment than I got! The one time they called that I wasn't too busy to just hang up, all I got (after sitting through the message and waiting for the "sales rep") was a bored


      They hung up on me before I said anything, before they even made any type of pitch. They just KNEW I wasn't going to send them money.

      Another time I was in a seminar class, only 5 people and the professor. We were waiting for one of the other students to show up, when a phone on the wall of the classroom, previously unnoticed, rang. We all looked at each other, then the professor, who looked back at us, just as confused. Thinking there was a greater than zero chance it was something like an emergency announcement or something important, I answered the phone...

      Yes, the classroom's auto factory warranty had run out.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Yeah, those robo-dialers can connect to strange places. Once upon a time, (while working as a telemarketer) I was greeted by a woman's rather confused sounding "...Hello?" I launched into my spiel but had to stop as the woman burst into surprised laughter. "Do you know where you've called?" ... Turns out I'd reached the emergency phone in an elevator. 8^)
    • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:52AM (#28346489)

      "May I ask who I'm speaking to?"


      Damn! They abandoned the scam just because you ended the sentence with a preposition?

  • What a deal (Score:2, Insightful)

    Couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch.
  • by dmomo ( 256005 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:48PM (#28344079)

    Asked if I had seen a .. Sandra O'Connor... or something like that. I forget.

  • by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:51PM (#28344091) Homepage
    ....to never run the same scam over and over? Oh right, because they are greedy crooks.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      and there were no criminal charges filed against them.

      • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:10AM (#28344207) Homepage Journal

        and there were no criminal charges filed against them.

        What I found interesting were the priors for some of these people. You'd expect related charges, but they're totally off-base:

        - indecent exposure
        - obstruction
        - trespassing
        - battery
        - filing a false report of a bomb
        - firearm violations

        That's quite an interesting assortment.

        And although I got robocalled a lot, I never did get any of their postcards. I'm not on the DNC registry.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I'm not on the DNC registry either, but cell phones are supposed to be taboo for legit marketing companies; the only telemarketing calls I've ever gotten on my cell (I don't have a landline) were from robodialers for this scam. And I got dozens of calls.

          • by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @02:46AM (#28344975)
            I worked briefly for a mail order company that dabbled in [legitimate] telemarketing. The trouble is that the phone company won't provide information about whether a particular number is a cell phone or land line. You used to be able to tell, but after number portability went through, you had no way of knowing. We tried not to call them, and if we were told they were cell phones, we would mark them off and never call them again. However, it was impossible to be 100% sure; what was a land line last year could be a cell number this year..

            At least that WAS the situation. Things were in rapid flux. I think the larger data warehouses are putting together lists of cell phone numbers, that you can buy and use to suppress those numbers out of your file; but they're not cheap, and they aren't complete.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Thansal ( 999464 )

              That is interesting, how were you able to tell?

              The only case where I could be sure if a number was a mobile number or not was in NYC with the 917 area code. It was (and will be) the only mobile area code as after its creation the FCC ruled that you can not have area codes specifically for mobile devices. Also, relatively recently 917 has been switched back to a general area code.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                When phones were newer it was just a matter of looking at the first 3 digits in some places. Back in my hometown in the mid 90s almost all of the local land line numbers were sure to be a certain couple prefixes, whereas the numbers you got from Verizon were different

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Luthair ( 847766 )

              I once worked for an American cellular company and there was a website (a public one) which could be used to lookup information about any phone number /shrug

              Really though, a 'legitimate' telemarketing company should only be calling people they have an existing relationship with, not blanketing an area code or buying a list of phone numbers.

              On the topic of the story, I had a number of calls from the scammers on my cell but they were always recognizable by the simple fact that the area codes weren't local.

          • by The Moof ( 859402 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:35AM (#28347421)
            Despite the FCC's claim [fcc.gov] about automated dialers calling wireless phones, they will just send you a letter that they didn't find any infractions and cite a 1934 communications act. I received that letter (yesterday) when I reported a company using an automated dialer and recorded message inform me that all of my credit cards were in danger.

            I think the only reason this one had any action was because it had received national notice when a call came through to a senator, interrupting the water boarding hearings in Congress last month. The national news covered it (briefly), and the FCC was questioned about it.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by samcan ( 1349105 )

              After I complained online to the FCC about the car warranty scammers calling my cell phone, I too received a letter stating that there had not been any infraction. So, I wrote a letter back to them, quoting the information they sent me, stating that it was an infraction. I demanded that they reinvestigate. Still haven't heard anything back from them.

        • by NevarMore ( 248971 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @09:30AM (#28346815) Homepage Journal

          Playing some devils advocate here...

          Do the math on some of those.

          Bomb threat was in 1991, guilty party is now 36. He was 18.

          The indecent was in 2001, again he was 20. One can technically be charged with indecent exposure for mooning someone or forgetting to latch the door on the crapper.

          No specifics on the trespassing either.

          Battery is a bit more severe, but again no details. We don't know if it was a beating or a fight.

          Firearms, likely in relation to the bomb threat but then again it could be as banal as a minor transport violation.

          You do your time and you make amends. I'm not excusing it, but we sentence people to X years for crimes with the understanding that after X years they've done their time. Not life. Wait until you make a mistake, or rather "get framed", and have that follow you around forever.

          Good show reading the article though, some of those are buried down in the last few paragraphs. I only noted the bullet points early in the artcile

    • Also, because it works.

  • by Darkk ( 1296127 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:51PM (#28344099)

    I get the stupid post cards too.. Makes me wonder how they know my Honda warranty is going to expire? Despite the fact I purchased the extended manufactor 2 year warranty? The knew about the first year but didn't know about the extended warranty so I can only guess somehow they been digging through public records about car purchases or ca registurations. Sounds like complete invasion of privacy to me!!

    However, I never recieved one phone call from folks like that... Hmmm

    • I also kept getting warranty cards, seemingly for vehicles I didn't even own anymore. Glad I ignored them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Macman408 ( 1308925 )

        I have one better - I got a warranty card for my brother's car, shortly after I moved out-of-state. It was addressed to my new address, not forwarded.

        I, on the other hand, only own a 1995 Bianchi hybrid with about 10,000 miles or so. Since it's a bicycle, I don't really feel the need to buy a car warranty for it.

    • by LurkerXXX ( 667952 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:21AM (#28344577)

      They didn't know a thing about your warranty. Or your car. The call folks all the time who either have no cars, or ancient cars that haven't had warranties of any kind for years and years and tell them 'your warranty is about to expire'.

      They are cold calls. They haven't done any research. Some of the better ones use the same cold reading techniques that psychics do to trick you into thinking they know what they are talking about. They are hoping you are dumb enough to provide the information to them when the call.

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:33AM (#28344649)

        They didn't know a thing about your warranty. Or your car. The call folks all the time who either have no cars, or ancient cars that haven't had warranties of any kind for years and years and tell them 'your warranty is about to expire'.

        These guys yes. Not all of them. I got a postcard with the make and model of my car and they knew exactly what day the manufacturer's warranty was going to expire. I even bought the car second hand, so it wasn't like the dealer ratted me out. I think it must be DMV records correlated by vin with dealer reported original sales, or possibly just DMV records and assumptions that first registration equals a sale on or about the same day,

      • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @09:34AM (#28346847) Homepage

        It wasn't the auto warranty scam, but one of those calls was scarily accurate. My wife had just got off the phone with me telling me that our fridge was leaking water and needed to be replaced. (Came with the house and was quite old so it wasn't completely unexpected.) Literally seconds after I hung up, my work phone rang. "If you own your own home, you need to protect against major appliance failure..." The scammers are spying on me!!!! (Do I need to wrap my phone in tin foil? ;-) )

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:30AM (#28344627)
      They don't know. My warranty expired 2 years ago and I get the cards and calls too. They seem to be mailing/calling people based on year model of the car and normal manufacturer's warranty, then continuing the mailings for several more years in case you got an extended warranty. People figure, "wow, they know when my warranty is up, so they must have gotten some "inside" info from the manufacturer, so they must be legit." It's just a variant of the perfect prediction scam [skepdic.com].
    • by HeronBlademaster ( 1079477 ) <heron@xnapid.com> on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:56AM (#28344763) Homepage

      They didn't know, they just guessed.

      For example, I got these calls when I had a 2002 Civic, but the car wasn't under my name; I kept getting the calls after I returned the car to my parents and bought myself a 2009 Civic Hybrid... there's no way that's out of warranty already ;) I tried getting someone on the line (to mess with them) after that, but all I got was a perpetually ringing line. Nobody ever answered.

  • by MrDoh! ( 71235 ) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:55PM (#28344127) Homepage Journal

    It was kinda obvious to me that this was a scam when they told me my warranty for the car was due to expire soon.
    I don't have a car.

    • by v1 ( 525388 )

      My calls went a little differently...

      "This is the second notice that the manufacturer's warranty on your car is about to expire". Many many of them left on my machine. My car is a 1994 exploder and I don't need anyone telling me about my manufacturer's warranty thankyouverymuch.

      Tho I was never home when they called, to play with them a bit.

      • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:30AM (#28344301) Homepage
        My car is a 1994 exploder...

        If that's a typo, it's certainly one of the most apt ones I've ever seen.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by KillerBob ( 217953 )

        they told me that the manufacturer's warranty (5 years) on my new car (2 months) was about to expire...

        I decided to fuck with them, and told them I owned a 2002 Lamborghini Gallardo (the Gallardo, as nice a car as it is, didn't enter production until 2003).... I also kept them on the line for almost an hour being transferred from one "department" to another asking for their corporate mailing address.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ultranova ( 717540 )

          I also kept them on the line for almost an hour being transferred from one "department" to another asking for their corporate mailing address.

          That rises an interesting question: could we measure the efficiency of artificial intelligence by how long it can keep a phone solicitor busy? That would both act as an improvised Turing test, and help the populace.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      It was kinda obvious to me that this was a scam when they told me my warranty for the car was due to expire soon. I don't have a car.

      That's fun.

      It was obvious to me for the exact opposite reason. I had five cars. And the youngest of them had been out of warranty for at least 5 years. When I gave them the VIN for the '56 Ford (after thoroughly harassing them for not knowing the VIN on the warranty they were calling about) they wouldn't accept it - not enough characters. They hung up when I said it was a '56. On the next call, they hung up when I gave them a motorcycle VIN. Then they flooded my line with calls - well, 3-5/day - and

    • Haha, that's pretty good. I had a similar experience. My car is 11 years old and has over 200k miles on it. (Honda Accord)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      obvious to me that this was a scam

      Unfortunately, not obvious to my grandmother. I wanted to fucking kill these people. 6 years ago, I had my grandmother co-sign on a truck to help me get affordable payments. Everything went very well, was perfect on the payments, and eventually sold the truck.

      I would get yelled at ALL THE TIME about these people that kept calling my grandmother about the "truck" and trying to sell her a warranty. It was MY responsibility to get them to stop calling and update their reco

    • by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) * on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:10AM (#28344505)

      It was kinda obvious to me that this was a scam when they told me my warranty for the car was due to expire soon.
      I don't have a car.

      Okay, smartypants, if you don't have a car, how do you know when its warranty expires?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        It was kinda obvious to me that this was a scam when they told me my warranty for the car was due to expire soon.
        I don't have a car.

        Okay, smartypants, if you don't have a car, how do you know when its warranty expires?

        Moreover, why DON'T you have a car? Was it that the warranty expired and you couldn't afford to repair it?

        Guess you should've taken the call.

  • Fox news?! (Score:5, Funny)

    by blankinthefill ( 665181 ) <blachanc@gmail.cDALIom minus painter> on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:56PM (#28344131) Journal
    I'm so conflicted... Fox News actually reporting something that affects me in a positive way? I don't know how to feel!
  • by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:00AM (#28344149)
    I know I personally received several hundred calls from these guys. I had numerous people tell me they had received the same types of calls. The FTC can stop patting themselves on the back, the fact that it took this long is embarrassing.
  • by timpdx ( 1473923 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:01AM (#28344155)
    Its funny, as soon as the car warranty scammers stopped calling last month, I now get robocalls for some cheapo health care ripoff. On my cell, on the do not call list. So it begins again.....
  • I never got it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zakabog ( 603757 ) <john@@@jmaug...com> on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:04AM (#28344173)

    I never understood how these scams work, they hang up on you once you ask anything, but don't you need to know where to send your money? If you just give them credit card info won't they need an address for their merchant account or whatever credit card processing system they have? Why does it take so long to catch these people, isn't it possible to just follow the money to the scammers?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by drfreak ( 303147 )

      This is typical of a con. You "made" them by asking questions. They are not looking for smart people. :)

    • Re:I never got it... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dmomo ( 256005 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:12AM (#28344217)

      I actually led them on for quite a while by asking dumb naive questions. I was trying to go so far as to find out where to send the check. I think they wanted a credit card number. I did get a company name at one point, but it was something generic. It didn't come up when I later googled it. I write the name down but must have tossed the paper.

      I wasted a little of their time, and had fun doing it. Does that count for anything?

    • by religious freak ( 1005821 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:51AM (#28344399)
      I've had an even stranger experience in the fifteen kabillion calls I've received from these douches (I work from home). I get the call, I press '9' to be connected to an operator, and then I am instantly disconnected. This happens over and over upon every call. EXTREMELY frustrating...

      If you're gonna scam people why the hell don't you connect the d*** call?
  • What really bugs me about all this is that despite what were probably thousands of reports to the gov't, nothing was done and nobody really brought it up in the media until they accidentally bothered NY senator Chuck Schumer. Had they not stumbled onto his number, one wonders if they would still be in business.
    • by DavidD_CA ( 750156 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:13AM (#28344523) Homepage

      Yup. I even reported a handful of calls to the FTC (using their website) just a few weeks before Chuck Schumer declared war on these guys.

      I got a letter back from the FTC telling me that they couldn't do anything because "I didn't provide them enough information". I gave them the time of day, the CID, and what the robo greeting said. But I guess because I didn't talk to a human, it didn't count.

      This should be considered a major FAIL for the FTC and the Do Not Call list. Which is a shame, too, because the DNC has been a great success with this exception.

      It's embarassing that it took the FTC this long to catch them, and to add insult to injury, it only took them about a month after Chuck Schumer made a stink.

      I hope that after these criminals are tried, a second investigation starts to find out why the FTC had their head up their ass.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I sent in a report about this scam several weeks before you sent yours in. They sent me a letter saying "Thanks for your information. We have received many other complaints and we are currently investigating the matter." I provided caller ID information (bogus though it was) and a URL of a website I found where people had been looking in to the same number. I also referenced a few similar calls my sister-in-law had received.

        So... your report probably was incomplete :P

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @08:59AM (#28346537)

        Yeah, reporting these guys is usually useless. They spoof the caller ID info (this is where the phone companies should be atomic dope slapped) and the associates, if you get one, are well trained in not telling you anything that would be useful on a report. Full name? Nope. Company name? Nope. Address? Hell no. Return number? Nope.

        In reality, if they were taking it seriously all the FTC would need is your phone number, the time of the call, and your provider. Then they could get records from the provider (ie. AT&T) and know where the call came from, who it's registered to, and so on. The phone companies make damn sure to have that info, because otherwise they couldn't get paid.

        Which, of course, is why the FTC were able to move so fast once Senatorman got called.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by swb ( 14022 )

        I had dinner with a guy who had his company's merger (in an obscure concrete-related industry) with a larger entity get reviewed by the FTC and turned down (all during Bush Jr's second term). He was understandably annoyed with the FTC, but his description of the FTC's operation was pretty stunning. Apparently they're pretty autonomous and aren't really accountable at all. He even had the backing of a household name Republican Senator with Bush connections and didn't get ANY traction.

        My guess is that the

    • by Gary W. Longsine ( 124661 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @02:34AM (#28344933) Homepage Journal
      These people robo dialed the hell out of the 202 area code, starting well over a year ago, and not ending until they were busted. I sat in rooms in DC where I'd get this call, and a few minutes later someone else in the room got it, more than once. There were, undoubtedly, many influential federal government employees, Congresspersons, Senators, an White House staffers also victimized by these calls to their cell phones, both government and private. Why did it take this long to put a stop to this? The world may never know.
  • I have so many of these on my vonage voicemail. Any time I did press '1' it would just hang up, I guess they were too busy to bother scamming me.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:29AM (#28344299) Homepage

    We are all rather familiar with the notion of "cost of doing business" when it comes to fines associated with illegal and/or unlawful activities in business. Quite often, the fines and other punishment are so small and insignificant that it is not a deterrent but is instead factored into the cost of doing business.

    This warranty scam activity was very VERY obvious that it would be shut down at some point. The fact that it went on for as long as it did was pretty amazing all by itself. Who was responsible for the slow response on this? Further, the engineers of this scam made a LOT of money from this. When compared against the fines and other punishments so far, was there a net gain or loss for these perpetrators?

    My point here is that if there was a significant net gain, then the perpetrators won. It doesn't matter that they were shut down. That was a matter of time. It took long enough that they somehow managed to pull in a LOT of money. How much of it did they get to keep? Frankly, I think the government needs to take ALL gross income from the operation. (Note "gross income" before expenses and payroll and the like.) And they need to extract this money directly from the perpetrators. If there are any legal prohibitions that will prevent the government from issuing such punitive measures, then you can see very clearly and plainly what is wrong with U.S. laws governing business. (It would be an effective license to commit fraud and be shielded from punishment.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by GGardner ( 97375 )
      According to ftc.gov, violators of the do not call list can be fined up to $16k per call (has the ftc ever fined anyone this much? Anything?) TFA claims they made over a billion calls. I say we hit them up for 1 billion counts @ $16k per call.
      • See, that's one aspect of the "shield" built into the plan. They hired another company to do the calls. (More likely, created a company to do the calls.) The perps claimed not to know what the other company was doing. It would be interesting to know if this company existed long before the auto warranty company did.

  • I had this one company rep call me about how I had won 12 free magazine subscriptions for free - yes, that's right! FREE!. Made some 10 minute spiel about how wonderful it all was. All I needed to do was send $12.95 for some processing fee and I'd get my free, yes FREE! magazines.

    I asked her, "If I won and my subscriptions are free why do I have to pay $12.95?"

    To her credit, she replied, "Because they're free!" (Can't blame a girl for trying.)

    Soooo, I reiterated my question a few more times until she hung up on me.

    It feels good when I frustrate scammers at their own game. :P

    • I had a (legit) marketing company tell me I was getting a free watch (for somehow making it through the first round of the [a?] drawing) and three free magazines, so she had me pick three of six or seven magazines. After I picked she mumbled something about how I just needed to subscribe to one of them to get the magazines.

      I refused, because I didn't really want them in the first place; I was then informed I would only qualify to get the free watch if I subscribed.

      I've never understood why these companies can get away with giving people things in exchange for money but still call the things "free". I guess if you don't actually lie (if the words themselves are true) it's legit?

      Somehow I'm not surprised I didn't win the second round of the drawing.

  • by GGardner ( 97375 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @12:59AM (#28344439)
    What I don't understand is why I, and so many others, got so many calls. I must have received over 30. If these crooks were in business for two years, and made over a billion calls, they were clearly calling everyone they could reach in the US multiple times. Isn't there some point where they hit diminishing returns? TFA says their mantra was "hang up; next" (perl?), that is to not try to convert anyone who sounded remotely skeptical. But if they give up on the sale two second in, why call that same person back, again and again? Had they not called back people they rejected, I suspect that people would be nearly so upset with them, and the FTC wouldn't have gone after them.
  • What immediately sets off the bullshit alarm with these guys is that they call me even though I DO NOT HAVE A FRIGGIN CAR!!!

    Last time I talked to them I told them

    "stop calling me or I'm calling the FTC"

  • by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) * on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @01:15AM (#28344547)

    I always take my car in for service at the dealership. I just trade for a new car when the mechanics there tell me it's time to replace the blinker fluid. The mechanics let me in on the auto industry secret that once that happens, it's only a matter of time before everything starts breaking down. It's saved me a lotta hassle. Sure, it's more expensive, but this is one of those instances where you get what you pay for.

  • by SomeoneGotMyNick ( 200685 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @09:28AM (#28346777) Journal

    Feel free to embellish on this script when you have a little time to play with their minds. Most of the dialog is paraphrased.

    Caller: Hello, Mr. _______. Our records show your auto warranty is soon to expire.
    You: I wasn't aware of that.
    Caller: Would you like to renew your warranty now?
    You: I suppose I should if it's going to expire soon. What do you need, the VIN number?
    Caller: Yes sir.
    You: Hold on. The car is in the garage. I need to go there.
    Caller: OK sir.
    (wait about one or two minutes, or until they wonder where you are)
    You: OK, I got my shoes on, now I can go out to the garage. It's a detached garage.
    Caller: Great, sir.
    (wait another one or two minutes, or until they get concerned again)
    Caller: Sir?
    You: Hold on, I'm unlocking the door to the garage now.
    (Wait 15 to 30 seconds. Idle chat with them to keep them on the line)
    You: Shoot. This is the shed key. It looks the same as the garage key. I always get them mixed up. Let me go get the garage key. I really want this warranty.
    Caller: Very well, sir.
    (Wait one to three minutes. Idle chat to keep on the line. Maybe pretend to talk about issues with your lawn, etc. as you "walk back" to get your key)
    You: OK. That was the right key this time. I'm at the car.
    (At this point you can try, but you may be pushing their patience, to say "The car key is in the house. Let me get it.")
    You: OK. I can read the VIN at the windshield.
    Caller: Go ahead, sir.
    You: 1... W... G... K... N or M...
    Caller: Which one is it sir, N or M?
    You: It's tough to see in here. Let me go get a flashlight.
    (You decide if your flashlight is near you in the garage or WAYYYY back in the house)
    You: M... 3... 4... H... J... 4... 2... 6... 8... 2... 0....
    You: Can you repeat that back for me?
    Caller: That's OK sir. I can't find your vehicle. What is it?
    You: It's a 1974 VW Super Beetle
    Caller: Don't you have any newer cars?
    You: Nope. This is my first car and it still runs great for me. (You may even want to say it's been handed down to you as your first car and it still runs well for you.)
    Caller: I'm sorry sir, we can't help you at this time. We'll take you off our call list.
    You: OK. Sorry about that.
    Caller: **Click**, or "Have a good day sir."

    I did the last six lines for one of them once and I never received another call from any auto warranty company. They apparently took me off their list when I convinced them I only had the Beetle.

  • by amoeba1911 ( 978485 ) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @10:24AM (#28347313) Homepage
    I kept getting these scam calls on my cell phone, and I complained to the FCC but get I kept getting more scam calls. The FCC should have been on the ball about this long ago as they already have strict laws against automated dialing:
    "(a) No person or entity may: (1) Initiate any telephone call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the prior express consent of the called party)using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice;"
    "To any telephone number assigned to a paging service, cellular telephone service, specialized mobile radio service, or other radio common carrier service, or any service for which the called party is charged for the call."
    Title 47 [gpo.gov]

    When a tiny glimpse of a nipple showed up on TV they were on it instantly even though almost everyone already has one pair of nipples and seeing a third one on TV isn't going to harm anyone. Then there's shit like this where people run telemarketing scam and yank millions of dollars while the FCC just sits there with head in ass doing nothing about it. Perhaps they should change the name from Federal Communications Commission to Federal Censorship Commission because obviously they care about nothing other than preventing people from saying fuck on TV.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?