It started with expletives but soon took a weird turn. Suddenly we were talking travel, family and women. We were communicating as friends, and soon I was able to get this guy to open up and reveal just why he scams people and how he justifies it. So many questions answered about such a secretive and underground industry. Listen to the actual scam call below.
LEGAL: Giving ANY information to someone you don’t know, especially a known scammer, can be dangerous and foolish. Don’t risk it.
Okay, so here’s what happened…
Two of my biggest passions in life are: 1) Helping expose and shut down illegal scammers and telemarketers, and 2) Travel. International travel. Crazy, international travel. To date I’ve been to 109 countries, including North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Iraq and Venezuela. The weirder and less-visited, the better.
Today those two passions collided.
My boss at work got a message from an IRS scammer. The ploy is pretty common and has been publicized a ton over the past few years. You answer your phone and an automated message claiming to be from the IRS tells you that you owe them money and threatens prosecution unless you call back right away and make a payment. When you call back, you reach an overseas call center, and someone with a really (I mean really) bad accent, posing as an IRS agent with a name like “John Smith” or “Ken Jones.” I mean, you’ve got to be pretty dumb to fall for this, but sadly, these guys prey on the elderly and people who may have special needs, and end up stealing a lot of money from innocent people. Not cool at all.
Well obviously my boss would never fall for it, but he had fun calling the number back and giving them an earful. Then I decided to have some fun with it.
My first couple of calls I played along, and tried to string the conman along as long as I could, posing as someone concerned about the taxes due and impending punishment. I gradually made my answers to the agent’s questions more and more absurd, just to mess with him:
Soon they figured the jig was up, and they hung up on me. I’d call back to try and see if I could continue with the fun–I figure if I’m tying up their line for ten minutes, it’s ten less minutes they have the opportunity to take money from a grandmother–but I think they took note of my number on the caller ID, and soon they wouldn’t even initiate their spiel, they’d just disconnect as soon as I called. After the fifth or sixth call, the curse words started. That’s where it got fun.
They were mad. Think about it: every time someone “on to their scam” like me calls, it’s taking valuable time from away them–time they could be using to try and scam others. After all, they are salespeople, waiting for unsuspecting “clients” to call–people who might be suckered in to sending in a payment; people who truly believe they’re in trouble with the IRS. So when “Harry Balls” calls in, to give fake addresses and tell juvenile jokes, it really flusters these guys (and gals…there are women working there too) because they know there’s no money in these crank calls.
I decided I’d try to keep one of these guys on the phone long enough to find out a little about their operation. Being an super-passionate traveler and endlessly curious about where people are from, I mostly just yearned to find out where these guys were based. I was intrigued. It certainly wasn’t the US, but I couldn’t quite crack the accent. It was close to Indian, but I knew it wasn’t Indian. My first goal was to try and figure out what country was hosting this call center. So I started with humor.
I knew if I just went straight to it, and asked where these guys were calling from, they’d hang up. I had to hook ’em somehow. So when the angry man answered and started right in calling me a “mudda f***er,” I took a different approach. I offered to teach him some new curse words and insults:
I was amused that he was actually taking notes; he seemed genuinely interested in learning these new terms–it would be new material for him. Once I saw that we’d established some rapport, it was time to go into the big question: “Where are you?” If I could uncover just one thing, I wanted to know where this mysterious and illegal call center was located. The geography nerd in me just had to know. I had my money on Pakistan, India or Bangladesh. None of those were correct…
Nepal! Even if the call ended there, I would’ve been satisfied: I succeeded in finding out the location of these scammers, and what an exotic location it was–Nepal, wow! The explorer in me got really excited, as Nepal is one of the destinations I have coming up in 2019–a nation that I’m really looking forward to seeing…and now I have a friend in Nepal…err…kind of. My new friend “Officer David Marshall” seemed happy I was coming to his country, and even offered me some tips…
So the Nepalese women are hotties–nice! Now I was really looking forward to visiting!
I was having so much fun getting to know “Officer David,” and I think he might have been actually enjoying getting to know me, too!
But finally, I had to ask. The elephant in the room: Why? Why, “Officer David,” are you trying to steal people’s money?
Oh wow! So his name wasn’t really “David.” Elementary, my dear Watson!
The conversation continued on, including a suggestion from Watson: he advised me to caution my loved ones about his scam so they won’t be tricked, and he even gave me some more insight on how many people are getting scammed.
As we wrapped up the call, “Watson” explained to me why he believed that what he is doing actually isn’t illegal at all! I wonder if his company/boss told him that and if he really believed it. Kinda strange.
Was it weird that for some strange reason I kinda liked David…or Watson? He’s doing an awful thing by scamming people–and there’s just no excuse for it, or no justification that makes it right. But it sure was interesting to hear the human side of Watson. He didn’t sound anything like the guy yelling “mudda f***er” in the beginning of the call. He was calm, educated and sounded sincere. You’re gonna think I’m a weirdo, but Watson is someone I’d love to have a beer with when I go to Nepal in December of 2019. I wonder if he’ll give me a tour of the IRS “call center?”
You can hear the full, unedited call here. And scroll to the bottom of the page for a special treat.
Visiting Watson in Nepal
Okay, so as I mentioned I’m going to Nepal in December of 2019…and do you know how bad I wanna visit my friend Watson???!!! Really bad! Take him out for a beer, go hit on some “women,” and maybe…just maybe…so if he’ll show me the IRS “call center.”
Well I have balls…heck, I’ve traveled to Iraq and Somalia…but not balls big enough to do this. After all, I don’t know what Watson’s team is capable of doing–they could slit my throat and leave me in a Nepalese dumpster, and that wouldn’t be fun.
But you know who does have balls this big??? The guys over at the REPLY ALL podcast. They did just that: they traveled overseas to meet the person that was trying to scam them over the phone, recording the entire experience–from the initial scam phone call, to landing in India and meeting up with the scammer. This is, without a doubt, the best podcast I’ve ever heard in my life, and you can hear it below. I promise you will thank me.