I’m feeling rather stupid. I consider myself pretty web-smart. My junk mail filters rival those criss-crossing infrared lights that protect the Crown Jewels. Ocean’s 11, 12, 13 or, in fact, any number of accomplices would have a tough job sneaking a scam mail into my inbox. And, should one slip through, I raise my one still-functioning eyebrow in bemusement at the thought that someone honestly thought they could scam me with an improbable story about unclaimed millions waiting for my greedy co-operation to unlock. So, as I said, I’m feeling rather stupid.
I’m awaiting a delivery from Lithuania. I was told that it would be here today but I was told neither what time to expect the delivery nor given any tracking number nor phone line to make inquiries. So, when my phone rang an hour or so ago and an unrecognised international number displayed onscreen I nearly dropped it in my haste to answer. Despite my lightning fingers, there was nobody on the other end. I rang back. I got an international tone and then, success. I was through to the mystery caller. At least, I was through to some noises, squeaks and whistles. I presumed that it was difficulty with the overseas connection and persisted for a while before deciding to hang up and try again.
I’ve spent the past hour trying to answer calls that rang only once or twice and then dialling the numbers to track down the poor, lost, Lithuanian delivery man who must, I felt, be tired, hungry and frustrated with his undelivered consignment keeping him in this strange rainy land, far from his… well, you get the picture. It was when I finally managed to answer a call and heard an un-Lithuanian-sounding woman’s voice saying: “Please hold the line to hear news that will benefit you from our financial controller…” before the line went dead, that a memory stirred. The language might have been a reading from one of those scam emails I so scornfully dodged as a matter of course. I checked the country codes in my call log of the numbers that had phoned me and, more pertinently, that I had phoned back. “222” – Mauritania and “248” – Seychelles. My geography is not at a level that would see me competing on a general knowledge tv game show but it is sufficiently rounded enough to recall that neither Mauritania nor Seychelles are in Eastern Europe. A quick Google search revealed the truth.
This scam works on a baiting principle. The mark, in this case me, gets a phone call from a foreign number and, driven by innocent curiosity, calls it back. There are a range of possible ploys at the other end of the line to keep the mark from hanging up because, the number dialled is a premium number and the international premium call is costing a fortune. It’s not even illegal because the poor fool has voluntarily made the phone call.
My Lithuanian package has still not arrived but I probably can’t afford it, anyway, now…