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Jun 01

Fighting back against Rachel at Cardholder Services

Editor’s note: This is the third of four parts about the annoying “Rachel” from Cardholder Services telemarketing calls. To read part one, click here and part two here.

So now there’s a better understanding of who the players are, and what it takes to make Rachel work, we can start to fight back against her annoying calls.

No PhoneWhat can we do?

Before I dive in too deep into this subject. The concepts I am about to discuss are perfectly legal, and can ultimately put some rain on “Rachel’s” parade. At no time will I tell you to do something that could ultimately land you on the receiving end of legal action.

Things not do do: Blow a whistle, horn or other loud device into the phone at them. Do not make threats against them, or appear threatening in any way. Do not use profane or obscene language.

Do Not Call:

First and foremost, make sure you are on both the National Do Not Call List, and your states’ do not call list.  Even though “Rachel” tends to ignore them, it gives you extra leverage in helping to stop her.

Below is a list of links to each Do Not Call list, and if available, where to file a complaint with. If you do not see your state listed (or the state name is not clickable), they do not use a list separate from the National list: Please let me know in the comments of errors or missing information – I will update this list as needed

Don’t answer numbers you don’t recognize:

“Rachel” tends to hang up and not leave a message if a voice mail or answering machine answers.  While a ringing telephone is annoying, a passive response usually is better than an active response.

Before answering, Google the number:

Just by typing the phone number into Google, you can find out within the first link or two if it is “Rachel” or similar scam. If you can do this before answering (and before your answering machine/voice mail answers), it can allow you to still take other calls, without being afraid of hearing “Rachel”.

Record the call:

If you can, record the call. Except for a few states, as long as one party on the call (you) is aware of the recording of the call, it is legal.

In California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington, both parties must know the call is being recorded. While this may make it difficult if you talk to a live agent in the boiler room (they will likely hang up when they know they’re being recorded), do not let it deter you – just be sure you are legally covered.

Talk to a live agent:

If you have the nerve to do so, talk to a live agent.  If not, just hang up.

When talking to the live agent (and hopefully while the call is recorded) explain you’re interested, but want to know the real name of the company, where their located, etc. Once you’ve captured as much information as possible, including the agent’s name, end the call.

The key takeaways to this is, DO NOT LIE and as I said earlier, DO NOT THREATEN THEM. Be honest to them, but keep mining for information. If they sense a threat, remember this, they have your telephone number, and can file a police report against you, making your life miserable – not what you had in mind when you decided to talk to them. It is also better to record the call (see above) if possible, so recalling it will be easier later.  Otherwise, take liberal notes of the information to collect. Also, if the recording was ever called before a court of law, any lies and threats on your part hurts your credibility.

Report “Rachel”:

GavelBe sure to report all calls to both the FTC, via the National Do Not Call List page, and to your states Do Not Call registry. You can also file a report with the Federal Communications Commission.

In the course of this series, on the day after I published part one, I got a call from Rachel on my voice mail. Unlike typical experiences, the robocall recording was partly captured.  Using Google, I verified the number was one of many that the scam uses, and proceeded in reporting it. The Texas Do Not Call list reporting tool accepts file uploads, and I uploaded a copy of the recording with the complaint.

Go Nuclear:

I call this the “Nuclear Option”, since it takes a lot of money to hire the lawyers to go to court after the companies and their owners. Just be expected if you win, they can file for bankruptcy, disappear and you’ll be out the money you win, as well as your attorney fees.

I for one don’t have the finances to afford this option, but I mention it here if you recently won the lottery and want to really fight back.

Next time: The series wraps up with a look at what actions the Government is doing, and why I suspect those actions have not put a serious dent in the volume of calls from “Rachel”.

About the author

Michael Jones

Michael Jones is the founder of On The Spot Communications and On The Spot Blog.

A native of Ottawa, Kansas (approximately 60 miles South-West of Kansas City), he was born in the early 70's and lived most of his early life without traveling far from home.

He has since lived in Lenexa, Kansas (suburb of Kansas City), Houston, Texas, and now resides in Frisco, Texas (north of Dallas, Texas). He has had the experience of traveling to Tokyo, Japan and Tel Aviv, Israel, as well as numerous places around the USA.

A self-professed computer geek, when Michael's not working in his telecommunications job, he enjoys Model Railroading and Paintball.

Michael Jones is the founder of On The Spot Communications and On The Spot Blog.

More about Michael »

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  • http://www.facebook.com/DeletedMedia Christopher Pike

    Belated May 2012 report:
    “AWD/Concord Financial Advisors” recently shut down “affiliate” side company- AFB LLCS’s website and now shows a Chicago business address on “Concord Financial Advisors” website.

    Watch for changes like these in suspicious ” chs ” subsidiaries. There’s typically a “Capital” this, and “Financial” that- Sometimes the “offshore shells” leave an available to the public, paper trail. 

     Does anyone know why AZ Sec of State referes to Corp/LLC’s as “PERPETUAL”? Jeeze- Let’s hope not for the Consumer’s sake!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/DeletedMedia Christopher Pike

      Need to make a correction here to the above info. There are two “Concord Financial Advisors, LLC’s”.  At this point it is unknown if they are connected in any way. If anyone knows for sure, please post the info. One is located in Chicago, IL, the other is part of AWD’s collection of known robo-calling “companies” in Mesa, AZ. What had caused the confusion was- the supposed “owner” of Ambrosia Web Design/Concord Financial Advisors in Mesa, AZ was originally from the Chicago, IL area. The AWD website (AZ) appears to be gone, and “Concord” (AZ) is still up.

  • http://onthespotblog.com/ On The Spot

    I’ve done that in the past, but it is not an exact science. You’ve got to be pretty close to the frequency of the CNG tone (the fax machine handshake). Depending on the predictive dialer’s sensitivity it can sometimes tell a fake CNG versus a real one. The same can be said for the voice mail detection (sub-audible tone). 

  • Corylinstrum

    If you never answer anymore, do you think they would call less? The whole point is that they’re looking for some kind of human response, right?

    • p3orion

      No, they’re looking for PROFITABLE responses. It’s a numbers game: probably a very small percentage actually answer and press 1, and only a small fraction of THOSE actually do anything. Wasting several minutes of their time really eats into their ill-gotten productivity.

      See how long you can string them along. (My personal best is 18 minutes.) Don’t feel guilty; you’re only hurting people who desperately DESERVE to be hurt. Time they waste with you is time that they’re NOT scamming some great-grandmother in Iowa. Maybe while the doofus who called is sitting on hold waiting for you to come back, he’ll take some of that time to think about getting into a new line of work.

  • Billy Goates

    Thank you for the information. I have received more than 150 (I have them documented) calls from these criminals. I have filed more that 50 complaints with the FTC however I don’t expect to see any results.

  • Cgrabanski

    I too have been receiving these calls for over a year. I sent in a “Contact Us” note but wanted to leave a comment as well. This is a petition to the FTC to make shutting down and prosecuting these scammers a top priority: http://chn.ge/NeZaKM Please consider signing and sharing. I am tired of getting nowhere with the donotcall.gov and FTC complain forms. I kept a scammer going for awhile to document how the process works and the information they ask for is the full credit card number,  full name, zip code, social security number (sometimes only the last 4), date of birth, full credit card number and the 1-800 number on the back of their card. They then call the number on the back of the card pretending to be you.

  • ThePunisher

    I do not understand why it is so difficult to shut these criminals down.  They are stealing innocent peoples money and disrupting commerce.  Bust all their physical doors down and put the trash under the jail.  It is not rocket science to trace calls that are made by the millions per day.

    This crap has gone on for far too long.  I would personally invoke capital punishment for these criminals but will accept a life sentence in solitary confinement for them instead.

    • http://onthespotblog.com/ On The Spot

      They are shutting down these companies, it just doesn’t seem to make the headlines.

      The problem is they’re not seizing the equipment that enables them to do it, and the equipment just ends up showing up somewhere else, only to abuse us again.

  • Sacul

    Theyve called me around 50 times as well. Just recently I was called a “cracker” “gay” told to “suck my own ****” and so forth all in the same call. In the end she said to have a nice day, baby, I will make sure to call you lots more. In short- I recommend pressing “1” and playing a recording back to them of a fax machine or another telemarket service. I don’t know- something that will make them think theyve received an automated response. Just an idea…ignoring them DOES NOT work…

  • Heartstoe

    New York state do not call list is http://www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection/do_not_call/

    • http://onthespotblog.com/ On The Spot

      I had the New York page in the original research I did for the article. The state no longer manages a separate list, routing all requests to the FTC list. Likewise, they route the complaints to the FTC as well.

  • Imnopphd

    This is an awesome investigative series.  I’m glad that I am not the only one plagued by this. 
     

  • 05Crone

    Think about this paranoid hypothesis:   Live answers or voice-mail pickups indicate an active number.  A bad guy who wanted to stage a cyber attack on the US phone service can capture active numbers, possibly trace back through the telecommunications system, and target critical switching systems.  I suspect that “Rachel” is actually after bigger game than my piddly little credit card account.

    • http://onthespotblog.com/ On The Spot

      Most of the “legacy” telephone network is built with a high degree of protection around it, limiting outsider access to it for disruptive purposes. The telecos learned their lessons during the ’70s and ’80s when creative people figured out how to generate network tones to avoid paying for a call at a pay phone, or long distance charges. They took and went from “in-band” tones to “out of band” data. They also “hardened” facilities and limited access methods to the equipment.

      Not to say it is impossible, it would just be down right difficult. Even crippling an “office” could be bypassed, as most telcos have a backup site that could replace a failed office. (On 9/11 the equiment of AT&T’s office in the basement of 1 World Trade Center continued operating until 2pm or later – long after the towers collapsed, and by the time the emergency power was exhausted, all traffic was routed away to the backup site).

      And with Voice over Internet (VoIP) services, why attack the audio (which is usually encrypted), when the data network it rides on proves to be more vulnerable and more attractive to the bad guys.

  • someotherguy

    How about wasting their time.  I assume that very few people are stupid enough to give any personal information or credit card numbers to strangers who phone them cold.  Therefore they have to wade through a large number of unproductive calls to get to the few productive ones.  When you get a call. press “1” to talk to e real person.  Tell them you have to get your wallet from upstairs, put the phone down, and see how long it takes before they give up and hang up.  Or pretend to play along and see how long you can keep them on the phone.   Give them fake names and credit card numbers.  If everyone did it, their costs would escalate, their profits would go down, and it would become a money-loosing proposition.  As long as these scumbags make money they’ll never quit.

    • p3orion

      That’s exactly what I do to them! I find that I get the best results if I pretend to be very old; it both makes them think that they’ve found “easy prey” and helps to explain why it’s taking you so long to get your bills, find a pencil, etc.

      My personal best is just under 18 minutes… can anybody beat that?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=71901411 Scott Armstead

    @b2fef6d4fcdec2e2c42c1d09d8a7bdea:disqus I do this when they call.  I play along.  Telling them that I have about 6 cards that I need to have ‘fixed’.  They get giddy…one gal said “really?’.  I told her that I had a lot of cards with small balances that I just wanted her to combine them.  I’ve had them on the line for about 10 minutes while I searched for my cards, and gave them fictitious numbers.

    However in the end, what I really did, was to allow them to KNOW that my number is a solid number.  What’s worse is that it is my cell phone.  I get a lot of ‘bumps’, where they call thought I don’t know it’s them, and I answer.  They hang up.  Then they will again call later.  when I get these I immediately save the number to my contacts, and assign it a silent ring-tone, and make it automatically go to voice mail.  I think this is the best method….

  • Bill_Levinson

    The problem is that you can’t turn them in because they call from spoofed phone numbers.

    Re: “They have your number and can file a police report…” Not unless they want the police, and FCC, to know where to find them. Having said this, I would still never make a physical threat because this IS illegal even though they initiated the harassing call.

    As for lying to them, no problem. Tell them you have a credit card with $10K in debt and 12-18% interest. Then, when they ask for your credit card information, tell them you have to find your credit card. Then let them sit on hold while you go about your business. What are they going to do about it–send you a bill for the time you wasted?

  • sprtjnke

    How about doing this…..if you have caller ID, you can see that it is from Card Holder Services so at the same time you answer, press and hold the “star” key. Eventually you will trick the server into thinking that the number they have called is a fax machine and remove your number from the database. I am not sure it will work but I am going to start doing this because I have told them about a 100 times to STOP CALLING ME and have reported it a couple of times to no avail. I have caller ID so I will do this for the next 5 or 6 times they call and then if it continues, I will just stop answering. Eventually they will know that they are not going to ever speak to a person again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brad.debow Brad DeBow

    I’ve had about 30 to 40 of these calls on my cell from 14 different phone numbers, each of which I put into my contact list under a contact named Ass Hole that has a silent ring and no vibrate so I don’t know when they try again. They’ve usually tried two or three times on each number, so I get some minor satisfaction from later, when I look, seeing the “Missed call from Ass Hole.” Today (1-21-13) they had a different tactic. The call came from “Unknown” with no phone number shown so I couldn’t put in in my contact list under Ass Hole. The call content was the same as always except from Tiffany this time.

    As a museum director I get calls from all over the country, including those from “Unknown” which are usually valid calls, so not answering calls from someone I don’t know is not an option.

    Any suggestions?

  • Bob Smith

    Googling numbers or using sites like badnumbers.com is a good start. But, what you want to do is use a call blocking device called the T-Lock Pro Call Blocker. It has a 1500 number personal blacklist. It hangs up on the numbers automatically. So when you google the numbers you can research whether a number is worthy of being blocked. Over time you should find the calls decrease in number.

    • http://onthespotblog.com/ On The Spot

      Call blocking numbers work great for some callers, but in the case of “Rachel” or the computer technician ones, it is not a good idea and will likely not work.

      “Rachel” uses numbers from all over the country, and rarely uses the same number twice. Block-lists or Black lists essentially then just become a game of Whack-a-mole, constantly adding new bad numbers to the list, without really decreasing the call volume.

      The computer technician ones (that claim to be Microsoft, but they’re not) are using Skype, and thus are using the Skype generic numbers when they call. I recently had a call from a contractor call my cellphone using Skype, and when I checked the number against Google it said it is a fraudulent caller. He then called my landline, and I saw his name come up on the Caller ID, and accepted the call. So in this case the number is a false positive.

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