Torturing Spammers

I got this via email. It was too funny not to share. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Note that I don't condone this sort of behavior (even if I find it hilarious), but if you're going to do it, make sure you're at some big company where you're behind a PBX. When you call any toll-free number, your number is provided to the company receiving the call. There is no way to block this. But if you're behind a PBX, all they get is the number for one of the outgoing lines your company has. You don't want the spammers getting your phone number too, do you?

I filter my mail based upon who it is from and/or who it is to. I have about a dozen rules, and it makes all of my spam end up in one or two folders. I can then easily delete it all, or move the email that is good to where it should go.

I found at least one way to torture the spammers and/or the people who hired them.

I go to BigCo [see, there's that identity protection] on Mondays for a few hours. When I get there I turn on my main machine and do a full check out and full build which takes on the order of 30 minutes. I also turn on my spare machine that I use for mail, bug tracking, etc...

One day, I got some mail/spam which at the bottom said something like This is not spam, you have opted-in for it. It was the first time I had heard of "opt-in" (or opt-anything for that matter), and while I could sort of gather the meaning, I wasn't sure what they meant and was a bit pissed. This particular piece of spam had an 800 number in it to call for whatever they were spamming me about. It dawned on me that 800 numbers are free to the caller, and I assumed must be paid for by the provider? It also dawned on me that I was at BigCo, so calling the 800 number at a bare minimum wouldn't give them my home or real office number, I didn't think they'd actually get my BigCo office number, but even if they did, I decided I didn't care.

So I dialed:

Them: Hello
Me: Hi
Them: Can I help you?
Me: What's an opt-in?
Them: Huh?
Me: I got this email from you, and at the bottom it says it isn't spam, I opted-in for it. I don't know what that means.
Them: It means you signed up to get the email.
Me: I'm sure I didn't.
Them: Well you must have.
Me: No, I'm sure I didn't. I've never signed up to get email from you guys. I've never even heard of you.
Them: Why are you calling?
Me: Well, I figured you have to pay whenever anyone calls your 800 number, so I thought I'd call you and waste some of your time and money because you sent me spam which wasted my time and as a result, money. Fair is fair you know.

The guy went friggen ballistic on me. He was swearing up and down and then slammed the phone down. I was in hysterics.

Pleased with the first reaction I got, I called again (the checkout and/or build was still going). I repeated the same conversation more or less with someone else. They were pissed as well and hung up on me. I was rolling on the floor. I kept calling. Whenever I got a "new" person on the other end of the line, I repeated the same conversation more or less in my most polite, curious voice.

Whenever I got the same person, I either said "Hi, I'm calling again about that opt-in email you sent me again", or didn't say anything. It seemed like I'd get the first guy every 3 or 4 calls and he would say, "hello", I'd say nothing, he'd say "hello" once or twice more and then go ballistic and start swearing at me again before slamming down the phone in anger. I just kept hitting redial and would listen to them go nuts on the other end. Someone came by so I put it on speakerphone and mute, so we could both roll on the floor laughing.

Eventually the checkout/build finished, so my fun had to end.

Copyright 2009, Dave Polaschek. Last updated on Mon, 15 Feb 2010 14:07:15.