Muffled Calls from Ghana

Maybe I’m late to the party on this scam, but here’s what happened to me tonight: my cell phone rang, with a very long number showing up as the “caller ID” on the display. When I answered it became obivous from the echo that it was an international call, and looking up the number later, it looks like it might have come from Ghana.

On the other end of the line was a fuzzy voice, asking me to call another number, also seemingly in Ghana. After telling me to call the number, the caller rung off.

I called Aliant Mobility, and poked around the Internet a little for more information, and the general idea here seems to be that if I were to call back the number in Ghana (or whereever), I would incur incredible long distance charges.

Oddly enough, a few minutes later a call came in on my office line from a number seemingly in France (country code of 33, or maybe 133), and the caller hung up without leaving a message.

Aliant took the call details, and promised to report the call to the fraud department there. They did advise not to return the call, which is common sense.

And it used to be just email we had to be afraid of…


Brad Pineau's picture
Brad Pineau on August 21, 2003 - 23:58 Permalink

Wow. That’s crazy. Can you imagine all the innocent people who are concerned, and actually do call back, thinking it’s an emergency. How can these con men (women) live with themselves… do they not feel morally wrong?

Oliver B's picture
Oliver B on August 22, 2003 - 00:30 Permalink

This is sarcasm, right? Retirees and other trusting types have been having whole savings accounts bled dry by phone, mail, e-mail and probably carrier pigeon before that. I think it’s a good question what these people feel though. I think there are Web sites that collect e-mail correspondences with would-be scammers, in which people have strung them along and toyed with them mercilessly. You have to imagine what they’re really thinking and how they feel when they finally learn they’ve been duped themselves. Not bad enough, certainly.

Alan's picture
Alan on August 22, 2003 - 00:40 Permalink

Consider man in Ghana. He and his pal wonder how they can get some money so he can live the life of Eight is Enough or whatever crap TV gets syndicated there. “Nelson, we shall make them call us and charge them very high rates.” “Brilliant, Clive, we shall live like Kings!” Just then the Aliant cops bust through the doors and all they remember later is the music they heard when they were taken away — “whatcha gonna do? whatcha gonna do when they come for you.” Ask to see your Aliant file on this in a year, Peter, and I bet you’ll find jelly donut powder in it.

Ken's picture
Ken on August 22, 2003 - 01:10 Permalink

Thinking about how many digits stand between you and the voice of anyone, anywhere crank calls from the third world are inevitable. I can see where this goes, entire countries will be banned from the public telephone network for terrorizing sleeping westerners — crank call terrorism.

I am from Iraq, we have Robin Hood in a can!

Stephen DesRoches's picture
Stephen DesRoches on August 22, 2003 - 02:12 Permalink

No idea if this is related or not but I’ve been getting calls around 6-7 pm (probably at least 5-6 in the past 2 months) and there is never anybody on the other end.

Mandy's picture
Mandy on August 22, 2003 - 03:05 Permalink

Stephen, that sounds more like a girl with a crush calling you. You know, too shy to talk….. just kidding. I have no idea.

In fact I get calls like that all the time also. Rings and rings then no one is there… is a computer thing? Meaning, is it something automatical dialing numbers?

marcus's picture
marcus on August 22, 2003 - 03:12 Permalink

Pete — do you advertise your cell number? As far as I know, there is no directory assistance available for this service. Cell #’s are something the carriers seem to guard very closely… maybe the Ghana would-be-conners are just very good at guessing the range of 902 cell-exchanges.

As for the scam itself, I’m sure it was perfected in one form or another back in the neanderthal period: Cave Man A throws his voice so Cave Man B turns around to see where grunts are coming from. Cave Man A walks away with Cave Man B’s meal…

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on August 22, 2003 - 03:23 Permalink

My cell phone is on my contact page. I’ve never had “cell spam” before, although I suppose it’s technically possible, and ever more popular to spam digital cell phones with SMS messages. I’m sure I’ll have to change my number and/or take the number off eventually.

Rob's picture
Rob on August 22, 2003 - 03:36 Permalink

Stephen, Mandy,
You’re correct, it’s most likely a computer autodialing your number from a call centre. The supper hour is a favourite for survey companies and telemarketers. While every call centre slave is busily asking Canadians to answer annoying questions on auto insurance or Liberal government policy, a piece of software is deftly estimating the time when the next said slave will finish with one call and be prepared to start the next. In anticipation of a slave becoming imminently available, the computer dials the next number. If everything works out, the slave moves seemlessly from completing one call to beginning another. If, however, the software has dialed the next number prematurely (stupidly not accounting for the time it takes the previous victim to tell the slave never to call again), you will answer your phone without anyone on the other end to answer your answer. This is how these companies increase productivity — by squeezing as many calls into the shortest possible time — at your expense.

Mandy's picture
Mandy on August 22, 2003 - 03:47 Permalink

Thanx for the info Rob, although I have to admit, I do like my secret admirer theory better… ah, a girl can dream can’t she?

Lou Quillio's picture
Lou Quillio on August 22, 2003 - 08:33 Permalink

I am from Iraq, we have Robin Hood in a can!

That’s the funniest thing I’ve read in a week.

Consider Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints, a thirty year-old novel describing the paralyzation of Western Civilization by a southern hemisphere with nothing left to lose. If the weak and hopeless can muster enough organization to just show up on our doorstep we won’t know what to do. Too many to chase, can’t shoot ‘em … what happens then?

Or try Paul Kennedy’s treatment from about ten years ago.

I want to say that Raspail’s prediction is nearly coming true but it’s almost exactly our reality today, with more precision to follow. The dispossessed of this world needn’t kill the West, only to show up in Chesapeake Bay or South Street Seaport or Disney World a mere hundred-thousand strong and ask “What will you do with us now?” We won’t have an answer.

On that day there will be no more pretending. As I recently heard the N.Y. Times columnist Tom Friedman remark, in today’s interconnected world you either visit bad neighborhoods or they will visit you.

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on August 22, 2003 - 20:30 Permalink

Andt Rooney suggest dealing with phone spam by saying “that’s really intersting do you mind if i just sit down so i can really listen” and then you leave the phone off the hook with the slave waiting for you to pick it up