NeoBytes 🙂 is an occasional feature that takes a step back from the big headlines, to take a look at what else is happening in the vast, scary expanse of the tech world – often with a cynical eye, always with a dose of humour.
In a report this year, the American Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimated that since October 2013, more than 10,000 people have fallen foul of scams by criminals pretending to be the IRS over the phone.
The scammers usually call victims, claiming to be the IRS, and tell them that they owe back taxes and must pay under threat of arrest, or even deportation. However, one Redditor who received a voicemail from a dubious source accusing them of tax fraud, they decided to get their own back.
The Redditor in question, with the handle YesItWasDataMined, programmed a script which directed 28 calls per second to phones of the presumed scammers. Each call is accompanied by an audio message which states the following:
Hello, it has been detected that you are a scammer. Because of this, we are now flooding your phone lines to prevent you from scamming additional people. This will not stop until you stop.
A video showing audio of YesItWasDataMined’s script in action has received over a million views on YouTube on the Redditor’s channel, “Project Mayhem”, and can be viewed below:
YesItWasDataMined, who also works as a security engineer, expressed frustration about such imposter scams in an interview with Motherboard, stating how he was “so sick” of scammers such as these, and stated how he also takes steps to record and report tech support scams.
The success of the first video prompted the release of a second which targeted tech support scammers. In addition, Reddit users to request the source code for the phone flooding program. YesItWasDataMined is reportedly aware of the ethical concerns that releasing the code would entail, with the code currently kept out of the public domain.
Although the videos will undoubtedly be pleasurable viewing for anyone who has received similar scam calls, the long-term efficacy of such vigilante tactics is doubtful. The Federal Trade Commission offers a hotline (1-877-FTC-HELP) and website through which fraudulent calls can be reported, with the IRS having stated in a 2016 report that it will never call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method.