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#104 The Case of the Phantom Caller


A woman in New Jersey is getting strange phone calls to her office from unknown numbers. Every time she picks up, she finds herself eavesdropping on the life of a different stranger. Unsure what else to do, she calls in Super Tech Support.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This episode is brought to you by better for him a new podcast from eighty people. In each episode, Francesca Ramsay talks to visionaries in business leaders about mistakes. They ve made how they work their way through them and came out better for, listen on Spotify or wherever you get. Your pot casts This episode is brought to you by a Sana. A saga is an app designed to help teams, plan, organise and execute all the work they do together. It helps you make sure nothing falls through the cracks, so you can focus on the work that matters most learn more and try Osanna for free visit, asano dot com to get started. That's a ass, a dna dot com.
When they might require is about- and I know it's our children. Yes we're back, and I have a super tech support case for you, a ride. So obviously super export is when we We try to help the listener with a overly complicated computer problem. There dries up this wine is absolutely the hardest one. I've ever seen excited now. Ok, so this came in from a lesser named Jody pay Jerry, our first conversations backing well yeah thanks for sending in support ticket. It sounds very
weird what is happening to you, yeah it as nobody can seem to figure it out, and I work with all kinds of web people. So the problem is happening at journeys job. Short in New Jersey. This coming that sounds like dot law domain names, lawyers, ok, anyway, Jody is a person who picks up the one eight hundred number. Work and starting last December. She's targeting these, like weird phone calls defined weird. So in the beginning, like normal weird, I would say she pick up her phone and she just hear this screeching Ike modem noise like horribly loud feedback, but really loud organizer would be like the smell.
Ok, so just getting a weird phone call, it's just like hang up and without sure, but then this inserts happening, where shall be sitting at her desk, shall pick up the phone and shall here like is, if a stranger somewhere, the world is holding the phone up to wherever they are. Wound lake outside or the like. You could hear muffled voices are awake, traffic would meet with any regulatory talking death a lot I did. I would be like like I would get really allowed in, and I hide some deal pick up or somebody Ilium within Europe and its judgment of the phone diesel good or voice knows, which is actually how we ended up with a ton of recordings. These weird cause. I would like to hear some left a lot more questions, the attic you're. So let this on your mind,
it sounds like a basketball yeah, that's rising Suzie Basle Games. You can hear a ball drilling anything actually here sneakers we can hear the sneaker squeaking and then beginning? You could hear a child saying something to their mom, like its being recorded from what Hell is going on. I now. Love you play you another one that makes us market I'd like to me just weirder: ok, ok, Where do you think you are? I hear birds chirping. I hear it sounds like a fly. Ah, how
fly pick up on a phone I now, but now there's car sounds Others are their storms, islands. I think so. This is actually distressing. I now it feels bad. I know. Also, when she's markings halls, it was like some kind of damn had broken like she was getting them all the time. I gotta Mamma. We can get em middle name like I'll, come in and all how Blake three voice, three that have come from the evening news, each call she just thrown into some totally different place like Suddenly she just in the middle of a town, squares
or shall just being a laundromat. Some reason their audit office. There was a muffled conversations between strangers long there's also crystal. Your phone conversations gets in the way you could try the areas so there will be any problem. They will take care of that they are used to that due to the fact that some, these I just feel your to private to share alike. There's one where the sum is doing a criminal background check on somebody else Jody have any theories she dies, but like one,
pressed her on what I was going on. She. She ought really embarrassed yet weird, and I mean now in this day and age when you know cyber security is such a thing. I just you know. Well my minded lake, oh god What if the government is using my phone put in you, that's just flake, unethical I'm sure about TAT. I think I email you guys she's, like maybe the They somehow accidently forwarding me they're wiretaps. So I didn't know I they did not know if this was the main I was having like on purpose or by accident. But the thing it was clear is that everyday in America, people's private lives, are being broadcast Jody. Ass, her to say a couple, more questions about her phone set up and leave it
So she Buffon and then we use precision interconnect like an authorized. Voicing data service agent, ok and I told her addressing into the bottom of it. So I decided to start with the one clue that I had would you just every one of these calls to Jody had shown up on her already Every single one had a different phone number, and so I made a list of all his phone numbers as, like, I'm just gonna start calling Yes,. Our high bombs, Peter I'm a reporter and working straight out, somebody who's been getting a bunch of strange phone calls, and this is one of the numbers that they ve gotten a call from. I remain our name by, I had a lot of awkward conversations, people who had no idea what I was talking about. The
longest, one was this kind. I call center, where I just ended up like consoling him. You see, I do apologise. But I do understand I'm a leg. It might know you oughta part, is not an I'm, not upset, just trying to understand them. So sorry about that. No no, no needs their holidays, and it wasn't that noble what I was talking about. It was like the places themselves didn't even match up lake This is what I got when I called the number for the town square, where we're gonna laughing interested. Ok, the number for the distant ethereal music that when here the Carolina Renaissance Festival, is open Saturday and Sunday thank Mcmullen, the Carolina Renaissance beds. Down the number. For that call. It sounded like a basketball game that belong to this soup. Her friendly woman in Montana, who actually was just like willing to stay on the phone with me and go to her calendar and make sure that, on the date of the phone call she had been
nowhere near a sporting event of any kind. He now nothing. I I'm gonna see what else I can learn of others. Do you mind if I Call you back at some plain. He call me back and I'm carry the shit now the one thing I noticed was that a lot of the people I spoke to they said their phones were voice over Ip Voip, meaning that they are making calls over the internet, which felt like maybe something because Jody had voip to remember. She said she got it through that company precision and organised as well wonder about precision interconnect I never heard of them and when I went to my they had like one, pretty basic website and an almost no web presence. Besides that, an ever How much are they call him on the phone either? Nobody would take up, or somebody would tell me that early bit, men whose womanizer start you had just left until five?
The way I have here hey, this is Pga. Come back. You see have hardly any office yet have done for one second place hi. It's hardly hey early names, Pga vote. I've been training at all. You got to get on the phone. How can I help you? Ok, so this is, it is a complex. Thing: why don't? We are your customer, I know, but I'm I'm a reporter, but I'm helping our customer of yours solve interesting phone related mystery you're, a reporter, yes, you're, a reporter either reporter your rapporteur for where ok, so I work for a company called gimlets and I gain weight. Gimlet little, like
Unless they're just like, how would I do that pretty soon hardly was like just as peasant with these calls, as I was she had just like she'd, never seen any. Explain a hardly. What was going on with dirty actually had a play, her one. The phone calls to make sense. Does that sound like birds or somebody again to me, I wasn't that, unlike that's a farm like, I think it's like, I was then why, for the event with harassment, they would be saying. Thank you now, unless they're just like, who would do that pretty soon early like just as has nay what these calls as I was. She had justly she'd, never seen anything like them and the more we talk the more I really like. That was a big deal, because Harley her job brings her into contact with like more weird phone. Malfeasance than you could ever imagine
she's always so busy, like literally that day. The thing that you ve been busy with before she and vote with me was a hacker had broken into one of her customers, phones and then made all these very expensive long distance calls like you, know, terrorist nations. That happens all the time. Not I shouldn't say terrorism, not necessarily it's like people. It's always international that I have a customer dead. Nineteen thousand dollars worth of international call one day two. I can't remember where those could call to all over the world all over the world, but like war, they terrorist Nathan, you don't know, I don't know where they were, Nineteen thousand dollars worth of international law. That scenario is happening all over the place. So what Harley calls terrorist nations? I would do this here's a lady. She is referring to
There have actually been phone scams targeting Americans that have been used to fund terror organisations. How does making phone calls funded terror storing ionization. So here's a real example from years ago. Ok, bunch actors in the Philippines breaking bunch of Americans found systems they spend a week and dialing and retailing a very expensive nine hundred number that they own and a rack up, hundreds of thousands of dollars and charges, and then they take that money and they handed over to their sponsors a Saudi Arabia based terror group. So convoluted yes, it is also it does not explain what's going on with Jody, because we check your phone bill, it's completely normal rate, so K Harley is like I don't know if this is, but I know it's fishy at meaning. The thing that bothers me, the most about the whole story is that she called back the numbers and it's not the people. Why does not bother you the most, because it means that its intentional that somebody's putting in a day
What number summit was covering their tracks. But that was all she could tell me which met there is time they ve there hey Dave has gone, gave the guy who helped us absurdity. Hurry Atlanta, he is super tech, support, super tech support. I tell them everything that was going on everything we ve learned and he like this is much ado about nothing. None of this is like, right. I feel strange to me, so you don't hear this and think like malfeasance hacking, government, wiretaps, etc. Now know that there is a logical like answer, so
this is really does. This is a delicate around which stated the bulk data me like. Basically, all you need to do what you think. There's a juries office. Look at her phone, any figure out why kind of banal crossed wire had created this problem now. Ok as I go but just in case cuz, neither according to seek in Europe too. Later, I got a message from day that you said what the actual. How would you describe What I can do that it can be done, interesting issues. Funding like whatever rightly wouldn t you like wholly crap, like almost any other tv shall write the house like. Ah what will happen next year? He was convinced tat. They were basin like one big story that had been chopped up in all these cause, and if you could just lay them on the right order, he would know the story right now like will start or willingness Would there be an ambulance or police car use? Also let go
church bell or something right, and that is how Dave and making a spade discovery. Only to cause a committed phone three weeks apart from each other the first one is from March. Sex is the one that something is from a basket. Awkward my boy, and here's a clash on March twenty Eightth from a completely different phone number, it's the same com that doesn't give me, but what they mean either as a guy
These are important issues like what that means is that somebody made this. There is a person or persons who have designed this to do something jobs, fascination with these recordings and my fascination with these recordings and Jody fascination in euro fascination, we ve been eating like bait in summer, strap coming up after the break, we get answers
this episode is brought to you by better for it a new podcast from eighty peed hosted by Francesca Ramsay. We all make mistakes better, for it looks at how mistakes have shaped the lives and careers of visionaries and business leaders and helps them think differently about what their working forty you'll hear from an entrepreneur who ventured out on his, and so I went out. I took seven hundred dollars. I had in the bank, but my own pickup truck took some flyers business cards in a week later I had a business and H our role breaker, whose learned why we all care about work in the first place. You wanted to proud of the work that you do. You want to be able to tell your friends about. You ought to be able to feel like you're, making a difference, you'll hear how they work their way through their mistakes and came out better for listen on Spotify or wherever you get your pockets. This episode is brought to you by a sauna picture. This a worldwide
We spend less time juggling email meetings and status updates and, more time doing the work that matters. The most your team, that's the one the sun was built to create a saga, is an app designed to help teams, plan, organise and execute all the work they do together its built to give teams. Clare. So. You can all understand your goals and how to achieve them together and whatever your next project is a sonnet can help reduce the busy work that waste your time from small companies to global enterprises. More than a million teams across a hundred and ninety five countries get work done with Sata learn more try Asano for free visit, assign a dot com to get started. That's a s. Dna dot com walk about Russia. Here's warrior David is comments that these phone calls are actually recordings and that they were made on purpose by somebody.
But why would someone make recordings and just play them for people in a way that Does it feel typically uncomfortable so who so so Dave actually was what I I don't know, but I am sure that basically, this is it, money because, like there's so much money to be made in phone, fried six, somebody would not mobile. Something so new and devious unless they were using it to make money. How would someone make money from one of these costs so that re actually Dave the answer he was like. I know a lot of guys who work in this field. I spend time dabbling in this field, which is so to me, as I see the beauty and the genius of the bait, but the trap is totally an invisible to me. Dave said all of that and the hen he disappeared into Ukraine. Like the country was crippled by this horrible ransom whereby, and he had to go fix it until he was just like gone, and so I just left with this question and basically like four months I just
around the earth? Looking for somebody else who could explain what this trap was to make it hard to dislike white HAT when Hacker in Berlin, the kind of promising- but he never heard of it- there's a guy Washington, state you'd gotten ten years for boy packing rice, I learned about when Gary Fraud told bypass fraud also said shrinking, Nothing explained these spooky horse and nobody I taught to had even like heard of them until the end of July, when I found this guy in Santa Barbara say your name and like your tight, like how you want to identify you, jerk James Brown, among senior manager of cot operations, that look James worse, this company that does call tracking and analytics for others. Please, I got James on the phone. Did they always do, which is, I told him about Jerry, told him better from cars. James reacted completely differently. She just here like ambient recordings from my God knows where in the world
Does that sound familiar to you? The very really is she just like on the cell phone or that you haven't Humphrey number like that, an office or something didn't call toll free number in office. She works. She basely of a few different one hundred numbers that are widely advertise on the internet. Go to her, don't change than up them for a long time. This is all true I'd like that you're already able to fill in this makes you feeling close to this Turner. James is way further down the rabbit rational than me, for I have sixty two of these recordings. James has collected over ten thousand, I'm so
curious if you ve heard the ones I have heard like there's wine, it sounds like its outside and then there's like something's has almost like an air raid siren the truly a lot of our creepy to me. Do you know they wonder I do yeah. If you clean it up, it actually sounds more like a train or ha trains going by but yeah. I it's funny because, when I first heard about the same thing was like what is this in like a nuclear who face up up up up up I just feel so excited to meet you because I ve been spending so much time in the audio. These guys, it feels like finding out some. Like the same banded equipment that, let me tell you what he likes the banned them pretty badly need. Actually they two and a half years ago, one of our customers reach out to our customers. Success team with a cold Kennedy, and I like him, but is this higher? They they calling me- and I wasn't your nose like what the self. Then I got my curiosity pertinent there
and so the first thing the James noses visit these weird phone cause they're only going to the customers. We have one hundred numbers care are and Sir James decides to build a honeypot she registers twice. Thousand one hundred numbers and he monitors everything that goes into them. Every weird phone call they get. He records it and he looks at the meadow data. Any figures out what he's a hat is a computer program. It's a massive computer program designed by somebody to scrape the internet for one hundred numbers cutting duties and then place. Hundreds of thousands of falls to these one hundred numbers every day and the programme has been designed to hide itself it supposed to look
like normal phone traffic to the phone carriers, don't realize. What's going on, it starts ripping about six, a m and its peak, probably around like nine or ten m, and it tapers back down with business hours. They ve been before using here, even better. We caught a one time within messed up because they forgot to turn off their traffic on a holiday autonomous, all their traffic us through the roof, and they realise that I'd like to three o clock in the afternoon and cutting- and you just saw a clear by the trap- is going and then just balls off to their use They very smart about it like, though, though honour like bank holidays, they just try to blended in and sewed James thence are going to have to phone companies being like. Ok How would somebody make money? of somebody else by calling There were eight hundred number and playing like spooky sounds over the phone line. And he's able to piece together an explanation which I am now going to give to you
which is you just going to bear with me? Ok, ok! So in the ideal sixties, I'm here I'm here for this, so in the nineteen taxis, telephone numbers are embedded in the way that the toll free industry works. Is that it's a reverse payment system right, so you have a telephone number. I call you, I dont pay right. There are more pigs, so so that I knew but like when I didn't know is that when a coming, has it already number and they pay like the phone call me dollar or whatever the phone coming in He sat dollar and it shares it with every other phone company that helped make the connection. So Agnes up but like if I called Jody right now, obviously call it'll go to lake, eighty, indeed our near me and then
of a rise in Tower Manhattan and then over to a Sprint Tower New Jersey to June. So there's one two three Hops county chain: each one of those little girl, one dollar phone, call, is getting like, maybe ten rate carriage. Getting tens are carried through his good, so is actually even less money than that, but there so many of these cause happening every single day that, even though the phone from you might just be devalued fraction, of a penny each time those fractions of pennies, add up to like millions of dollars red and so what happened a few years ago, apparently is some brilliant person was like ha. I would love to take some of that money and what they do. It is. They went to leg a shady tell calm, company somewhere or like crazy eddies phone service, they are like listen. I am going to place a tonne, of one hundred cars through you and when you get paid for them.
Sure that money with me, so the more phone calls I can make and the longer that those phone call stay up the more money that I make. Ok, so then, how does that get us to like spooky phone calls from nowhere? So with vague about that right? How do I send a bunch of phone calls and adjust silent right to judge you? What a second two seconds- hello, hello by hang up the rear here? Don't you got so? How do you keep people? In fact, right you, you. Appeal to their curiosity. So, like those first Causa Jody was getting like the static and the music. Those would have been like first drafts and then the later cause. It was like the scammers were actually figuring out how to be interesting it. So it's would so stupid and so smart preserved, ah also Jim
doesn't think this is like a bunch of scammers doing the same thing he thinks all of these calls are coming either from one small group or even like one person, and he has theories about who that person would be his as retired in their mid forties used to work at one of the big phone companies. I am convinced that that through this, could they asked me someone does very intimate with large scale. Traffic great James says that the list of people will know how to play. This game is so short. He's basically talked to everyone on it. While he was learning about it. Did you ever feel, like maybe you're, sitting across from the person so many times? Yes, you're gonna conferences and stuff, like that, and people ask questions like almost like this exchange rate, where they would be asking these questions or that some interesting zones in those dating back on their feet, tryin to find countered budgets should remember we. We also thought two occasions within
hours of attending the conference. We saw the traffic ship significant under the carriers that the traffic were coming into changed, so it was late like a game of cat and mouse. You know: do you ever wonder why the person, the fraudster, hasn't stopped like they ve a lot of money. They know that p are pursuing them. My guess is big because they are not afraid. I mean I think there are literally thumbing their nose. Ass government agency gives you book similar, recording that they use their literally reading news articles off White House targets like the absolutely website, tat to me, that seems like a very little fun to them, because I think they know that is very difficult for them to get caught Basically way to get em, you gotta go like crazy, Eddie Telecom and be like listen all that money you're making offer when your customers you need to stop its illegal, I need
all the information on them handed over and they have no reason to cooperate. Basely James would need subpoena power yeah. Can you just say too so I haven't fur are thing? Can you just say your name in and what your job is yeah, so My name is pad armor and our special agent, with cyber division that the FBI James has reinforcements, has now share his honeypot with FBI and actually see. There's an open investigation ass agent. Armor like do you agree with James as possible, that this whole mess hundreds of thousands phone calls every day companies using like untold gobs of money. Could it all
really be the work of wine person? A lot of the characteristics of the calls tend to be the same. I'd say it's not coming from a kind of different fucked up. I guess I'll just keep at it. That is this person or persons. Are they catch able like? Can they be caught yeah? They will be caught. The ok, no doubt about it, but there's a lot of money involved. He says, awfully confident that he can catch this person yeah. I kind of leave have so so I started CALL Jody back cycle. As like. We can actually start these calls, but there the eyes on it and when they arrest the person- and I think causer- probably stop He was basically just excited to finally know the origin of these we're drunk all shipping getting Mirage yeah. I found it job. They like leave em on for twenty minutes, and I picked up the cause of this
and probably really liked you allow men men semi somebody from money, so she said I could closer together. We hung up and then she got another from off. The earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, the other one, Is there a war and the trouble nor the mountains? the swelling thereof, sailor There is a river, the screens, while I shall make glad the city of God the holy places, the tabernacles of the most high bodies in the midst of her usual, not remove gotcha.
Her and that right early, the heathen rage, the kingdoms were moved, the other his voice, neener smell good lord of hosts, is with us, the God of Jacob. Is our refuge sale on the works of the Lord the proposal also stood by me potato and our common shows proves this week. I should in any way abandon Da Myanmar Caddy are. Seized him. Howard, backtracking by Michel, Harris we're mixed by Red Kwan in turn is Anatoly. Special thing sweet to colleagues were seen us and Christie Thompson in Panama, our lack of FCC
If you are getting spooky halls and you want them to stop you vile complain. At consumer complaints that FCC dont go just use the words toll free traffic pumping worldlings. Website. Also, if you another biogas Check out, I was interviewed on the Pike S Wigglin cigarettes a few weeks ago is really fun paralysing you're missing out. Labour is those popsicles. You thought you were never going to find at the daily again All is now available on Spotify, so go take us out there. You can also listen to the show on Apple pie. Gas Google play wherever you want thanks for listening. We are very glad to be back and will see in two weeks. Good move
I feel like the same melodies been my dream for as long as I can remember, saving dream, sequence era, file corrupted. Never remember who goes morning just some more peace forward, you we need to think seriously about how we're getting home, Oh as planet our plan, I'm, ok,
thought. I was good. You know me so well,.
Transcript generated on 2020-02-13.