Crooks who make a living via identity theft schemes, dating scams and other con games often run into trouble when presented with a phone-based challenge that requires them to demonstrate mastery of a language they don’t speak fluently. Enter the criminal call center, which allows scammers to outsource those calls to multi-lingual men and women who can be hired to close the deal.
Some of these call centers are Web-based, allowing customers to upload information about their targets to a service that initiates the call to a bank, credit provider, shipping company or dating scam victim (for more on the role played by call centers in dating schemes, see last week’s story, Fraudsters Automate Russian Dating Scams). Other call centers require customers to supply information about the target and the needed service via Jabber instant message. This post focuses on Web-based call services.
In the call service pictured below, we can see one user ordering a $250 radio-controlled toy Ford Mustang as a gift for someone’s kid for the holidays. The customer of the call service specifies the American Express card account to be used for the transaction, and requests that the order be expedited to a reshipping mule who will forward the goods to Russia. The status of the transaction indicates that this particular order was successfully placed on Jan. 7, 2016.
One of the cybercrime underground’s oldest call center services — CallMeBaby — serves a variety of swindles but specializes in helping criminals cash out dating scams. It charges $10 for each call in English, and $12 for calls in German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish. Here’s an ad for the four-year-old service, which features an illustration of a blonde woman chatting with President Obama:
CallMeBaby advertises the availability of a male and female to impersonate anyone in the above-supported languages, and operates between the hours of 17:00 to 03:00 Moscow time (business hours in America).
The CallMeBaby Web-based service, pictured below, includes a “urgent” button where paying customers in a special hurry can expedite calls for an extra fee. “Sparta,” the nickname of the cybercrook who runs the service, warns customers that if the call service has to make a second call to complete the transaction because of insufficient information provided by the customer, that customer will be charged twice.
“If you call the bank it can take up to 40 minutes (during rush hour, getting bank statements sometimes takes a long time),” Sparta says in an ad for his service. “But we will do everything to make your call as quick as possible.”
Crooked call services, like other dodgy online businesses, rely on catchy advertisements and graphic designs to differentiate themselves from other services and to attract new customers. The sketch below — shown from concept to completed product — was commissioned by a call center operator and intercepted after being posted to a file-sharing site online. The image depicts a female call service employee successfully tricking an American Express customer service person into approving a fraudulent transaction.
Criminal call centers would seem to be a terrific opportunity for voice biometrics technology, an anti-fraud solution which focuses on building unique voice fingerprints of known criminals and applying special anti-fraud screening to future calls from individuals who match those voice profiles.