My scammer’s story

I tried to get to know the people trying to rob me

Thomas Brown
8 min readJun 7, 2021


Courtesy YouTube/Scammer Payback. Indian phone scammers in their offices.

Lucy called me on Friday to steal my money.

That isn’t her real name and, technically, she didn’t call me. The automated system used by her Delhi-based call center did. Lucy was merely the “officer” on duty the system routed me to when I pressed #1 after an automated message:

“This is the Social Security Administration Department. You social security is suspended. Please call to avoid penalties authorized by US Government Agencies and Laws.” The mistakes are intentional. It was bad. Somehow the robo-voice had an accent. As scam calls go, this was comically bad so far. And I’ve heard enough to compare, I’ve wasted hundreds of hours answering surveys and screwing with scammers.

Yeah, I’m that guy. I pick up strange and blocked numbers. My friends and family are kind of perennially itinerant with their devices and locations so that unknown number could be someone from Malaysia as easily as someone paid to call me. I also ran a public polling firm for a few years so taking phone surveys is kind of nerdy fun for me. And if I can waste a criminal’s time, well, maybe not such a waste of time after all. [If you want to watch professionals actively messing with scammers there are more than a few YouTube channels dedicated to it. For those inclined to indulge in vicarious spite.]

So “Officer Lucy Quinn” picked up and asked me for information. There’s no way her name is Quinn. Lucy perhaps, but that voice did not belong to a Quinn. There’s many other voices, a constant din in the background (pro-tip, you can waste a good 3–4 minutes at a time by asking them to repeat themselves and blame it on their colleagues. Choose a different word to mishear each time). After about ten or fifteen minutes of my doddering obstinacy Lucy got irritated and demanded I address her as “Officer Lucy.” It’s sometimes hard to keep the smile out of your voice.

About thirty minutes into the call she kind of deflated. Her already petite voice got even softer, “You’re playing with me aren’t you?” Yes, I’m sorry.

“I don’t like doing this. I think I want to be fired.” Well, f***, this just got interesting, I thought.