Voicemail Spam and My 'Federal Criminal Offence'

Reading time ~3 minutes

Want to learn more about Security? Sign up for my mailing list!

A while ago I received this voicemail on my personal cell phone:

Executed by the US treasury - Intending[ed?] your serious attention. Ignoring this will be an intentional second attempt to avoid initial appearance before a magistrate, judge or a grand jury for a federal criminal offence. This is the final attempt to reach you. To resolve this issue immediately and to speak to a federal agent call back number 7162269750. I repeat 7162269750. Thank you.

Rather than call back immediately (the feds can wait a few hours right?) I did a little digging.

The call came from the number noted in the message. Now the first thing I did was do some basic research to go from 99.9% to 100% sure the US government wouldn’t call my cellphone for some crap last attempt to contact me. This particular scam isn’t new. It seems it’s been around in some form since at least June 2015.

The number I was given to call was 7162269750. In earlier articles I also saw folks in my situation mention 5107796229.

It appears that this sort of call has been around for a while, and continues to be a popular way to scam folks out of money. From what I can tell several groups of people both abroad and here in the US, have continued to use some version of this scam with minimal differentiations.

Why is this such a popular and effective scam?

Well it has all the hallmarks of a great (if completely unethical) business model.

The automated scam calls are easy lead generation and while I have no idea what the volume on the most recent iteration of this scam is that I was targeted with, if the previous scammers were able to generate millions with this, there must be a decent set of people calling back and forking over their life savings. Since almost anyone calling the number back is a victim waiting to have their savings fleeced the only bottlenecks are on how many calls the scammers can threaten into paying and how many they can send out.

So what can we do about this? Well for starters we can remind our grandparents that if the IRS or anyone else calls them asking for money they can always be skeptical and phone a friend first. Usually the folks demanding your money now or else are trying to get it from you before you realize who really they are.

Other than that it might be worthwhile reducing the attack vectors of potential scammers. Spammy services that offer bulk voicemails and robocalls for a small fee must be goldmines to these sorts of scam ‘businesses’. Because of that it might be worthwhile seeing how these services can help prevent abuses like these and protect the folks they are being paid to contact.