I got another phone call Friday morning from Rachel at Cardmember Services, (or Card Services or Cardholder Services) and that resulted in a mini-adventure in learning more about this scam company, how they do what they do, and some measures you can take to thwart them — or at least, cost them some money.
Here’s Chapter 1, btw.
Caller ID listed the phone number from “Rachel” as 510-335-1032. A Google search revealed that number belongs to Mosaic Networx LLC, a company based in San Rafael, Calif. It’s in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. So I looked upthe main number of Mosaic Networx LLC and called it. It was answered by a voicemail system that said:
“Thank you for calling Mosaic Networx, your single source data communications provider. If you would like to dial your party by name, Press 1.”
Of course I pressed 1, and the robot said, “Enter your party’s first or last name with the telephone keypad.” I punched in the first name “John.” The robot said, “Connecting to Peter Schultz” and then a human answered, “This is Joe.” Go figure.
He told me his full name is Joe Buck. He said he has 42 years experience in the telecommunication industry, and though he lives in California now he’s from Virginia Beach.
I explained why I was calling his company and a conversation ensued in which I learned some things from Joe, and he learned some from me.
What I learned from him:
• Mosaic Networx is a legitimate company that sells thousands of different telephone numbers to resellers, who in turn resell them to fraud artists such as Cardmember Services, and other companies aren’t engaged legitimate business. Because of previous complaints to Mosaic like mine, Joe knew the name of the company I was calling to complain about, but said he is barred by law from disclosing it.
• However, Mosaic and its CEO have received many complaints about Cardmember Services through the California Public Service Commission, to which Mosaic is authorized to provide information about the company, and they have done this.
• The fraud artists purchasing the numbers are buying them as “inbound only” numbers. Then they use their private branch exchange systems to turn them into to “outbound” numbers. They hook up a robocalling computer to that, i.e. Rachel.
• Mosaic Networx earns virtually nothing when such numbers are misused for outbound calls. They earn money only when the number is used for inbound calls, and that can be substantial.
• Joe said he was able to electronically block calls from 510-335-1032 to my home telephone. All I had to do was send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here’s the email I sent:
From: Dan Casey
Subject: Do Not Call
“I received a call from 510-335-1032. My phone number is 540-xxx-xxxx. I would like my phone number blocked from receiving further calls from 510-335-1032.”
• However, Joe noted that, through a reseller, the company in question had purchased “thousands” of phone numbers from Mosaic. Thus, while he could block my line from ever again getting calls from 510-335-1032, he couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t get them from another number the fraudster has purchased from Mosaic or some other company like it.
“But I’ve blocked a lot of folks’ phone numbers from that number and I’ve never had a repeat complaint,” Joe added.
“I don’t understand why you don’t refuse to sell numbers to this company,” I told Joe.
Essentially, he said that Mosaic doesn’t have a lot of control over who the resellers pass the numbers onto, and that the fraudsters are a relatively miniscule part of the market. I got the impression that it’s not worth a lot of effort for Mosaic to root out the fraud artists because they’re such a small percentage of the business it does.
Then we got back to another issue Joe had raised — that Mosaic got paid only for “inbound” calls on the number it had sold.
“So when I call that number, it costs Cardmember Services money?” I asked.
“That’s right,” Joe said. Mosaic gets paid on a per-minute basis based calls to that number. Now THAT was interesting information.
Because when you call that number, you get connected to another voicemail system, where there is no mention of a company name.
“Welcome to our customer communications platform,” the robot says. I was offered 4 options. Press
- To connect to a customer service representative — this never works. You get put on hold for 15 seconds, then there’s a loud beep and then it says “We’re sorry, all our representative are busy. Please leave a message after the beep.”
- To have your number put into our Do Not Call database.
- To leave a voice message for the Customer Care Department.
- “To report your concerns about our marketing practices, or to be connected to the regulatory agencies that govern our industry.”
You can also press 9 to repeat the menu. And you can do this 2 or 3 times, which runs up the minutes, which costs the fraudsters money. Of course, I had to call them a number of times Friday for research purposes for this post.
With #4, they give you hotline numbers for the FTC and FCC. But since you don’t know the company’s name, (it’s not Cardmember Services) and since there are a lot of different companies pulling this scheme, I’m not sure what use that is.
I also experimented with #3. An interesting quality to that is, there seems to be no time limit on the length of a message you can leave. So, I pressed that #3 and played them an entire rendition of “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones.
I reckon that cost them a little money, because I wasted about 5 minutes on that call — first by replaying their menu three times, then by leaving the “message” — a 3 minute long rock n’ roll anthem.
You may be wondering by now — what did Joe learn form me?
It’s this: The Federal Trade Commission is currently offering a $50,000 reward to the person who comes up with the best technical solution to stop these illegal robocalls.
“You’re kidding!” Joe said. I was not. He gave me his company email address, I forwarded him this link to the FTC’s site announcing the reward.
It sounded like the wheels already were turning in Joe’s head about suggestions to make. With 42 years in the industry, I’m sure he has plenty of ideas.
Go get’em Joe!