Cardholder Services

For several years, 2007-2018 perhaps, I would answer any call that reached my cellphone. I wanted to understand the scams, I wanted to know how such hollow, bullshit constructs worked.

Once I talked to the famed Jamaican Scammers who tried to convince me to go to the nearest Walmart, where I was to wire them some money.

Another time, I kept some Indian phone scammers on the line for over an hour. I used my advanced knowledge of credit card number format and the Luhn checksum, to give them putative credit card numbers that actually weren’t. The scammers must not have been authorizing purchases until very late in the process, because they accepted a “credit card number” that was my Chase Bank Visa card number with several pairs of 2-apart digits swapped.

They were going to charge me $1500 dollars to reduce my credit card interest rate. I told them I wasn’t going to do that - I wouldn’t pay a penny more than $1200! I got all the way through the process of “paying” them. A few minutes after I got off the line, they called me back wanting to verify the “credit card number”. They couldn’t actually get a payment from it, because it wasn’t a real card number.

This was mostly during the robocall heyday, when robocalls from Rachel from Cardholder Services were in the process of ruining telephone communications. During the years of 2014 to 2016, I got upwards of 5 robocalls a day.

I complained to my cellphone service provider, Verizon, about the volume of calls. That was particularly infuriating, because the Verizon customer “service” rep had the gall to tell me he’d never heard of such a thing as a robocall, and certainly not 5-10 a day, and the best I could do was to block the individual numbers the robocalls were using. Not an option when each caller ID is from a different, randomly-chosen “phone number”.

I have witnesses for a call from “Barbara” from Cardholder Services. I believe I had my car doing bluetooth with my phone. My two sons were in the car with me, when I got a robocall. The recorded voice, instead of being chirpy and feminine, was deep and masculine. It introduced itself as “Barbara from Cardholder Services”. Whoever did the “Barbara” recording was fed up with scamming, and cranked the artificial voice over to deep and masculine. My sons will gladly tell you that “Barbara” was the funniest call ever.

From that point, I recognized the voices in the robocalls as completely artificial. I had been hoping that “Rachel” was real, and that the voice actor would have a fit of conscience, and publicly reveal who was behind all the scam robocalls.

“Cardholder Services” calls were modeled after Bank of America Visa calls. I am 48% certain that I hung up on legitimate BoA Visa calls about a late credit card payment because real BoA Visa calls sounded very much like Rachel’s Cardholder Services. To be fair, Bank of America refused to validate itself to me. This is a genuine problem. Corporations want you to validate yourself to them, but they refuse to do any validation reciprocally. They’re just conditioning consumers to get scammed at a later date. BoA Visa callers wouldn’t even say the last 4 digits of the credit card to me.

The phone companies could have cut the robocalling off at the knees by requiring real caller ID. The US federal government could have stopped it a little slower by enforcing whatever laws they could scrounge up, but Nooooooo….. telphone calls have been practically ruined. In 2023, nobody answers their phone when an unknown number shows up. This is similar to Spamford Wallace almost single-handedly ruining Fax communication, or bastards that caused the spam death of Usenet. A useful mode of communication that has some aspect of a “commons” gets ruined to make less than 10 people some money.

It is criminal that the US Government did nothing about this, they left it until about 2020 for Google to solve imperfectly. Someone must have been paying off Congress members, for this kind of universally hated bullshit to have lasted so long. I hope that ruining phone calls for billions of people was worth it to the 9 or 10 people who made money at it, and the 8 members of Congress that got bribed.