Electronic crime is now 10 times more likely to affect someone in the UK than any other form of theft, but consumers are fighting back with the help of ‘scambaiting’.
Writing in The Telegraph, Antonia Hoyle outlined how she is scamming the scammers through a number of ingenious and amusing techniques.
Whether it’s fake hold music, fabricated stories or clever research, Telegraph readers have told us how they’re also beating the scammers. Read on for the best discussion points from our readers and share your own view in the comments section at the bottom of this article.
'I scolded him for his life choices'
"I once had a phone scammer break down in tears after a long chat and scolding him for his dreadful life choices!"
'Usually after a few minutes they become offensive and hang up'
"I ask the window cleaning scammers when they can do a home visit and then I explain all the ways I have tried to clean my windows without being able to get them really sparkling clean, using everything from newspaper, brown paper and vinegar.
"Usually after a few minutes they become offensive and hang up."
'My son leaves the call open to chug up the caller’s bill'
"When receiving an anonymous call, my son says, 'Just a minute...' and leaves the call open to chug up the caller's bill."
'The scammer was not a happy bunny'
"My husband had great fun on one such call supposedly from BT. I’d already kept them hanging on while I (allegedly) tracked my husband down. I made a cup of tea and did a few jobs while the scammer waited patiently. My husband then took over.
"My husband described what he could see on his screen, a lighthouse (his screen saver photo). He was then asked by the puzzled scammer, 'What’s that?', and his reply, 'A red and white striped building with a light on top'.
"The scammer then put her supervisor on the phone who said it would be better to talk to me. My husband replied, 'You can't, she's deaf'. Scammer: 'Dead?!' Husband: 'Yes she’s deaf but it’s okay, she’s sitting here next to me.'
"My husband then asked where the scammer was calling from as he used to work for BT. Well, you should have heard the language that followed. The scammer was not a happy bunny!"
'I answer "turnip" to each of their questions'
"I find I am able to confuse scammers by answering each of their questions with an enthusiastically vocal 'turrrrnip" delivered in a very broad West Country accent. It is important to not let your guise down as they continue to insist that my Windows computer has been corrupted (I use a Mac). Normally they give up after three or four "tuuuuurnips" however my record so far is nine "tuuuurnips".
'My husband puts them on hold and plays his ukulele'
"My husband puts them 'on hold' and plays them a tune on his ukulele. They just scream and hang up."
'Last year they were baffled'
"The scammers usually ring about the car accident I have supposedly had. I used to always scold them and say that we have arranged the accident for later in the day and they are not meant to ring until after we have done it. Last year they were baffled. This year they just say, "Very good, I will call tomorrow". I guess a lot of people are saying this to them now."
'I have tried various tactics'
"I have tried various tactics in the past ranging from time-wasting to telling the person they are working for criminals. The single best response I have ever heard came from the minister of my local church which was simply to ask this in response to their first question, 'Do you have a conscience?'."
'They can’t give you the details of a non-existent accident'
@S J N:
"The two techniques I've used when dealing with such calls are to say, 'Just let me go and get the documents so I can get the correct details.' About 10 minutes later if they haven't hung up I say, 'Sorry, I'm having difficulty finding them, please bear with me.' You can repeat the last part ad-nauseam until they hang up.
"For calls relating to accidents I respond with, 'I've had an accident? Really? Wow, can you give me some details as I've obviously suffered amnesia or PTSD, that must be worth a big payout.' Obviously they can't give you the details of a non-existent accident and you can't as you have no recollection. I have spun that out for 10 minutes on one occasion."
'I make up grisly details for my injuries for the car accident scammers'
"I do enjoy making up some grisly details for my injuries for the car accident scammers. My favourite one though was telling them I’d completely lost my voice and was unable to speak anymore. I could hear the cogs grinding in their heads as they processed this."
'Maybe one day they’ll catch me after a few beers'
"Generally, although I have to admit not always, these calls come up on my phone as "overseas, out of area" and I answer by saying, "It's done, but there's blood everywhere," and then hang up.
"But the ones I hate the most are those that are just a recorded message saying that the FBI have been authorised to arrest me. You can't reply without pressing a button which I'm loathe to do.
"Maybe one day they'll catch me after a few beers and hilarity might ensue!"
'The more time spent with me the less time they are scamming some pensioner'
"I often have fun with the scammers. I make it a contest to see how long I can keep them on the line. I tell them I have a bad back and need to get my wallet upstairs and it will take me a moment. Meanwhile I work on something productive while periodically saying, "I'm almost there".
"Then I give them slightly altered card information so it initially looks legit. When they enter it and it doesn't work I reverse two digits and have them try again. When that doesn't work I act frustrated and request to speak to a manager. Towards the end I either tell them that they are the new winners as the previous record was 11 minutes 22 seconds and they've been on the phone with me for 13 minutes and three seconds or I say, "Unfortunately you've only come in second place but it was a good effort".
"Alternatively, I put the phone up to a smoke detector and push the button. Obviously I can't do this too frequently but it can be immensely satisfying and I figure the more time spent with me, the less time they are scamming some pensioner."
'I always enjoy the accidents that aren’t my fault'
"I always enjoy accidents that aren't my fault. I always, in a deeply shocked and remorseful voice, tell them it was my fault and that I killed someone and I can't sleep at night.
"It works really well as they don't know how to respond."
'The neighbours don’t think I’m a nutter blowing a whistle all the time'
"Whenever this topic comes up, people always comment saying that they do one of the following: blow a whistle into the phone, try to get the scammer to hold for ages, string the scammers along as long as possible.
"And whilst these are ostensibly amusing if carried out once or twice, it strikes me that you're going to waste as much of your own personal time as that of the scammers. Your phone is also going to be unavailable for more important calls every time you do this. So it is not particularly cost effective.
"What is effective, at least for landlines, is BT's Call Guardian. I'm sure there are alternatives from other providers, Robo-calls are eliminated and scam calls don't even make it to the phone ringing stage.
"And, as a bonus, the neighbours never think I'm a nutter blowing a whistle all the time."
'You can keep them going for 30 minutes'
"When they used to call up saying that there was suspicious activity on my internet connection, I used to say, 'Oh what should I do about it?'. They would reply, 'Don't worry, we are here to help you'.
"I would then say that I'm not in front of my PC, could they wait while I turned it on.
"Eventually, after me constantly apologising saying, "Thank you for calling because I'm no good with computers", they would give me lots of latitude whilst I fumbled with commands and starting my PC.
"You can keep them going for 30 minutes, and when you eventually pretend to have done what they ask, you say, "Oh, that's a funny message that has just come up on my computer screen".
"When they ask what the message says I say, 'Does anyone fall for these scams any more?'."
'I take the extension up to the phone and it causes a terrible screech'
"I take the extension up to the phone and it causes a terrible screech, I then apologise and say it is a faulty line. Every couple of seconds, I do the same, apologising every time and blaming BT. This keeps them on longer while I give them useless answers."
'They hang on for ten or fifteen minutes before giving up'
"My son tells me he uses the line, 'You need to speak to my father. He's in the garden, I'll go and get him'.
"Apparently they sometimes hang on for ten or fifteen minutes before giving up."