Reply All: #102 Long Distance
July 27, 2017 6:03 AM - Subscribe

This week, a telephone scammer makes a terrible mistake. He calls Alex Goldman. 

If you suspect you are a victim of a tech support scammer, you see a suspicious pop-up, or get an unsolicited tech support email, you can make a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission by following this link, or by contacting the company that the call center was impersonating directly.

Microsoft fraud report page
Apple fraud report page

Microsoft did a global survey of tech support scams in 2016, and the results are pretty interesting. You can find it here. Oh, and don't be like Alex. Never let some stranger remotely connect to your computer.
posted by gladly (25 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Full disclosure: I'm only halfway through this episode, but I'm enjoying it so much, I wanted to talk about it. When Alex said, "nonononono" during his first call, I thought he might be drunk. I love that Alex has made himself such a pest that the scammers are trying to get rid of him.
posted by gladly at 6:09 AM on July 27, 2017

GOAT Episode right here.


Alex, if you're reading: I tip my call-center ear piece to you.
posted by Tevin at 7:44 AM on July 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best-ever episode. The only thing that could improve it is a round of YYN.
posted by juliapangolin at 8:22 AM on July 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hot damn. I want part two RIGHT NOW!!!
posted by palegirl at 9:00 AM on July 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have to agree, that as I was listening, I was thinking the whole time: "This is the best-ever Reply All episode." It has plenty of PJ/Alex banter. It has tech, it has personal stories. It reminded me of Starlee Kine on Mystery Show just chatting with a telemarketer/CSR for ages about personal stuff. I just want Alex and PJ to lovably prank everyone while solving problems and griping all over the world.
posted by rikschell at 9:34 AM on July 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I seriously almost passed this episode by thinking it was them re-airing a previous episode. Thanks to you all I didn't, and am now a few minutes in and it's AMAZING!
posted by noneuclidean at 10:36 AM on July 27, 2017

Arrrrrrrgh!!! No!!!! Part two!! Part two hurry!!!
posted by pearlybob at 1:05 PM on July 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

"You are an asshole."

Oh, and don't be like Alex. Never let some stranger remotely connect to your computer.

OH GOD. That made me -- and PJ, by the sound of it -- so anxious.

And then the "your computer is infected" scam turns out to be really, really low-tech: the operator makes the Terminal window tiny and types a Trojan warning into it. Like: they don't even bother having a canned scary-looking-warning that they can paste.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:30 PM on July 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Sometimes I get a little bit unreasonably mad when Reply All deviates from it's originally stated angle of being 'a show about the internet.' (Which they don't say in their intro anymore I just noticed.) And it's not that the episodes that deviate are bad per se (like last weeks about nursing homes, or notably the one about the guy in prison and did he or did he not commit the crime), it's just that they are similar in approach to other podcasts.

But no where else is there anything like this week's story, and it is so damn good! When they did the identity reveal at the end... I mean come on! When Reply All is firing on all cylinders like this, it is unbeatable.
posted by subsupra at 4:20 PM on July 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Nobody here is joking: this episode may be the best podcast episode (imho) of all time.

I almost had a panic attack in that *must have been hours I swear* waiting for the desktop photo prank to resolve.
posted by General Malaise at 4:43 PM on July 27, 2017

My friend and I have been texting all day about how great the episode is and how we can't wait for part 2! I can't believe that Alex is going to India. I kept thinking that they were going to say "just kidding" at the end, but apparently not? Can't wait.

Also, Alex...that's risky letting someone remote into your computer! Thanks for exposing your laptop/network to risk in the service of journalism!
posted by radioamy at 5:35 PM on July 27, 2017

I was listening to the second half of this episode on my drive home, mouth open, trying to quietly laugh, listening to Alex and PJ quietly laugh as the Accostings tech remoted into Alex's computer and saw his background photo. This was an incredible episode, and even though I saw people's posts here, I was still deflated when I heard them say I'd have to wait until part 2.
posted by gladly at 7:24 PM on July 27, 2017

Sometimes I get a little bit unreasonably mad when Reply All deviates from it's originally stated angle of being 'a show about the internet.'

Me too, but for me it's not necessarily because they are deviating from 'a show about the internet', but because those episodes tend to prominently feature only one of PJ or Alex (and sometimes neither), and therefore don't have the great PJ/Alex back-and-forth that we all know and love. I say this, because what used to be my favorite episode (and is now my second favorite), Today's the Day, wasn't about the internet at all, but was just PJ and Alex having fun out and about in NYC.
posted by noneuclidean at 7:25 PM on July 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have never encountered so much social anxiety as I did while merely listening to this episode. I literally yelled "oh no he didn't" at the radio multiple times while listening.
posted by schmod at 7:34 PM on July 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

This Ars article reminded me of my fave part of the episode. "No, you are Michael Gold Man!"
posted by radioamy at 8:19 PM on July 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed this episode.

That both sides are using real (or at least consistent) names and phone numbers, and that our hosts didn't bother to set up a dedicated honeypot laptop and packet logger, seem like spy v/s spy level of technical competence. But, they managed to get fantastic interviews and the desktop image thing was pretty great. So, cheers!
posted by eotvos at 10:43 AM on July 29, 2017

Huh; that Ars Technica article basically regurgitates the entire transcript of the episode. That seems a long way beyond fair-use recapping, reviewing, or commentary; more like simply lifting Gimlet's content wholesale to drive their own pageviews. Sleazy.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:05 AM on July 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

We had a deal, Kyle -- I agree that I really hate this style of article. I see it all the damn time. It's usually one article that just summarizes and quotes from another. It's lazy and pretty sleazy.
posted by radioamy at 2:14 PM on July 29, 2017

I don't know exactly what transpired between Alex and Ars, because clearly he gave them a quote, but I would have much rather had more of an actual interview with him than a recap.
posted by radioamy at 2:15 PM on July 29, 2017

Wow, great radio. Just want to chime in because I know the gimlet people sometimes read these.
posted by skewed at 9:48 PM on July 29, 2017

My favorite part is when he started with "We are anonymous. We are legion" and Alex was audibly barely holding back his laughter.

A friend of mine used to do something similar with IRS scammers on the phone. I should contact her and get her thoughts on this.

Eagerly awaiting part two.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:32 AM on July 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

Heh heh heh.

"Please stop calling us."

"I'm not going to."

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:10 PM on July 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

This was terrific. Real journalism, great Reply All house style, interesting story.

I make a practice of stringing along tech support scammers too. Nothing nearly as ambitious as this investigation, mind you, but I've had 15+ minute conversations with scammers. I tell them they seem smart and speak excellent English, then ask them why they commit fraud for a living. They're always angry at the accusation but also more or less acknowledge it at the same time. The line about Americans deserving to be ripped off felt very familiar. This podcast sort of makes me feel vindicated in doing this, in that psychological pressure from intended victims might convince a few of the scammers to quit their jobs.
posted by Nelson at 7:18 AM on August 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

SO GOOD!!111

Agree, this is good for many reasons including it is investigative journalism yet playful and goofy and great.

With this show, I always find it irritating that there is no discussion of the impact of the US's lack of oversight & regulation of the tech industry or direct marketing.. Phone scams of all types must be at an all time high... Sometimes I want to just disconnect my parent's phone because it's like a fucking time bomb with all the bullshit scammy calls they get...I'm very curious about that Microsoft tech support scam report linked above: why is there less scamming in Canada, Europe and Australia?.../rant ... my point being, this is the first Reply All that I've heard where they actually discuss the government agency charged with regulating and addressing this problem.

Anyhow, great, great listening.

(Side note: I'm interested to learn that true RA fans are into the Alex/PJ banter; I honestly don't notice when only one of them is on, their banter often falls into this very dude-style dissing each other thing that is boring to me, and honestly I don't know which is which?! But having said that, I do like both their podcast personalities as they seem like honest and kind guys?)
posted by latkes at 10:04 PM on August 2, 2017

This was SO AMAZING that I was saying swear words out loud to myself in the car before my kid got in; then guffawed out loud when the scammer connected to Alex's desktop full of giant pictures of him and his fellow staffers.
posted by bq at 3:32 PM on August 9, 2017

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