punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,
punkwalrus
punkwalrus

Storytime - The Canadian Pervert

I used to work for a telecommunications department that managed several call centers for various tech support and billing duties for AOL back in 1997.

One day, we were called on a rare security issue. Apparently, some guy was calling and abusing techs randomly. He would start out with a legitimate sounding question, and then after about two minutes, would switch to either an abusive rant, or go into disgusting sexual detail about what he was "doing" at the moment (usually to female techs). This was spread across all the call centers, so it took a while for everyone to say, "Hey, I got him too!" Finally, a bunch of call center managers asked to track this issue, and they gave us the pervert's caller ID.

This turned out to be a very weird project.

After some research, we found that this guy made over 300 calls a week (at least from that number), with the average call of about 3-4 minutes. That's 15-20 *hours* of calls a week, or 2-3 hours daily in 3-4 minute increments, that this clown was taking out of his day to abuse random techs across the US. The number was traced to a number in Vancouver, but the locals were not very helpful in tracking this man down because, "He's in a rural area, and we can't get there until the roads clear, eh?" (it was deep winter). The Canadian authorities didn't seem very helpful in attitude, either, they even thought this was kind of humorous. One even said, "Let the old timer have his fun, okay?"

But most of these call centers were on toll-free numbers, so this man's "fun" was costing AOL about $200 - 300 weekly, which across country lines was Federal fraud of some kind. So we set up a program that would take his caller ID, route it to a test voice server (where we tested voice automation programming before releasing to live call centers), and set him in a continuous "RNA" (ring-no-answer) loop. This way, since we didn't pick up the call, we wouldn't get charged for the call, and all he would hear was continuous ringing like no one would pick up the phone. After we set this in place, we found an amazing thing: through a call monitoring system, he was "building up calls" in our fake phone queue, which meant that he was calling, letting it ring, putting it on hold, calling again, and so on... until he reached about 20 calls at once.

So my boss's boss (a guy named Rob) had enough of this, and dialed the number himself. To our surprise, the man answered, and the call went something like this:

Guy: Uh... hello?
Rob: Is this a business or a residence?
Guy: Why? Who is this?
Rob: I am guessing you're not a business because you didn't announce your company when you picked up.
Guy: Who told you to call me???
Rob: Can you tell me how you are building up 20 calls in my queue from this one number?
Guy: What are you talking about?
Rob: We are monitoring this number, and we are watching it dial repeatedly our call centers. Are you using a PBX?

Then the guy became abusive, and threatened to call the authorities if we called him ever again. So we called him again, but he either blocked our number or just wouldn't pick up anymore, so we knew that he was now tracing our PBX. So Rob called him from his cell phone, and the guy just picked up and screamed curses at Rob. After some research, we quickly found out he was calling behind a PBX. He must have figured we were routing out his number to a dead RNA loop, because after a few days, he seemed to manage to actually falsify his caller ID (it would come out as just the Vancouver area code, and we couldn't screen that or no one in Vancouver could call one of our centers).

Well, AOL brought the cost issue into it, and because this person was committing a crime across the US border, the FBI had to open a case. After months of working with Canadian authorities, we found out he was an accomplished phone technician of some status among his peers ("an upstanding citizen" was the term used). He was apparently making these abusive calls through a security hole in a Canadian/US toll free system, and probably using his own customer sites for making these calls. Shortly after this, the calls ceased. I guess the RMCP were prodded to do something.

I want to know how someone in that kind of job found the time and wanted to exert the effort to do such a weird thing. I guess he was lonely, or just hated our company or something. Some people.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000269.html
Tags: aol, pervert, telecom, work
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