Mandarin phone spam

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Yesterday I got two phone calls from an unknown but allegedly local number (267 area code). I was in meetings so I let the calls go to voice mail, and the message turned out to be in Chinese. It seems to be someone claiming to represent FedEx with information about a package that I need to negotiate for:

Calling back yields a message in English "The subscriber you have dialed is not in service. If you feel you've received this message in error, please hang up and try your call again later. Message MN13856". The two letters and the first three digits of the "Message" code are different on each repetition.


  1. Jonathan Smith said,

    May 3, 2018 @ 6:38 pm

    "FedEx Parcel Service would like to inform you you have a package which has not been retrieved this is the final notification to check the parcel code please press 9 post office personnel will check for you" on repeat starting in the middle with text-to-speech causing some oddness
    "neighbor spoofing" is all the rage — may I strongly advise against pressing "9"

  2. cameron said,

    May 3, 2018 @ 6:55 pm

    I never pick up incoming calls from numbers I don't recognize. Everything goes to voicemail. For the past few months all the voicemail messages I've received have been in Chinese.

    I have noted that many of these calls come from numbers that look like mine. Same area code, same exchange. I suppose they think people are more likely to pick up numbers that are similar to their own.

  3. Steve Kass said,

    May 3, 2018 @ 8:24 pm

    There was a story on the radio about this a few days ago:

  4. Victor Mair said,

    May 3, 2018 @ 9:28 pm

    From a colleague:

    All too familiar. We’ve been getting these calls, every few days for the past few weeks. The caller starts with what sounds like a recorded Ni hao.

    We’ve been hanging up before they get to the pitch. That doesn’t stop them. You block the number, and they call on another.

  5. Andreas Johansson said,

    May 3, 2018 @ 11:50 pm

    About a year ago, I got a series of phonecalls that claimed to be from various Pacific Island nations. The caller always hung up before I could accept the call. I didn't call back because it seemed more than a little suspicious.

  6. Keith said,

    May 4, 2018 @ 2:45 am

    I get these calls from time to time in France, sometimes in English, mostly in French. I also get email spam with the same kind of pitch: a FedEx package containing confidential documents, tracking number xxxx, please [call use back | click on the link below] to organize a convenient time for delivery.

    I get calls on behalf of supposedly reputable businesses (ELLE magazine, well known complementary health insurance companies, etc), showing spoofed numbers, too; sometimes the caller ID mechanism shows the name of an individual living in a neighbouring town… I suppose that campaigns are farmed out to call centre operators who have no qualms about spoofing numbers.

    Recently, I bought a call blocker that sits between the phone line socket on the wall and my telephone (call me a dinosaur, but I still have a land line). There's a big red octagonal button marked "STOP!", though I call it the big red "fuck off" button. When I pick up, as soon as I here the standard script of the cold caller, I say the two monosyllabic magic words and tap on the button. Hey presto, the number is blacklisted and any calls from that number are blocked.

  7. Keith said,

    May 4, 2018 @ 2:47 am

    Should be "call us back", not "call use back"… Where's the preview and edit feature when you need it?

  8. MattF said,

    May 4, 2018 @ 8:04 am

    The phone spamming gets worse as you get older; the spammers are seeking targets who aren't fully capable. I'm 70, and I get at least a half dozen calls a day. The answer, unfortunately, is to get CallerID and stop answering the phone.

  9. Rube said,

    May 4, 2018 @ 10:28 am

    Other than my mother-in-law calling my wife, pretty much all the phone calls to both my landline and cellphone are people trying to cheat me. The telephone as a means of actual oral communication seems to be dying.

  10. Bill Benzon said,

    May 4, 2018 @ 12:13 pm

    Interesting. For the post couple of months I've been getting calls in some version of Chinese. Out of curiosity I returned one and as informed that I'd reached the Chinese consulate. As I have no idea why the Chinese consulate would be interested in me, I just ended the call. They're probably part of this scam as it's been happening in New York City and I live in Hoboken, just across the river.

  11. m said,

    May 4, 2018 @ 9:47 pm
    In this article — a description of the phone scam that seems to be described in the LL post.

  12. Rodger C said,

    May 5, 2018 @ 7:55 am

    Could a bot be reading "Bill Benzon" as a possible spelling of a Chinese name?

  13. John Swindle said,

    May 5, 2018 @ 10:42 pm

    @Bill Benzon: No, theyʻre impersonating the consulate. The Chinese consulate in Los Angeles, for instance, has been warning about these fraudulent calls for months:

  14. mg said,

    May 6, 2018 @ 12:08 am

    I've even gotten robocalls that spoofed my own phone number. They seem to spoof the same area code/exchange and then use a random string of 4 numbers.

  15. Bill Benzon said,

    May 6, 2018 @ 12:10 pm

    From the NYTimes on robocalls:

    Law enforcement authorities have noticed, too. Just the other week, the New York State attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, warned consumers about a scheme targeting people with Chinese last names, in which the caller purports to be from the Chinese Consulate and demands money. Since December, the New York Police Department said, 21 Chinese immigrants had lost a total of $2.5 million.

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