Friday, September 14, 2007


My friend Gil received a call from 1-800-298-1834. Someone identified himself as a "Bank of America" employee and needed him to verify some account details. Gil went to - a site that lets the community collect and document calls from shoddy numbers, and mark them as "scam", "telemarketer", and a few other annoying categories.
Searching for that number in the site yielded reports of a scam attempt from that number.

I've been meaning to write a post about this ever since Gil told me about his experience, but what prompted me to do it today was a voice message on my cell phone from "Joe Catalone from Microsoft" at 1-800-215-0948 ext. 4392, asking me to call him back. My company deals with Microsoft (MSDN, licenses and such), but I never personally contacted anyone there (except to report issues). So, I went to the site, and guess what? Different people with different names trying to sell you Microsoft software - from that number.

  1. If someone leaves an 800 callback number, validate it before you call back.
  2. NEVER give personal info over the phone, unless you've initiated the call.
Update 2/12/08
Based on comments patterns, here and on other similar sites, it looks like those phone spammers work harder on certain dates. I'd be very interested to know if anyone ever talked to those bogus "Microsoft employees"? It seems like they only reach voice mails.
And where's Microsoft itself in this story? Why don't they denounce/sue those impostors?


Anonymous said...

A human caller left v-mail to callback yesterday. No CID
information (which can be spoofed anyway). The caller was
not a "bot," because I have special requirements, in order
to be able to leave v-mail on the number called, that
screens out 99.8% of the bots.

"Hello, [salutation][last name]. My name is [first name only], callling on behalf of Microsoft. I would appreciate your getting in contact with me at your earliest convenience. I can be reached at [CBN]. Thank you."

Caller knew my gender and last name. Pronounced my last name
correctly, even though a great many people have trouble with
it. Caller left no first name spelling (one of those gender-less fNames) or caller's last name.

Caller had a male voice with an indererminate regional
American accent. I am good with accents. His was "regional,"
without being "ethnic."

CBN given was "800 215 [pause] 0948 extension 4###."
The pause in recitation was like a mental hiccup on the
part of the caller. I redacted the last three digits of the
extension. The entire message was audible and intelligible.

MS is known to use telemarketers for pseudo "cold calls" and
telephone surveys. If/when you download anything from MS that
is a trial, a promotion, a "public beta."

("Community Technology Previews" [CTP] are not directly released to the public; although they are sometimes *illegally* leaked outside of CTP. MS already has your contact info.)

The contact information you provide in order to obtain the
download is part of your consent to be contacted, by MS, for
possible follow-up. Sometimes, but not always, there is a
tiny opt-out checkbox, somewhere on the same web form to
stop callbacks.

I am a MS Partner and I am not normally contacted in this
way by MS. "Badged and flagged" MS employees almost always
announce/leave their full names, unless both parties are
already very well known to one another. Calls and/or
v-mail involving official MS business with Partners *never*
request a callback without also providing the concrete
business reason for the call.

MS "surveys" and pseudo "cold-calls," farmed out to
*telemarketing outfits* can be less forthright and
forthcoming about the nature of the call. The
contractor may earn an additional bounty, depending on
how far along the call-script they can engage you
(in a survey or solicitation). It's all piece work.

I did not return this call. I do not reward
people/organizations that do not provide sufficient
details with the benefit of real-time with me.

Caller ID: no CID displayed
Caller: "Microsoft" (Sutherland)
Caller Type: Telephone Surveyor

Traveling Tech Guy said...

Wow. This is the most thorough and detailed description I've seen s o far. I've had the exact same experience.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this call is from Microsoft. I work for Microsoft's internal help desk, and I have unlimited access to their entire employee, partner, and vendor database. I took the liberty of looking up my caller, and she didn't exist. Additionally, the number is not listed as a microsoft phone number.

I'm going to do a little more digging tomorrow, and if these folks are legitimate, which I doubt, I'll be able to verify. If they're not I'll report them to Microsoft Security and Fraud.


Traveling Tech Guy said...

I suspected they don't work for Microsoft per se. They're probably an external marketing company, with access to Microsoft's customer database (which, in itself a bit scary - but probably covered in all the EULA I never bother to read).

It would be great if you report them to Microsoft security, so at least they stop masquarding as MS employees, and even greater if you post the results in another comment here :)


Anonymous said...

I received a call like this this morning at work. When I called back, the voicemail said he worked "on behalf" of Microsoft, so I was pretty certain it was an outside company. I never got a call back, so I'm not going to worry about it, especially now after reading up on the phone number online. I'm not allowed to install programs on my work computer, and I don't use Microsoft products at home, so I'm not sure how they got my phone number, though.

Anonymous said...

I received a call yestreday 02/11/2008 form Joe Catalone at 800-215-0948 ext 4298. Again the number did not come up on caller id. Thanks for the post, saved me lots of time.

Anonymous said...

Same thing here, got a call at 10am CST on 04/12/2008, my phone was off so he left a voice mail. "He" turned out to be Andre Box (although his voice faded at the end), with Microsoft and he can be reached at 800-215-0948 x4397.

I actually called back, the voice menu sounded legit, but it sounded a little simplistic. Dialed his extension and got his VM.

I was convinced that it was Microsoft, but as everyone commented on, the type of voice mail being left by the "Microsoft" employee was strange.

Thanks for all the info.

Anonymous said...

I received the same call today. I also attended the Microsoft Heros Happen VS2008, Sql Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 Event Launch. I gave my information and expected this call. I got a call when I attended my last Launch event. They are simply wanting to chat about product needs and would like to help you meet your project goals by purchasing their software. So take off your Aluminium helmets and call the poor guy back.

Traveling Tech Guy said...

Liked the aluminum helmets remark :)

But if you read the entire article and comments you'll find:
1. This poor guy doesn't work for Microsoft, despite presenting himself as such.
2. You get his voice mail most of the times you call back.
3. The article also deals with generic 800 scams - not just the "Microsoft" one. There's a link to a site that will tell you all about unrecognized 800 calls asking for personal info.
Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder if they're using data provided on people's MSN Spaces?

Anonymous said...

I've gotten two of these messages - exact same script - in the last couple of weeks, one from Seth Tarrow and one from Nancy Soffer. Odds are that it is Sutherland, which has locations in the US and Canada and a huge staff in India, calling for Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

This is definitely NOT Microsoft calling. I used to work there and know people who still do. I suspected it was a scam so I tried the "lookup by name" in their voice system. It didn't recognize a single person, and I've used the real system from Microsoft's real number so I know it works.

Anonymous said...

I've had a detailed conversation with 800-215-0948 con artist. But since I've been doing business with Microsoft for decades, I called their presales where they politely verifified the scam and also ensured me that another advertiser that I was considering was a valid certified partner.

And the MS presales department just typed the scam number into google and said: "When in doubt, just type the number into your search engine."

Thanks Microsoft and sites like these.


Anonymous said...

Hi everybody, Yes all of you skeptics here on this blog. I fully do understand your concerns about the calls that you received, for the American telephone became garbage magnet over the decades. Every small and big trash who thinks they can, gets on the phone and call and scam and steel. Those people are real thrash.
I would like to make this clear, however, for I fell for this “SCAM”, so you say, and I got an assistance from real Microsoft, yes real assistance from real MS. This folks, I had a lengthy conversation with the lady, she told me, they call chosen by Microsoft people who is eligible for assistance from MS, to bring on board to have them assisted by a MS Rep or a certified MS Partner, to make sure that the project they are running in their business will succeed. So, if you have such a need, you don’t have to respond or give your info, but you may actually benefit from this contact.
They will not assist an IT Pro who works for other businesses providing the IT assistance, for the consultant is already the assisting body and should not rely on assistance from MS. For the rest of you folks who could benefit from direct contact with Microsoft this may be worth while. I was also informed that they are not Microsoft, but as someone on this blog mentioned they have been involved with the MS for this purpose as a vendor.
On the other hand why you are not being contacted by THE MS Rep? how can you expect some one who is working a million dollars account to sit on the phone and waste their time to call a small business, which you all run. They make the $ and will have other people who don’t, work for them to take care of such a small jobs. Think, just think. This is the USA where small guy is working for the big guy to put the bigger bread on his table then if he was working for himself and go hungry.

Antonio Wells said...

I just had a Michael Teller of supposedly Microsoft call me and leave a message from 800-215-0948 x4416. He could have done a better done at it, quick Google search lead me to should it's a scam company. The audacity of these people!!!

Anonymous said...

I got one of these today in S.C.
Smelled and scam and googled it.
Micheal Teller was the caller supposedly.

Anonymous said...

"Amber calling on behalf of Microsoft" called today (05/07/09) at 10:48am ET from with a callback number of 800-215-0948 x4055.

Could be a follow-up for a product download but I don't remember leaving my work number as a contact number.

Mark A. Richman said...

I got a call from Microsoft from this number today. It was in direct response to a product eval download I did. Nothing fishy at all here.