Skeptical at Home: Kimbo’s mom and email forwards

So I get this email forward from my mom. Ah, parents. Their children are the only things keeping IT people from rampaging murder suicides…

Anyway, email forwards are generally bullshit fear-mongering so I immediately looked up the purported scam and found out that it was false…well, sort of. That’s another problem with email forwards: sometimes they mix in a little truth with the bullshit, or just exaggerate the truth enough that it’s false, so it becomes even more difficult to sort out the nonsense.

So in a nutshell the “advice” in this particular forward was this: Don’t dial 90# on your phone when people call to “test” the phone line or they will have full access to your line and can make long distance calls with your account.

This is partially true. BUT the email I received was worded thusly:

90# on your telephone

I dialed ‘0’, to check this out, asked the operator,  who confirmed that this was correct so please pass it on . . . (l also checked out <; . This is true, and also applies to cell phones!)


I received a telephone call last evening from an individual identifying himself as an AT&T Service Technician (could also be Telus) who was conducting a test on the telephone lines. He stated that to complete the test I should touch nine(9), zero(0), the pound sign (#), and then hang up. Luckily, I was suspicious and refused.

Upon contacting the telephone company, I was informed that by pushing 90#, you give the requesting individual full access to your telephone line, which enables them to place long distance calls billed to your home phone number.

I was further informed that this scam has been originating from many local jails/prisons   DO NOT press 90# for ANYONE.

The GTE Security Department requested that I share this information with EVERYONE I KNOW.

After checking with Verizon they also said it was true, so do not dial 90# for anyone !!!!! PLEASE HIT THAT FORWARD BUTTON AND PASS THIS ON TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!!!

Ok, apparently this email author did not in fact check snopes because the scam is not true to the extent that it is described. Urban Legends says the same. While it is true that this scam will work on some commercial phone lines in which employees have to dial “9” to get an outside line and the “0#” will get to the company switchboard (where any call can then be made), this is not the case for residential phone lines and is not the case for cell phones.

So either the person who originally wrote this email can’t read, was lying, or is imcompetent in basic Google searching. Furthermore, this email (if true) displays frightening incompetence from AT&T, Verizon (however unsurprising), and possibly Telus because they did not specify to this residential customer that they do not have to worry about this scam and apparently misinformed them about cell phones. However, it is typical for these emails to make up some authority figure who has “confirmed” the information in order to give the appearance of legitimacy. Also known as the “my mom thinks I’m cool” gambit.

My favorite part was this: “I was further informed that this scam has been originating from many local jails/prisons”. Oh well then I guess I should be really concerned because apparently that makes a difference in defrauding me with my phone line. I wasn’t concerned before, but ooh…jail. Apparently they rape and murder the phone line after making their elicit calls. Honestly, what difference does that make?! Fraud is fraud. Who cares who’s doing it? Why does the “they’re from jail” thing make the fraud more exciting and scary? Newsflash: anyone who is defrauding you is a criminal — they just may not have been caught yet. Email writers are hilarious.

And of course there’s the ever convincing PASS ON TO EVERYONE EVER!!!1!!one!!!11 OR THE UNIVERSE WILL DIIIIIIIIE!!

I’m always amazed when things like this make it to me because 1) it took me 2 seconds to look this up and figure it out so what’s everyone else’s problem, and 2) do they even know me?

Anyway, if you’re at work and someone tries to pull this on you, just hang up. If you’re at home nothing will happen, but you might as well hang up anyway because it will definitely be a boring waste of 5 minutes. As was reading that email in the first place.


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