Plugged in: ‘Reply All’ episodes expose tricks of the scammer trade

Worried, I picked up the phone when it rang relatively early in the morning on a weekend, thinking it might be about a family emergency. When the man said he was calling from Microsoft and my computer had been compromised, my pent-up anxiety was released onto the scammer.

“It has not, and you are a liar,” I yelled into the phone before hanging up. I’m sure he’s heard worse.

But when Alex Goldman, one of the hosts of the podcast “Reply All,” got such a call, he wanted to engage the scammer in conversation and, over the course of months, even made daily calls to “scam central” for a chat.

The result is two episodes of the “Reply All” podcast, titled “Long Distance,” originally released midsummer. “Reply All” was launched in 2014 with Goldman and P.J. Vogt as hosts.

Now a lot of people, braver than I, like to toy with scammers online or on the phone, figuring the more of their time they waste, the less opportunity they have to scam others. But Goldman took it farther — about as far as was possible, including letting the scammer remotely connect to his computer (never a good idea) and making a trip to India.

For some listeners, the story might seem bogged down at times by the details (Alex and the scammer talk about video games, for example), but I was fascinated by each step taken. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how far Goldman was going or why he wanted to continue down the scam rabbit hole. I was frightened for him at times, and the suspense built enough to make my heart pound.

Some folks think they’re too smart and savvy to be fooled by scammers, but don’t believe it and don’t be ashamed if it’s happened to you. Scammers are clever. It’s so easy to be taken in.

This two-part episode will give you insight into how it’s done and, possibly more important, why it’s done. In addition to hearing a great yarn, you’ll gain more knowledge about the scam game. And it’s never a bad thing to be armed with information when the phone rings.

Check it out “Long Distance, Parts I and II” are Nos. 102 and 103 of the podcast, “Reply All.” The show is distributed by Gimlet Media, and may be found via most podcatchers or online at

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