avatar
Unmodified Info
Just another software developer with opinions

Robocallers Have Holidays?

The odd day all the spam calls stopped

Dec 31, 2019 · 5 min read

This morning, I woke up from my extra long sleep. I immediately picked up my phone out of habit just like anyone this day and age would do. A swipe here, a passcode there, and...

No notifications.

Not unusual, considering I'm not on social media, I'm not in any chat groups, I'm not subscribed to newsletters, none of that shiz. Digital detox in action, except I have not shed the habit of picking up my phone when nothing is really there. However, there is one thing that's unusual so far:

No robocalls.

For eleven days straight.

It's hard to believe since I always get robocalls. There isn't a day where I don't receive one. They usually happen during work hours, with the last one always interrupting my podcast during the afternoon commute. They usually don't happen on weekends. But when they do, it's usually just a couple and not a dozen.

Anyways, not getting robocalls is a good thing right? After all, they're just scammers waiting for a chance to catch you off guard. Or marketing people trying their best to get a conversion. Well, not exactly. Because things took a strange turn:

Eleven days ago was the start of my vacation.

What an amazing coincidence! Now you might think that robocallers also took a vacation. After all, there's a human on the other end of the call. A living, breathing human trying to make a (dis)honest living. But there's one teeny tiny detail about this timing that makes it really suspicious.

Eleven days ago was the Friday before Christmas week.

Normally, if one took a Christmas vacation, they'd take the week of Christmas and New Year's days off. This year, Christmas and New Year's days fall on a Wednesday. In this setup, you'd normally take the two days on both sides of the holidays off, for both weeks. However...

I had excess vacation time that I needed to burn off. Otherwise, they'd go to waste, as only a limited amount of hours can be carried over to the next year. So I also took the Friday the week before Christmas week off too - a decision I made at the last minute. Nobody outside work could have known about this.

If these two events are tied, the start of my vacation and the stopping of robocalls, there are two key pieces of information that need to be known. One would be my vacation schedule, since that's probably the only way someone would have known about the Friday. And the other would be my location data, since I'm not within the vicinity of the workplace.

With that, I have a few suspects:

  • Something in my phone. If my location information was used to infer my whereabouts, an app on my phone might be leaking that information. While I do have GPS disabled, my IP addresses can be geolocated, cell tower information can be triangulated, even the access points in my area can all be used to infer my location.

  • Something on the cell network. Cellular networks are just systems of computers. And just like any other computer, they're also susceptible to bad software. So, if any of those towers near where I work are affected, everyone in the area would experience robocalls as soon as their devices connect to the towers.

  • Something on my work machine. My work machine is a laptop which I use both in the office, or at home when I work remotely. I have not opened the machine since the day I started my vacation. I could have stopped whatever was phoning home simply by not turning it on.

  • Something on our work network. To know my vacation schedule, specifically the exact day it started, one would have to have access to our HR software and issue tracker. Only those two pieces of software know the exact days of my vacation, down to that odd Friday I started.

Conclusion

Nobody (or at least nobody outside work) could have known the odd day my vacation started. Therefore, nothing out of the ordinary should have happened on that Friday. But it couldn't be coincidence that they stopped calling on that same exact day.

Now if it's really a coincidence, if robocallers really did take a normal two weeks off for Christmas and New Year's days, then I expect no calls until the end of this week. But if they start calling me on a specific day (yes, even the end of my vacation is some odd day), then there's really something fishy going on.


staycation

stay·​ca·​tion | \ˈstā-ˈkā-shən\

: a vacation spent at home or nearby

Today I learned that "staycation" is actually a word. Aside from the usual grocery run and dinner with family, my vacation was spent at home. So correction, I didn't have a normal vacation. I actually had a staycation.

View All Articles