In context: The only thing that seems to dissuade solicitors is if you waste their time, but with thousands of legitimate and scam firms out there and dozens dialing you daily, who has the time to lead these clowns along until they finally hang up? Enter Lenny.
Unless you happen to be very lucky, you probably receive multiple calls per day from telemarketers. Just in April of this year, more than 3 billion robocalls were placed in the United States. Efforts to block the numbers of these firms are usually ineffective as most use spoofing to trick you into answering, so blocking just prompts their systems to spawn a different number. Personally, my list of blocked numbers is now into the hundreds.
Relief is only a forward away. According to Motherboard, Lenny is a chatbot that was created almost a decade ago by an anonymous IT professional who was sick of fielding these tiresome calls day after day. So he set about designing an automated message system to troll telemarketers and scam callers.
According to a Reddit post by someone claiming to have recorded the voice for Lenny, the bot is designed to simulate a "telemarketer's worst nightmare." That is to say that it replicates an elderly man who is a bit senile and slightly hard of hearing.
The system consists of 16 pre-recorded phrases, so the voice is authentic sounding and not synthesized. The first four phrases are used to hook the caller into throwing their sales pitch. The other 12 messages are scripted to keep the telemarketer on the line without committing to anything. After each recording, a voice-detection algorithm listens for 1.5-second pauses in the conversation to start the next message. These 12 interactions will then continue looping until the caller finally hangs up.
Lenny's personality is such that the when he starts to repeat himself, it is easily confused with him just being a forgetful old man. The call above has him stringing on a Microsoft scammer for over 11 minutes. According to research into Lenny's effectiveness, most telemarketers (about 75%) figure out they have been duped after about two minutes. However, some calls have reportedly gone as long as an hour.
Although it has been around for almost 10 years, I had never heard of Lenny until now. The chatbot resides on a publicly accessible server maintained by a programmer who goes by Mango on Reddit. To use Lenny simply forward, transfer, or initiate a conference call with the number (347) 514-7296. If you use the conference call and mute your mic, you can record the hilarity. Some restrictions apply, so check out the r/itslenny subreddit for more information.