Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Windows phone scammers

This afternoon I had an interesting telephone call from India. The caller purported to be calling on behalf of 'The Microsoft Windows Support Team'. They claimed that my computer had been sending error messages to Microsoft because it had a major virus 'infection' (their words, not mine!) and it needed to be dealt with.

The caller knew my name and address, and had I not known about this scam I could easily have been taken in. My computer has anti-virus software that is updated daily, and it is also scheduled to do a regular virus sweep each day ... so the chances that my computer had a 'major virus 'infection'' was pretty unlikely ... and it was even less likely that a 'Microsoft Windows Support Team' would know if I had.

I played along with my caller, pretending to do all the things they asked me to do ... and telling them that my computer was not doing the things they said it should do. The longer this went on, the more agitated the caller became ... and the less coherent was his command of the English language. Eventually I asked if the reason why my computer was not doing what he had predicted was because I was using an Apple computer. At that point he hung up without another word.

A subsequent search of the Internet provided me with lots of reports about this scam ... although not many recently. It would appear, therefore, that the scam has become 'live' again, so be warned.

16 comments:

  1. Hi Bob

    I've had a good few of these calls now for more than a year or two. Always a foreign accent (Indian?).

    The last was quite annoying as it happened during a wargame and I think I used some uncharacteristic 'naughty' words before hanging up!

    I know of quite a few 'older' people who have had these calls and they get quite upset about them.

    There is no sign of the authorities doing anything about it.

    Jim

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah, they will never call you. But thanks for the heads up. I had not heard of this scam before.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jim Duncan,

    I must admit that this is the first time I have had a call like this, and had I had little or no understanding about IT I could easily have been taken in because it sounded plausible.

    I decided that my 'retaliation' would be to waste as much of their time as I could ... and I think that I managed it! If I had been busy, I might have used your tactic instead.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sean,

    This scam has been around for some time, and if you follow the instructions you are given you can actually end up handing over control of your computer - and it's files - to someone you don't know. This is potentially dangerous, especially if you have confidential information stored therein.

    Forewarned is forearmed ... so if you get the call, you know what to do.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  5. I regularly get those calls and we regularly warn our customers (home and small business users) about them; a couple have been caught out in the past.

    I regard them as an endless source of entertainment, and come up with numerous was of being the concerned but dim-witted user who can't follow their instructions. My best one was fielding the call whilst doing the washing up and not looking at a computer once during the whole process :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Kaptain Kobold,

    This was my first personal experience of this scam, but if I get another call - and I have the time - I intend to follow your ploy and string them along for as long as I can.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  7. I heard a good jape against a cold caller once - the recipient pretended to be a police officer investigating the murder of the person named by the caller, and subjected him to a fierce interrogation as to how he knew the person, when he last saw/spoke to him &c, ending with the threat of coming round to interview the caller - 'we have traced this call and know where you live'. This would probably work best against a cold caller from the UK...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Arthur1815,

    I like the idea ... but you would have to be careful to give the impression that you were a police officer without actually saying that you were, otherwise you could get in trouble for impersonating a police officer.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  9. Bob,
    I doubt the scammers would report you!
    Another amusing one was a radio presenter who telephoned a woman who was offering 'French lessons' - pretending he simply wanted to learn conversational French and asking her all sorts of grammatical questions.
    Arthur

    ReplyDelete
  10. This scam has been active in NZ for at least the last 18 months - if not longer. The calls received here do originate from India - which limits what our authorities can do. I have friends and family who have been called multiple times by these scammers. The two most common responses seem to be telling them to '**** Off!', or attempt to lead them on to waste their time and hopefully generate a large toll bill - although I doubt the scammers actually pay their own phone bill.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Arthur1815,

    True ... but sometimes people who perform criminal acts do sue their victims! I remember one case where the mother of a vandal tried to sue a local cricket club because the brick he threw at their (unbreakable) windows bounced back and hit him!

    I like the idea of asking people questions that they cannot answer; that would be both funny and a great time waster!

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  12. Uncle Brian,

    It is becoming obvious that this scam has a much wider target group than I had realised.

    Your comment supports the concept of an 'either or' approach to dealing with these pests. Either tell them to 'go forth and procreate' or keep them talking for as long as possible to waste their time.

    My telephone is registered with the Telephone Preferencing Service, which means that any such calls originating within the UK can leave the caller liable to a large fine ... but if the call is from outside the UK, it is ineffective.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  13. I had this one late last year,when I was at my parents house. Like you, I was instantly able to ID it as a scam as I only had a Linux machine there. Plus professionally I've had plenty of dealings with the REAL MS technical support teams and could spot the difference. If you have time and want to bait them a bit, try saying "Which PC is it, I've got several here? What SID is reported in the error message you received?" That's a unique identifier for your PC that would be on any real error message. If they persist, ask for a MAC address (a unique identifier for your network interface).
    Or, if the caller is Indian as they all seem to be, ask them how their parents feel about them bringing shame on their family by working for criminals. Who knows, you might get someone to give up the scamming?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Dr Vesuvius,

    Excellent advice!

    In a rather perverse way I am hoping that they will phone again just so that I can wind them up!

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks for sharing this information. I did get a call like that and good thing I hung up. I never knew it was a scam then, but I ended the call because I thought the caller was about to sell me something. Hmm...

    By the way, I looked up the phone number just now and apparently, the caller has been making rounds, judging from the reports posted at http://www.callercenter.com by the people who received calls from him.

    Wow! All that many reports and he's still able to call.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Theikmarket,

    You had a lucky escape!

    I assume that your caller was from the Indian sub-continent, where little can be done to stop them ... but if they were within the UK you could contact Ofcom to complain.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete