I thought this would be a good place to start with this blog since it both happened to me personally, and it’s a great thing to spread around so people are aware about it.
A little background first.
This summer we were visiting my family, one of my standing jobs whenever we visit is to fix every one’s computer problems, or at least to be consulted about them. In addition I install hardware, recommend upgrades and clean up all the junk that they’ve managed to infect their computers with.
In this case, it was my grandfather with the problem. He was having constant problems with his computer shutting down randomly while he was working on it. After a while these problems might even out and he could work for a while, but at the beginning it seemed like every five minutes. Ok, from those symptoms it sounded like a real problem – I was all set to dig in and get it fixed for him.
When I got to his place and sat down at the computer I asked the first question that I always ask “So, walk me through what has been happening.”
It turned out that he’d hired some company already to look at his computer. I apologised that it was so serious and he couldn’t wait. He surprised me by telling me they knew what was going on and had called him, not the other way around. At this point I’m getting a sinking feeling in my stomach, “So what happened Grandpa?” … and he told me.
A guy from “Microsoft” had called him and told him that they were getting reports of errors from his computer and had asked if he wanted them to fix it. Now, my Grandfather isn’t a gullible man, nor does he lack any form of intelligence. He doesn’t really know much about “tech” stuff, and that’s where they got him. I’m sure they sounded convincing, and told him just what he wanted to hear. It was probably compounded by the fact that he was actually having problems with his computer. Whatever it was, the guys on the phone talked him into letting them take control of his computer. Then, they ran some kind of program on his computer, and then they told him that he’d have to pay them for their service because it was in such bad shape. So they sent him an official looking invoice (not from Microsoft, but from some company that has an online store in India) and he paid them $250. They had control of his computer for hours before calling him back and telling him they couldn’t fix it, and would have to schedule another appointment.
Now, I had arrived before this second appointment. I told him to call his credit card company and tell them to watch for fraudulent charges, and to either cancel the card outright, or watch it carefully every month for the rest of his life because odds were the info would be sold and used. I then asked to see all the emails that they sent him and checked on the companies (this is how I found out they weren’t a real tech company).
I asked him what kind of stuff they did, because he should have been able to watch. He just said there was some program running with bars moving on it. I assume it was some kind of looped program like in the movies that looks like it’s doing something important. I also told him to email them back and tell them to cancel whatever appointment they scheduled, then to tell them he wanted his money back because they didn’t provide the service they had promised (fixing his computer). If that didn’t work I told him to dispute the charge on his credit card, he shouldn’t have to pay for this nonsense scam. I haven’t heard anything since about it, so I’m not sure what ended up happening, but it must have gone fairly well. At the time I had never heard of anything like this before.
Now, on to my story.
This will be short in comparison because I just couldn’t drag it out any longer. I was sitting at my computer and the phone rang. Some 1-2345 number, or something like that. Great, telemarketer – I get so many of those calls I wonder sometimes why I bother having a phone, it just annoys me.
So I answer and the guy on the other end of the phone says “Hello, I’m calling from Microsoft – we have reports that you are having problems with your Windows PC”
I was so stunned that I could barely answer. I think I managed to say “Oh really?”
To which he answered seriously, “Yes, really.”
So I asked a reasonable question, “Can you tell me the name of my computer?” Since I have 3 in the house I figured that might narrow down how he got my information to call me.
“Sorry we don’t give personal information out over the phone,” he says. I’m kind of baffled by this, I figure he thought I was asking what ‘his’ name was, or he doesn’t know that computers have names. So I’m speechless and he continues, “Are you at your computer now Sir?”
“Yes,” I reply. Now I’m kind of curious to see where this goes.
“Down in the lower left corner of your keyboard do you see the Ctrl key?”
“Yes, I see it”
“What is next to it?”
“Shift,” I reply trying to be difficult.
“No sir, next to it, not above it,” he says in a less than patient voice.
I pause here, I know he wants me to say that there is a windows key there – I can’t figure out what the heck he is going to do with my windows key but I want to stall for time, so I think of my laptop and I say “Function.”
“And next to that,” he says immediately.
I’ve given up at this point, and while I’m amused that this guy thinks he’s going to scam a technician I don’t feel like playing along much longer. “Alt” I reply.
|Picture courtesy of http://www.police.belleville.on.ca|
“Yes … wait, there is no windows symbol key?”
Now I drop the bomb on him, “I have a MAC.” I don’t really, but I know it’ll fluster him and likely get me off the phone.
“Oh, goodbye” – *click*. Instant hang up. I bust out laughing and relate the story to my wife who had been listening very confusedly to my side of the conversation.
So – be aware. There are people out there that will scam you by claiming to be from a legitimate company. NEVER let someone take control of your computer unless you have called THEM. Do not give someone money if you have not solicited their services. There is no one out there watching your computer for signs of problems. Just imagine what kind of personal information they would be receiving on a daily basis from your computer, you wouldn’t ‘really’ want that company to exist would you?
And if you really want to get a scammer from Microsoft to leave you alone, just tell them that you have a MAC – problem solved. Maybe next time, if they call again, I can string them on a bit longer with some random nonsense and give you a better story.