I seem to get more than my fair share of ‘junk’ phone calls usually wanting me to invest in stocks and shares but this week I got my first scam ‘tech’ phone call. Thankfully I’d heard about it already on some tech podcast, but I think I would have seen through it anyway and hung up before it went too far. Here’s what happened and why my alarm bells were ringing pretty much straight away and hopefully this heads-up will alert you if you haven’t experienced this type of call yet.
The phone rang in the evening. My phone has caller ID so it displays the incoming caller’s number; in this case, the number was ‘unavailable’. So the caller was hiding their ID – always a bad start for them. I picked up the phone and there was a 2 second delay where I could hear that the caller was in a call centre. She spoke with an Indian accent so probably an Indian call centre. I probably should have hung up at that point but she asked to speak to my wife calling her by her real name saying that my wife was a registered Microsoft user and she was calling from a tech support centre. The game was definitely up at this point as I’m the registered Microsoft user at home. When I challenged her on this, she just said she wanted to speak to whoever was the registered user. I guess she was working from a sales database of names and numbers freely available in India or she’d got hold of our local phone directory. I let her go on for a little while to see where it would go. She said she wanted to do a security check on my PC and asked me to click on the Start button…
And that was enough for me. I politely said I was a fairly experienced Windows user and I didn’t have any PC problems and hung up. Doubtless she then went on her way and phoned the next number on her list. I wondered if she was paid on a commission only basis with payment only on calls with a ‘result’ for them. But I guess it doesn’t take many results for this to be a worthwhile business proposition for the scammers.
Anyway, I knew from what I’d heard already that if I followed her instructions she would have taken me to Windows Event Viewer and shown me folders of (usually unimportant) errors which Windows logs while it proceeds on its merry way. It’s a great scam as many people are alarmed by these errors even though their PC is running fine and they follow the scammer’s instructions for their removal with both a financial cost and with security implications as they let the scammer gain remote access to their PC. There’s a good write up here on the Guardian website. Apparently, this scam has been doing the rounds since 2008. I mentioned it to my wife later and thankfully, she said she wouldn’t have fallen for it either. When she mentioned it at work the next day, two of her colleagues had also received scam calls like that and neither had been conned.
Some of you may be reading this after it’s already happened and are searching for information about it. If it’s happened to you, warn your family and friends. The scammers may be working from a local phone book so you may all get these calls in the same period. And don’t think that because you use Linux or a Mac you won’t get the call. Despite what they say, they only have a list of names and numbers and don’t know if you have a Windows PC. Best advice is to politely hang up or if you have the time, waste their time so they won’t be scamming someone else when you’re on the line.
Have you come across this phone scam or anything like it? How did you deal with the caller? Drop a comment below.