Watch out for this tech phone call scam doing the rounds

phone

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.

5 Responses

  1. Ducky Says:

    I’ve had a few of these calls, and heard from a bunch of people who have had them too.
    They get you to go to your event viewer in Windows, which usually has a ton of errors/warnings, all of which can be safely ignored.
    They’ll then say “Your computer has errors! You need to get us to fix them up for you!”
    Then they tell you to either go to a website where you put your CC info in (to download their fixing software/support plan), or to download a remote control client so they take over your computer (and again, get you to pay money)…

  2. Mildred E. Younger Says:

    thanks for the alert. haven’t received a call like that before but i know a lot already because of articles like yours. they call you, tell you you got problems with PC, offer to fix it, access your PC and then scam you. neat trick.

  3. Mildred E. Younger Says:

    and if ever i get a call like that, i’d report the phone number to this consumer complaint website http://www.callercenter.com. with a lot of people visiting the site, it’s the best venue to share the information and warn others not to accept calls from that phone number.

  4. Barry Wise Says:

    My dad got ‘scammed’ by one of these companies. It wasn’t a total con in that they did resolve some problems and speed his PC up and didn’t leave any nasty surprises on there but they did fleece him for a couple of hundred pounds for the privilege.
    If I have the time I try to keep them going for as long as possible until they suspect me or I get bored. I’ve managed 30 minutes but one of my mates kept them going for an hour. They tend to get really abusive when they eventually find out they’ve been conned – the angrier they are the more satisfied I am.
    The ones I’ve spoken to always say they are from Windows not from Microsoft.

  5. Rosalie Says:

    I’ve had at least 6 of these calls. One, the woman actually swore quite foully at me when I informed her that I was not interested as she was a scam. The last guy threatened me with legal action when I said he should take note of my number and NOT call it again as he was a scam.

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