While working at home today I was “lucky” enough to get a call from one of those scammers who rings your house and offers you technical assistance with your PC.
There’s a decent write-up over here on the Guardian’s website of the sort of scam we’re talking about and there are some examples over here of actual conversations where people have been much better than me in that they managed to record the call.
The call ran something like this;
- There was an awful lot of “Hello! Hello!” which seemed to go on for quite a while – if you’re going to telephone scam people I recommend investing in a decent headset.
- The initial “engineer” told me that he was ringing about the problems that I had with my computer and then remembered to check whether I had a computer and whether I had any problems with it. I said that I did. I’ve got lots of computers and they all have their problems I guessed where we might be heading.
- He also mentioned “Microsoft” quite a lot and talked about how it’s likely that the warranty on my computer’s software (?) might have “expired” thereby “opening it up to lots of viruses and problems being downloaded from the internet”.
- He then led me on a course of diagnostics which involved me finding the CTRL key on my keyboard ( “I want you to look at the keyboard and press the key in the bottom left corner” ) and, from there, to the Windows key and used the R shortcut to get a Run dialog.
- He then ran the event viewer.
- Once in the event viewer he encouraged me to scroll up and down and count up how many “little yellow triangles” and “little red circles” I could see. I reported that I could see “hundreds”.
- He explained that the triangles and circles represented viruses and that they “multiply every twenty four hours” which I found a little bit frightening although I did wonder why they waited so long and what they were doing for the rest of each day
- Once “the problem” was clearly demonstrated he handed me over to his supervisor who was a “Microsoft Registered Technician”.
- The registered technician checked that I had understood the nature of the problem and then proceeded to get me to run up a browser and go to http://logmein123.com and he wanted me to type in a passcode up there ( 843718 ). Note – I haven’t tried to login on that website and I’ve no idea what kind of malware lurks behind it. You have been warned.
At this point, I decided that I didn’t want to log in to the site so I stalled for a while and then started to ask the supervisor whether it was risky to log in to this site and I mentioned that it didn’t look like a Microsoft site and couldn’t they have spent a little more money on the branding of it?
This opened up the general question of budgets at Microsoft and I could tell that he was starting to get wise as I asked him if he could give me his address and phone number “just in case it goes wrong” and the call ended quickly when I added that I worked for Microsoft and so was curious about a few of the things that he’d just been telling me.
I wasn’t perhaps the ideal candidate for this kind of phone scam and it’s easy to have a laugh at the scammers expense but I can see how it would be very easy to fall for if you’re having some kind of computer trouble and the phone happens to ring at the same time with someone who says “Microsoft” a lot and offers to “help”
With that in mind, here’s a “message from our sponsor” providing a legitimate place to go to look for computer security issues for the home user;