Many of us have had unsolicited technical support calls, sometimes several of them.
It’s a scam that’s been going on for years, and it goes something like this.
Your phone rings, or an SMS arrives, or a popup appears when you visit a website, and the message tells you that there’s a virus of some sort on your computer.
If the “warning” arrives in an SMS or a pop-up, you’re urged to call a “support line,” typically a free number that seems harmless enough to dial.
Whatever the route, you end up talking to an earnest-sounding “support techie” who will typically imply that he’s from Microsoft, or Windows, and has some official-sounding reason to be talking to you.
We’re using “air quotes” here because everything about these calls is bogus, and you’re about to be squeezed into paying for a service you don’t need, and which wouldn’t fix your problem even if the caller were telling the truth.
There are various storylines the call will follow, but, in the end, the scammer will insist that a virus infection has been traced to your computer, and that you need to let him help you fix it.
If you don’t act now, you could lose all your data, be sued, get cut off by your ISP, or worse: a pack of scary lies to squeeze you even harder.
If you cave in, you’ll end up paying by credit card for a remote-access support session or some software that you didn’t need, that you can’t trust, and that won’t solve the problem you didn’t have.
Encourage your less tech-savvy friends and family not to yield to this sort of pressure.
End the call right away, because there is nothing useful to hear, and nothing useful to say.
DEALING WITH FAKE SUPPORT CALLS
Here’s a short podcast you can recommend to friends and family. We make it clear it clear that these guys are scammers (and why), and offer some practical advice on how to deal with them.
(Originally recorded 05 Nov 2010, duration 6’15”, download size 4.5MB)
Images of Christmas tree and Advent calendar courtesy of Shutterstock.
9 comments on “Advent tip #4: Unsolicited tech support call? Just hang up!”
I did a forensic investigation on one of these – the scammer dropped 4 files on the machine. A batch file which cleared event logs, a batch file which echo installing security software (that’s really all it did aside from a few time waster commands to look like it was installing something), an adware remover and text document with the technician’s name. they charged the poor guy $2,000 USD for 10 years support. Luckily, they used TeamViewer who was able to review the logs took action against the license the scammers had used.
Had a contractor working on my house 2 years ago was telling me he kept getting calls from “the Internet” to help him with his PC. He did get one of those calls while at my place, I took the phone and pretended to be trying to help connect to the site he wanted me to. I took an hour of his time 🙂 he told me he works for “the internet”, yep that much balls. I strung him on as long as I could having him help me get on line,,,, I eventually told him I was messing with him lol. make the best of it.
Personally, I would not end the call right away, because then they will call some other victim who might get conned.
Instead, I would ask them to wait a moment while I boot up my computer, and then leave the phone off the hook without listening to it. If I can use up 10 minutes of their time and phone bill, then that is ten minutes less they might spend trying to defraud someone else.
I actually keep them on the line when they call (if I have time) so they have less time to scam someone who doesn’t know better. Last time “Windows Support” called to tell me my Windows computer was sending error reports, I kept the guy on the phone for 45 minutes while following his instructions, to the letter, on my Ubuntu workstation.
I get these calls once a month or more. These calls come jacuzzi, the “phone” company (English and Spanish), contractors (who are either in the hood or swear they worked on my home) Rachel from card services has disappeared. They all enjoy verbal abuse.
It’s really a good idea to hang up immediately, as these people already have your number. However, forwarding them to Lenny allows you to share them with the world:
We were getting complaints that our employees were claiming to be from Cyber Security CANADA. We ended up out a banner on our website, that if you do get a call like this to call the RCMP. Quite often we get to do the clean ups when people get nervous and let’s these con artists in to their computers.
I get calls from them all the time. I always mess with them. Sometimes I just sing to them until they hang up. Sometimes I play dumb and ask questions like “Where is the Power Button?” and “When I push that button a little cup holder tray pops out of my computer. Should it do that?” Here’s my last “conversation” with “Microsoft Technical Department”: This is Microsoft Technical Department… we have detected a…. “Wait… you work for microsoft? In Redmond?” Pause. Yes. “Redmond Washington?” Yes. We have… “WOW! We work in the same office. I work for Microsoft Technical Department too. Stand up so I can see you.” Sir. If you would turn on your home computer we can clear up the virus we have detected. “Dude, I’m at work. I just told you that.” Where are you? “Work. Microsoft. The same office as you. I’m standing up right now. Can you see me?” Sir, I… “Dude. Stand up so I can see you too.”
Next time they call I’m going to pretend I am the police in the middle of a crime scene and he called the murder victim’s phone. I’ll start grilling him on how he knows the newly deceased and his whereabouts last night between midnight and 2 am.
I can’t agree with this approach. I stick to my advice – just hang up. These guys are crooks. They know your phone number. For all you know they might have acquired it illegally from a customer database that includes much more about you, like your physical address. So why wind them up? (Also, in many countries, misrepresenting yourself as a police officer is a serious criminal offence in its own right.)
IMO, you don’t dignify yourself by demeaning other people. Put another way, if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.