Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
 
Beware of hackers coming over the phone!

A gentleman with an Indian accent called me today. He said he worked for Microsoft, and they were getting reports that my computer had been hacked. As proof he told me how to open up the Event Viewer, where of course there were lots of error messages and warning. After thinking he had me sufficiently scared he then offered to fix my problems by asking me to type in the address of a website into the Windows run window. At which time I told him where he could stick his lousy scam. I did a virus and malware scan, just to be safe, but my computer is already pretty well protected with hardware firewalls and software, so of course there was nothing.

So please, if somebody calls you with tech support for a problem you didn't even know you had, be extremely suspicious. That sort of customer support simply doesn't exist in the modern world. Somebody is simply trying to lure you onto their site that then *will* infect your computer, or they'll sell you a scam protection or something.

Comments:
Sometimes those are malicious hacking attempts but most of the time they seem to just be scams. Frequently they'll even do some stuff to clean up your computer like cleaning out the registry and such. But in the end they'll charge you many times whatever your local PC repair shop would ask for the same service. It's been going on for years, someone actually wrote some software to hack the most common RDP clients that they use in order for you to take control of their machine. Using something like that though is possibly illegal depending on your local laws.
 
I have had a few of these calls over the years. I used to get very angry and I made a few attempts to "prank" the scammers. Then I got talking to some of the callers about their life in India and their circumstances. It didn't make me feel any better about the scam but I stopped trying to annoy the guys on the phone.

I actually wrote a post about it a few years back: http://mindbendingpuzzles.blogspot.ie/2013/08/a-chat-with-telephone-scammer.html
 
I remember the first time this happened to me:

"Ms ..., I'm calling from the Microsoft company to help you with recent problems with your Windows software."

"Well that seems very unlikely, since I own a Mac."

Hung up.

I feel for people of older generations, though. I can totally see them believing such things.
 
One of my mother's friends got caught up in a scam like this. Took her for $550(US) of free software like Malwarebytes and such to "clean" her computer. Luckily I was able to get her money refunded by threatening the company the scammers use for clearing credit cards.

And they aren't always from far away places. The ones that got my mom's friend were in the state of Alabama. My grandmother did get a similar call though from a scam shop in India or Pakistan. Kind of comical as she let them go thru the whole routine about how her computer was dangerously infected and they were getting alerts about her account. Then she told them that she doesn't have a computer (grandma is kind of a technophobe). They hung up quickly.
 
One of the more frightening "or something" is to blackmail you for your data back.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnwasik/2014/02/19/latest-malware-cyberscam-holds-your-hard-drive-for-ransom/


 
Ravanel, I went one step further and replied in a querulous voice "but.. I don't HAVE a computer!?". Hang up.

On other occasions, when I've been really bored, kept them on the phone as long as possible before explaining that I knew they were scammers and I was deliberately wasting their time so they couldn't move on to their next mark. That's usually good for a torrent of abuse (and abuse in hilariously bad English, at that) before the hang up.

Most recent call, I said I wanted to speak to their manager because the last person from their company that called had called me an Australian arsehole motherfucker and hung up on me (which was true) and that I was very upset. They hung up on me.
 
mbp@2: you are too guilty about pranking the scammers. It's not like you cut their ears off or something. All you did was waste time that they would have spent scamming someone else.
 
My mother got those scammers twice. The first time she went as far as to install whatever shady software they were going to use to take control of her machine before she called me.

The second time she was prepared. She played along with the script for a good 15 minutes before she asked where the event viewer was.

"What version of Windows are you on, ma'am? Vista? 7?"
"I'm on an iPad."
"Very funny ma'am." and hung up on her.

Turns out she had sold her laptop for an iPad a year prior!
 
Someone tried to do that to me, and I told them that was rather ironic since I just finished a virus scan about 15 minutes ago. (I actually had.)

Then they tried to tell me how to "fix" my problem, and I informed them that I work in IT Security. Things went downhill from there, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
 
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