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    Security alert: Bogus tech-support phone calls




    TOP STORY

    Security alert: Bogus tech-support phone calls


    By Fred Langa

    "Hello. This is Microsoft Tech Support. Your PC has notified us that it has an infection." The call is a scam — an extremely prevalent one. Here's how it works and what you need to know to stay out of the trap.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/top-story/security-alert-bogus-tech-support-phone-calls (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.
    Last edited by Tracey Capen; 2013-02-27 at 20:19.

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    I now look forward to these phone calls (Usually from Indian-English speakers)
    I string them along with all kinds of weird and nonsensical questions (after all I'M NOT paying for the call and I bet, like all call centres, they are timed at how long their calls take) until I eventually tell them (when I can sense frustration or suicidal thoughts in their voice) that "How can I have a windows virus - I'm using Linux"
    An out right lie, but it gives me so much pleasure to ruin their day!!!

  3. The Following User Says Thank You to Buzza For This Useful Post:

    mrjimphelps (2013-03-01)

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    Hi Fred et al,

    Another slant on the '.inf' file routine that I've come across is that they get you to open the Event Viewer (in Win 7/XP - All Programs | Administrative Tools | Event Viewer) and look for Error or Warning messages. I doubt that any Windows PC will be free of these (they're generally benign), but the scammers seem to think that it's a ripe field to scare the !@#$% out of a unwary user.

    The PC I was using when I decided to play along with the caller was running XP and it shows a slightly different arrangement of data in Event Viewer to Win 7. When I finally found the messages that the scammer had me search for, he immediately said "Don't click on it. It will infect your machine further!" How it's supposed to infect a machine 'further' when, according to the scammer, it's already infected, I don't know.

    In XP, clicking on the event brings up details such as the failure of the PC to sync its clock to an internet time server or something equally unimportant. In Win 7 it's a slightly different view but operates much the same way.

    I told him I'd found 34 errors and 225 warnings (it was a very old PC!) and he said this obviously was the reason my PC was running slowly as it was heavily infected and his company could "help" me fix it. As I'd had him on the phone for about 15 minutes, I figured that it was about time I left and made myself a cup of coffee, so I asked him if he had ever heard of Tech-Ed events or MCSE qualifications. When he said 'no', I gave him a quick rundown on where these items stood in the Microsoft way of life and asked why his 'Microsoft Partner' employer would employ him if he had no knowledge of these things. I was asked to hold and he went away "to check". I hung up.

    Regrettably these sources of innocent entertainment seem to have run dry in the last few months. I hope it's because of the recent rounding up of one of the major players in the fraud in Australia, Canada and the USA.

    Cheers,
    Magani

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    As Magani alluded we've been getting these kinds of calls in Australia for several years now. At least five. They certainly haven't run dry as I had yet another call just last week.

    The problem is they are usually off shore and of Asian origin although they claim to be in Sydney or Houston and are generally untouchable. In all, over the years I would have had dozens of these calls. Being a MCSE I have to own up to having had a fair bit of entertainment at their expense although it gets tedious after a while.

    The really sad part is that unknowing users will get sucked in by this, end up about $150 out of pocket and more than likely with an infected PC and possibly stolen personal information. It's not so much a report of an infection as a prediction.

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    microsoft scam

    We have had this for at least 12 months now, with practice and playing real dumb you can have them on the phone for an hour at least before they give up and go away.Or you tell them to "Go forth and multiply" they sound indian but not sure, the funny thing is after you give them the rush our phone would ring and as soon as you answered it they say goodbye and hang up, So i just let all calls go to voicemail that shut them up

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    Smile a top goverment scam watch website

    you should have mentioned the website scamwatch its an australian Government scamwatch website that people from all over the world should visit and read..

    full address is http://www.scamwatch.gov.au/content/.../itemId/693900

    rgds
    Syb

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    a slight variation on the theme: expired license/activation codes

    Just today, I had a panicked friend call me about a call she had received from "Windows Support Center" a Microsoft Partner (according to them.) They had convinced her that her license key was about to expire and they needed to get into her computer to "fix" the problem. Unfortunately she allowed them to get into her computer. Although she cannot remember all the steps they walked her through (the call lasted about 4 hours!!! the day before) they had installed Teamviewer and Aammy and Ccleaner. They had also disabled Event Log and a log viewer system service. For a Fred Langa alumnus these things were easy for me to spot, but she was panicked because they convinced her to give them a credit card number to renew the soon to be expiring license (sometimes they called it an activation) key. They offered 3 options: one year for $135, three years for $235, and a lifetime renewal for $335.

    If the other entries in this thread are an indication of arrests related to these types of activities, then maybe what we are seeing are the understudies because their methods and actions were clearly (to me) amateurish. Obviously one unsuspecting computer user has been taken in on this scam, so they were "successful", to a point. Here are a few weird points in the call to her.

    1- they claimed her credit card would not go through (they asked her to get another card, but she refused knowing her card was good)
    2- she talked to 3 people: #1 had a heavy Indian-English unintelligible accent, #2 was clearly Indian accented, but at least was understandable, #3's accent was between #1 and #2, but still hard to understand.
    3- they said she needed to go to her bank to get the credit card problem fixed. She did, but an alert teller at the bank said the whole thing sound fishy (good teller).
    4- they said she could instead get cash and go to Western Union to send her payment, (obviously a red flag to me) BUT the code they gave her to give to WU was not a Western Union code, so they could not do anything with it, AND they also said that the whole thing sounded fishy to them as well.
    5- they said they would call back the next day (today) at 2pm local time. They were over 2 hours late calling. Fortunately I was there to take not only that cell phone call, but also a nearly simultaneous call on her home phone from the same 'company'.
    6- I asked which version of Windows she had on her computer (it was WXPH), but all they could answer was XP and that Microsoft only made XP, Vista, 7 and 8. They seemed completely oblivious to the variations of Home and Professional or any other version. I liked the line one commenter used about having Linux on his computer, not Windows at all!
    7- AND THIS ONE TAKES THE CAKE: they had not made use of the credit card that they had had in their possession for over 24 hours. Of course when she told me all the tidbits, we called her credit card company, told them what was going on, and they agreed to cancel her credit card and issue her a new one.

    I used to enjoy toying with telephone solicitors, and I employed some of my familiar repetoire with these guys, too. I spent 15-30 minutes toying with them, asking them pointed questions (which they deflected or whose answers were obviously lies), but as one commenter has said, they seemed to be operating from scripts because they would speak without stopping. I parroted them sometimes, and am not sure if they understood what I was doing.

    There is also the possibility that these guys were merely stooges believing they were doing legitimate work, and that their employer had duped them. Just sayin'.

    Tex

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    Registry error scam

    We also get this scam in the UK. I carry out a small amount of 1:1 pc tuition and often get clients ringing up asking what to do. One quick answer is to tell them that you are surprised they have your name as you don't have a computer. The phone goes dead very quickly.

    I, personally, have had the calls and I usually say that I know they are going to tell me I have registry errors and that they are going to try to sell me some software to get rid of them. This throws them so I repeat it and, surprise, the phone goes dead immediately! Sadly a couple of my clients have fallen for it and shelled out 75GBP.

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    When the callers who are obviously from South Asia tell me their name and it's a very Western one like George Clooney or Abraham Lincoln, I tell them in my very Western accent that my name is Sanjay Bindar. That always makes them hesitate. I also tell them that the call is being recorded for training and legal purposes. Then I keep interrupting their spiel with questions, most of them unconnected with computers, such as asking if it's snowing there and what they had for lunch. After I ask them several times why they think they were notified by my Windows computer, I tell them that I have a Max running the Amiga VIC-21 operating system and that I don't even have an internet connection. They don't have a reply in their script for any of those possibilities and they get very confused.

    After doing the above, it's usually a month or more before they try again. When I used to just hang up on them, I would get several calls every day.

    If they're going to try to scam me, I'm going to mess with their heads and have some fun with it.

    Another thing I do sometimes is tell them I'm going to put them on hold for just a moment while I turn off the TV, then I set the phone down and walk away. One time, the guy stayed on the line for nearly 15 minutes yelling "HELLO?" from time to time before he gave up. Most telemarketers and scammers have a quota to meet and if you waste their time, they won't meet their target. Isn't that too bad? :-)

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    Another more general rule that will save you a lot of hassle and time wasting:

    Never reply to any call that displays an "Unknown" or "Hidden" phone number on your handset (label may change depending on country).

    If the person knows you, they know how to get in touch with you another way. If a number is displayed, at least you have something to go on.

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    I've gotten numerous calls on both my home and my business phones from these thieves. If I am not particularly busy, I string them along, and I, too, had great fun when, after 10 minutes or so, told the caller that all my computers here were running Linux.

    Unfortunately, there is not much to report to the authorities, because the called ID shows a bogus number.

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    Like Buzza, I enjoy stringing them out and wasting their time. I put them on speaker phone while I get other work done. I pretend to be a computer noob and cannot follow their instructions properly. After about 30 minutes, I pretend my computer has rebooted and they have to wait while it reboots. When I get sick of the whole charade, I tell them I have to get on a conference call and ask that they call back tomorrow. They will.

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    Secirity alert : Bogus tech-support phone calls

    Interesting to hear other people's experiences with these people. I also have had several phone calls and I have spent some time with them. Initially I pretended to be a dumb user (not hard) and let them take me through the display of the Event log "proving" I had system errors. Then my Asian sounding "Mike" gave me a common remote access website address so he could come onto my PC and "fix" the problems. At this point, I didn't want to go any further. When I expressed concern that they might return after he had fixed them, he offered me a very generous support package that I could pay monthly to ensure these "errors" didn't re-occur. Then I confronted him with my technical knowledge and accused him of running a scam to fleece people who might be vunerable to his line of patter. He denied it completely and wouldn't admit to any of it so eventually I hung up. Since then, I have tried different approaches, some being totally indignant when I hear their spiel, demanding to know where they got my phone number from, told them I have no computer(which usually gets them to hang up immediately), given them a severe lecture on their lack of ethics in trying to rob unsuspecting folks, threatened them with the Police, and generally berated them for continually calling me. I have also asked for a phone number to call them back but only managed to get them to call me back (someone different). Finally, I got one so angry, he called me back and said he was going to "f**k my wife". I had to laugh at him as I've been divorced for 17 years! However, I can see that the majority of less computer literate people could well be taken in by the scam and feel strongly that there should be some way to put a stop to it.

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    Variation of the scam

    I have not previously had the .inf file "infections", but another trick attempted is to get you to look at your event log files. There are almost always a few quite legitimate error records in there and these are claimed to be caused by the infection on your computer.

    I also recently played along with one of these callers. First, I said I could not do so at the moment as I had an urgent task to finish but would call him back as soon as I had finished. I am in Melbourne, Australia and he gave me a Sydney number. I waited a few minutes then called that number and I was actually able to get transferred to the gentlemen I had spoken to (I suspect this was a local number which was assigned to a voip system and therefore was able to be transferred to Bangalore, or whereever he was situated - it sounded like an Indian accent). Anyway, after a little further verbal sparring he offered to call me back again (I called on my mobile but he called back on my landline, which was the line that took the original call, so they must have some sort of logging system). after a little further back and forth I eventually tired of this and told him I was quite capable of solving any problem I had and that I thought he was attempting a scam - that brought about an immediate termination of the call from his end.

    I reported all details including the 'phone number to the Australian equivalent of your FTC scam site. I suspect that the most they would be able to do is cause the use of that number to be stopped, requiring the hoaxers to get a new one and hopefully at least incur a small expense.
    Last edited by Warwickw; 2013-02-28 at 07:41. Reason: clarification

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    This is an old scam, I started getting these "Hello, I am from Windows Support....." calls probably 2 years ago here in Oz, up to 3 times a week. It was obvious from the outset that they were a scam. Although implying that they were (associated) with Microsoft, have you EVER heard of M/S phoning a user to advise them of a problem? After playing along with them a few times before telling them to disappear (or words to that effect!), I found it best to ask them a few questions.
    "Where is your office?" - "Sydney" - sorry mate, not with that accent.
    "Which computer's got the problem" (I have 5) - They reply with the initial "Your computer's reporting a problem..." spiel.
    "What's its IP address?" - They replied with my street address.
    Finally, and best of all, "Where did you get my phone number?" - immediate CLICK as he hung up so fast I reckon he melted his phone!
    Haven't had a call since..............

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