Wednesday, September 3, 2014

You've got a problem

Most of you must have had at least one call from a friendly person calling from "Microsoft Security Service" to announce that your Windows computer has been sending them error messages. Ron had a call last week. Since we've had several over the past few months, and I've tried a different tack each time, he decided to be clever.

Fifteen minutes later, he was off the phone. I asked him what he had said.

"Well," he replied, "Most of the time I had to ask her to repeat what she said, because her accent was so strong I couldn't understand her. Besides that, I played dumb. She wanted me to go to the bottom of the computer and look for a button. I told her the computer was on the floor, and he couldn't get under it to find any button. Then I put her on hold to listen to the music on the computer. She's probably still listening."

I laughed. I had used the "on hold" trick too. Just put the receiver down beside the speaker and walk away. Twenty minutes later, hang up.

But I was curious. Why would someone repeatedly phone you to tell you your computer had a virus but they could fix it. What was the payoff for them? I decided to play along and see what the scam really was. I had my chance a few days ago.

It was "James" from Microsoft. Apparently an online hacker had managed to get on to my computer and had damaged it. I let him walk me through the steps, including finding that elusive button - the Start button in the lower left of the screen. He guided me through a series of folders until I came to a long list of error and warning messages.

"What do you think that is?" James asked.

"I suppose it's perfectly normal," I replied.

"No, that's the hacker. See how he has damaged your machine. How many errors are there? Can you count them for me?"

"There is a total count at the top - 6,761 errors."

"6,671 errors. Is that correct, ma'am?"

It wasn't but who cares.

Anyway, the upshot was, a technician would connect to my computer, fix the problem for me for one flat rate, then I would be covered for one year, and could contact them to fix my computer whenever the errors reappeared, at no additional charge.

"So how much is this going to cost?" I asked.

"We won't know for sure until the technician sees how much damage was done. It will be between 80 and 150 dollars. That's eight zero dollars to one five zero dollars." American dollars? Canadian dollars? Australian dollars? Did he know where I lived?

Okay, how will the technician fix my computer?"

"If you agree, he will connect to your computer."

"How?"

"Go to Internet Explorer. What do you see there? Amazon?  Google?"

"Live 65. It's a music station."

"You listen to music on your computer? Okay, open a new tab. Now in the white space at the top, type www . showmypc . com."

This is where I got uncomfortable. I wasn't connecting to any website with a name like that. I would investigate later.

"I need to put you on hold," I told James, and put the receiver down beside the speaker, then cranked up the volume.

A little later, Ron came in and I told him about James. We both had a good laugh, and after half an hour had passed I hung up the phone. Five minutes later, it rang and Ron answered.

"It's him," Ron said, and handed me the receiver. Sure enough, it was James. I brushed him off by telling him that my brother was a computer genius and he had removed the error messages. James quickly hung up.

I did some research and found that I was right. The error messages on the computer were a standard logging procedure and were not harmful. ShowMyPC is a legitimate site that allows people to connect remotely to computers for various reasons. If I had gone there, the next step would have been for me to set up a logon with the name and password provided by James. Then he and his henchmen would have had access to my computer and all my history, including logins, passwords, and personal information. They would even have known about this blog.

I guess the payoff for the scammers is two-fold. They get the money from you for "fixing" your computer, plus whatever additional funds they can steal from your bank or credit cards once they have control.

It seems there is no way to report these idiots. They use many different telephone numbers so they are untraceable, and they pop up everywhere. When one ring is shut down, ten others appear to take its place.  The best advice I found from ShowMyPC here and from Microsoft here was to hang up immediately.

From Hermione's Heart

15 comments:

DelFonte said...

We regularly get these callers. Since my husband is a computer expert, he either swears a lot at them or he sometimes leads them a merry dance. Good ones to try - let them walk you through a little then point out you're using an Apple.
My husband knows of a tech savvy person who set up a virtual machine and filled it with tempting files like password.txt and waited for a call. When connected remotely, the VM proceeded to download numerous viruses back at the caller's computer. He then wiped the VM leaving no trace.
Best response, hang up.

abby said...

Oh, great response from DF's husband! I always hang up,,,or tell them i am so computer illiterate they need to wait to talk to my Master...
hugs abby

Roz said...

Thanks for sharing this Hermoine, great info! Yep, hang up! Love the response from DF's husband too!

Hugs
Roz

Hermione said...

DelFonte - There are so many good tricks you can play on them. I have used the "I don't have Windows" line more than once.

Abby - Good idea. Let then call back and M can deal with them.

Roz - Hanging up is best.

Hugs,
Hermione

Meg said...

Thank you for sharing. I've received these calls and just hung up, but I wish I knew how to send back the viruses. Latest calls here are claiming serious legal consequences and felony charges if I don't call back their office. I called the police and gave the number to them.

Ami Starsong said...

Thank you for sharing this, Hermione. At the moment I am being plagues on the 1st of every month by Microsoft wanting me to re-new the security on one of my email addresses. I just don't know whether it is 'real' or not, but it won't let me into my account until I type in another email address as 'security'. Do you happen to know if this is legit? It's never happened on my blogland email address, and never happened to my husband with his email addresses. Why are they picking on me? I'm really fed up with it.

Hugs
Ami

Ami Starsong said...

Thank you for sharing this, Hermione. At the moment I am being plagues on the 1st of every month by Microsoft wanting me to re-new the security on one of my email addresses. I just don't know whether it is 'real' or not, but it won't let me into my account until I type in another email address as 'security'. Do you happen to know if this is legit? It's never happened on my blogland email address, and never happened to my husband with his email addresses. Why are they picking on me? I'm really fed up with it.

Hugs
Ami

Erica said...

Creepy! Thanks for letting us know. I've never gotten a call like this, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Never trust scare tactics when it comes to computers.

Cat said...

LOL Hermione...I get these phone calls on a regular basis. Sometimes I play along with them before hanging up, sometimes I just tell them to go suck an egg and hang up on them...last time, I told the guy I had friends in India, I knew where he lived and I was going to have them come steal from his family like he was trying to steal from mine! He hung up on me! LOL

Thanks for sharing this.

Hugs and Blessings...
Cat

Ni Na said...

Thanks for sharing, Hermione. So far, we haven't had such calls at home, but hubby has had that in his office. Hanging up is the best way!

hugs

Nina

Baxter said...

Haven't had a call like that yet. But I don't take kindly to anyone calling me about anything. We got rid of our landline and only have cellphones now. If a call comes in without an identification, I press ignore. If someone does have identification, they like to start with How are you tonight? I cut them off and ask what they want and if they don't spit the answer out quick enough or have some thick accent, I disconnect.

Minelle Labraun said...

Gosh I am such a novice with computer stuff....I'm going to just hang up on them!

ronnie said...

Thanks for sharing this Hermione. Don't like the sound of this type of call. Never had one myself but if I do will hang up.

Love the response from DF's hubby.

Love,
Ronnie
xx

Callie M said...

I do laugh when they call me to tell me that its Microsoft. Is the virus on my iPad, his iPad, my macbook, his MacBook pro or our iphones?? Rofl

Hermione said...

Meg - That was a good idea.

Ami - Is the email address from the same provider as your blogger address and your husband's. that is, are they all Gmail, or all Yahoo?

Microsoft has more info about scams here and here.

Erica - You're one of the lucky ones!

Cat - That probably scared him; I'll bet he believed you!

Nina - I agree. *Click*

Baxter - That 's what we do too. IF we can't understand what they say, or if we have to say "hello" twice, it's time to disconnect.

Minelle - That's the best idea.

Ronnie - Microsoft never phones people for any reason.

Callie - You know something's fishy when you're not even a Microsoft customer ;-)

Hugs,
Hermione