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back to article Even 'Your computer has a virus' cold-call gits are migrating off XP

Tech support scammers have begun targeting smartphone and tablet users with offers to fix non-existent problems – for exorbitant fees. Cold call scams that attempt to hoodwink marks into paying for useless remote diagnostic and cleanup services have been a popular scam for years. Victims are often encouraged to sign up to multi- …

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Are there no prisons?

Put a few of these scumbags in jail for a reasonable length of time, and the rest will realise it isn't worth the risk.

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Devil

Re: Are there no prisons?

I suggest house arrest, with an automated system ringing their phone every 5 minutes with a pointless call.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are there no prisons?

They are often in India, good luck getting them into a prison in your country.

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Happy

Re: Are there no prisons?

A referee's whistle, blown as hard as you can right by the telephone mouthpiece, has proved to a good deterrent to these scum.

I gather it can be rather excruciating to be on the receiving end...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are there no prisons?

Not really, that's why (proper) call centre headsets have acoustic shock protection, to stop idiots* doing this sort of thing.

* Change the scenario: You are walking in the street and a chugger asks if you'd like to help out with XYZ at which point you punch them in the face. Think you'd get away with that. Thought not.

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Re: Are there no prisons?

Apparently Indian prisons aren't particularly nice places. Throw them in one of them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are there no prisons?

Someone needs to hurry up and discover the Brown Note.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are there no prisons?

Do you really think the people who own these scamming companies actually have a proper call center? No, everything is done as cheap as possible and the turnover rate is high. Why invest in the employees when you can replace them instantly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are there no prisons? Re: AC discussing punching chuggers

So I shouldn't be claiming tax deductions for "one punch" provided to a wide range of charities via chuggers?

I thought I was being generous as it seemed to be very popular with people who saw it.

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They seem to have stopped calling me

I used to enjoy the sport of seeing how long can I keep them on the phone by not mentioning my laptop is running Linux.

30 minutes is my record.

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Re: They seem to have stopped calling me

Another one I heard was to reply:

"Wow, thanks for calling, I have five hundred PCs in this office, can you help me figure out which one has the virus."

Then play a game of chase the red herring till they figure out you have none. :P

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N2

Re: They seem to have stopped calling me

Excellent, Ive said "Ill just go and get it from the attic" & put the phone on the table and left it, dunno how long they waited.

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Re: They seem to have stopped calling me

I had my very first one last week - I decided to try a different tactic. No whistles, no swearing, no delaying tactics, just make them feel very, VERY uncomfortable.

After arguing with the fellow ("I know you're not from Microsoft, and I have that on good authority from someone quite senior in the company") and trashing his "bona fides" ("So, you've got a bunch of low-end brain dump qualifications and your MCSE isn't even up to date"), I went for the jugular and questioned his integrity...

"You know, your mother must be so disappointed in you, putting your knowledge and expertise to criminal use. Why don't you just put the phone down, walk out of that call centre and find yourself an HONEST job ?"

That sent him right over the top, and resulted in a Davros-like tirade. Imagine Spike Milligan or Peter Sellers screaming "Do not anger me, Doctor ! I can destroy you - and this MISERABLE, INSIGNIFICANT PLANET !!!" in a fake Punjabi accent and you get the general idea.

"Oh, by the way - free clue for you, Skippy !"

I stuck the phone next to my Mac Mini, and turned it on.

*BONG*

*click*

I was half expecting him to call back, claiming to be from Apple, but I suspected it would take him a while to calm down. The OpenBSD VM running XFCE would be ideal for that call... "No, I've got a little black mouse in the top left-hand corner of my screen, is that wrong ?"

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"You know, your mother must be so disappointed in you"

That's all it takes most of the time. It is almost sure to cause the Indian call center jerk to explode with 4 letter words.

If one of them calls to tell me my tablet has a problem I think I'll tell him it's a suppository...

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Paris Hilton

Re: They seem to have stopped calling me

It was a bad moment when I got one of these calls and I'm afraid that I replied; "Nothing that can't be fixed by ramming my c*** all the way down your t***** and leaving it there." Nice people won't know what this means the call centre guy did.

Paris because, just because.

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Re: They seem to have stopped calling me

I ask them how they know my computer has a virus, and they usually tell me there's some unusual activity from my IP address.

So I ask them how they tracked down my name and phone number from that, and they usually tell me that they got it from my internet provider.

So I tell them that unless they can produce the court order they required to get my personal information from the IP provider, either they are lying or the IP company must be acting illegally, and I'm pretty sure it's not the IP company.

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Re: They seem to have stopped calling me

And can you read out the message that popped up on your screen please Sir?

Yeah, it says "(C)1982 Sinclair Research Ltd."

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Re: They seem to have stopped calling me

I've managed to perplex them several times, when they ask me to press Ctrl-R (which on Windows brings up the Run dialog), by insisting, truthfully, that it does nothing on my computer. I don't tell them I'm running Linux. Well, they didn't ask.

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Re: They seem to have stopped calling me

I have you beat:

Copyright 1976 Data Technical Analysts

(or so it said on the old CTIX system I once 'babysat'.)

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They rang me yesterday. In the past, I've pretended to play along with them for a while, before reporting the call to the National Fraud Hotline (just for their statistics really), but yesterday I just used some loud Anglo-Saxon.

It isn't the likes of us on this forum who will be taken in, but more the proverbial 'little old lady'.

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I often wonder if the person on the other end of the line has any idea they are part of a scam?

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It isn't the likes of us on this forum who will be taken in, but more the proverbial 'little old lady'.

True, though even my mum, at the age of 79, has recognised these callers for what they are and told them what they can go do with themselves.

I suppose it helps that she doesn't own a computer.

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@scub

glad you mentioned that. I have played along with these a number of times to see if I can get any information that would assist in making a report. I have come to the conclusion that a lot of the staff think they are actually working for a legitimate company, and are just as much dupes as their targets.

I may be wrong, too trusting, etc, but that's how it seems to me - also explains how many of them can be so convincing.

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Anonymous Coward

That's the little old ladies... so far the LOLs I know have had a 100% detection rate on this kind of scam. They aren't sure that the caller is genuine, but will always ask the scammer to call back - then ask around within their circle of friends and family (there's sure to be someone who is an IT pro of some sort).

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Re: @scub

" I have come to the conclusion that a lot of the staff think they are actually working for a legitimate company"

Fascinating idea john - maybe they just have a brief "Ring these customers we have identified have a problem and get them to DL this file, the other dept will logon and fix the issue"

Surely they'd have to be dumber than the victims though?

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Re: @scub

The staff know it's a scam, watch some of the older videos when he starts calling them out over it. With one charge being the average monthly wage in India just one mark a day will make the whole team more money than they could ever earn in another job.

Money is a great motivator, just look at the banks, Libor, PPI and the rest. They knew what they were doing was a scam yet the money was so good they didn't care.

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That's the impression I've got when I've spoken to them. I don't think the front line people know it's a scam. They're following instructions and training but they don't really understand the tech. They're given 'leads' (which are just random numbers), and they attempt to get a sale. Some of them get really defensive when you tell them they're part of a scam.

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Re: @scub

Not a chance. They are scam artists and clearly know what they are doing. No different then pick pockets that also take pride in their skill.

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Little old lady

... In fact any members of the public who aren't aware of all this sh*t.

El Reg, as worthy as it is, doesn't reach the gen public. Sadly the ordinary grown up media don't see this stuff as news.

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" I often wonder if the person on the other end of the line has any idea they are part of a scam?"

Oh, they know. I used to get a lot of these, so used to let em connect to an old pc. I used to put text files named "Bank details" or "confidential" on the desktop, they tried snaffling them every time (good luck using those cc details i generated from one of those fake id generator sites).

The best way to deal with them is just to waste their time, do the oposite to what they say,`misshear` their instructions, keep typing the wrong logmein pw (they always seem to use logmein), move the mouse constantly as they try and control it, randomly disconnect the wifi and when you get bored, just insult their faith or culture or get frisky with em.

The sound of a swearing Indian scammer after they just wasted an hour is pure joy.

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I'm a lumberjack...

The last time they called me I said "Oh dear, I'm not very technical. I work as a lumberjack. Let me tell you about my job".

At which point I broke into song. They hung up half-way through the second verse and haven't called back since.

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Re: I'm a lumberjack...

Everyone's a critic...

Maybe a YouTube link next time so that we can judge for ourselves? Playmobil reconstruction optional.

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How about - "Oh yes, I'm glad you called, it has been running slow lately, just hang on a second and I'll boot it up."

.. put phone on the worktop, go do something else for half an hour.

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Joke

Piano / Computer

One of my favourite radio comedy shows has a sketch about this where it transpires they are confusing a computer with a piano, "the start key, is that a white one or a black one?" etc. very funny and I'd love to have the wherewithal to use it myself but I don't think I could keep the gag going for long enough!

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Re: Piano / Computer

That's a mitchell and webb sketch, from one of their radio series.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15j9_lAIWuw

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Anonymous Coward

I ask the caller to go talk to their boss

Before we start, please do me a favour.

Get up from your chair.

Go into your bosses office and say: "You are a filthy scammer" as loud as you can.

By the time you come back I will have hung up.

OK?

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Coat

For some reason ..

I have just had an image of someone with 2 phones, a scammer on each line, putting the handsets down with mouthpiece to earpiece, and walking away ....

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Re: For some reason ..

I have just had an image of someone with 2 phones, a scammer on each line, putting the handsets down with mouthpiece to earpiece, and walking away ....

There was a website that did that through voip. People would route the calls to the site, which would in turn connect the scammers to each other.

I think it was shut down last year for breaking telecommunications laws, pity.

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Mushroom

Re: For some reason ..

> I think it was shut down last year for breaking telecommunications laws

Yet these fuckers continue unabated?

Thanks law!

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I work in schools. Teachers fall for it all the time.

I wash my hands of it. If they are that stupid, that's their problem to fix. Inside work, they shouldn't have enough permission and/or flexibility in the policies to even allow them to do anything like this.

If someone knocked on your door and they told you that the car on your driveway needed fixing and they could fix it for "just" £50, you'd do exactly what you are supposed to. Say thank you. Shut the door. Call your garage to see if they share the same opinion. You wouldn't pay the guy who reported it to you, or any stooge that he could arrange for you. And you certainly wouldn't do it there-and-then without checking.

And the whole "I'm from Microsoft" kind of junk? If some bloke knocked on your door claiming to be from Ford and that you should pay him money to fix your car that you've not reported any problem with, you should be equally suspicious.

Why things are different when they involve computers, I've never worked out.

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Things aren't different. People fall for 'the your roof needs repairing, I can do it cheap today as I am on another job in the area' type scams all the time. Or you have a gas leak, fake ID and they are in.

Unfortunately most of the time it the people that can least afford it that are the victims.

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Anonymous Coward

It as to do with the fact people refuse to be computer literate and prefer to think it's all run by magical elves.

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Silver badge

And, again, sorry but if you're stupid enough to fall for that, then there's no helping you. We can't educate you about that (despite decades of advertising, leafleting and school visits about strangers at doors, targeted to all ages). We can't magically stop it happening. And if you're vulnerable then, no, you shouldn't be opening your own door / PC in the first place. It's up to the carers/family/neighbours to make sure that the vulnerable don't get scammed, because the police are already doing as much as they can do about that.

I had a bloke knock on my door. He was "from your electricity supplier", had a little clipboard, hi-vis jacket, hardhat, the works. I asked him who that supplier was. After the second guess, I told him to leave before I called the police. He protested, saying he just needed to put a card in my meter, etc. etc. etc. so I picked up my phone. He left and went to the next house. The entire STREET was filled with people doing the same thing, and it was an EDF cold-selling scam, but "official"... these guys had paperwork, your name, (sadly not your current electricity supplier), ID badges, worked for a big company, etc. It was still a scam, to get you to switch supplier.

If I'd had CCTV, I'd have pressed charges because he specifically tried to gain access to my property posing as "my" electricity supplier. I just filed complaints instead, but they were all over my entire road doing the same to all my neighbours, knowing it was impossible to prove what was said.

No-one can educate you or stop you from falling for a scam. As such, if you fall for one, you fall for them all. It's your responsibility to educate yourself, even if that means the hard way. And then you realise that just the simple truth of "trust no-one" applies to such things.

If you would fall for the roof scam, or the car scam, or the electricity scam, or the computer scam, it's because of YOU. If someone is vulnerable to falling for it, honestly, there's nothing you can do short of being there all the time, forcibly educating them to not speak to people trying to sell them things (or enter their property), or letting them be scammed. That's why they have secure housing with bright people on the door protecting their residents.

And, of course, scammers will target the vulnerable because they are already unscrupulous - why should we think there's honour among thieves? Fact is, there is NOTHING you can do about that. Except spread stories of how "Trust No-one" is all you need to know (and no "but this guy is different" exceptions).

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Anonymous Coward

"It as to do with the fact people refuse to be computer literate and prefer to think it's all run by magical elves."

Very true. Here (University), it almost seems a badge of honour to be as inept as possible with computers.

"<giggle>Oh, I know nothing about computers, can you do it for me?"

"No, I gave you a step-by-step sheet, you just need to be able to read"

"<snigger>No, I really can't understand it, it's too technical"

And that's just the rugby team giggling.

(Anonymous, because they might giggle like schoolgirls, but the rugby team are still ... large)

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Not run by magical elves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh sh**

So what are the elves doing then??

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as i see it, the difference between these and ones involving cars or rooves is that by the time they ask for money, they've *already got full access to your pc*. the asking for money is just a little cherry on top - even if you hang up right then, they've already won.

its easy to imagine someone trusting them enough to 'just help them check a few things' and then realising they're in over their heads.

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Difference between this and roofs or cars

I think the difference is that it just conceivable (perhaps not to you and me, but to a lot of people) that Microsoft would know that your Windows computer has a problem and it is possible to give them access and let them do stuff to it remotely. Hardly anybody would accept the idea of Ford knowing your car has a worn bearing and offering to fix it over the phone (there's always one, I guess).

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Missed Out

I've never had a call from these scammers, although my tendency to ignore the phone if I don't recognise the number probably helps me avoid them. I think I'd start by asking which IP address was causing the problem so I could determine which machine I needed to work on. Or I'd try it the other way around and ask if it was the one with the address 192.168.1.4 that they could see misbehaving on the internet.

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Re: Missed Out

I kept one of these scammers chatting for 45 minutes, while doing some tedious work at the same time. It went really well, I was feigning some computer knowledge and some skepticism but allowed him to win me over. Then I lost it when eventually he told me my IP address on record was 192.168.1.1 and when I burst into laughter he hung up. He knew he was scamming.

Another one I let them take me as far as downloading some remote access software, I then just typed the wrong numbers into it so they could never connect. Took three attempts before they gave up, wasting their time nicely.

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Linux

At least they're not scamming someone if they're wasting their time on you....

Had one call me once while I was watching a film on the telly. Told him my PC was upstairs and I was on a corded landline, so every time he asked me to do something I had to "go upstairs" and then come back and report the status (took 5-10 minutes each time). By the time I had "mystyped" t the URL 4 or 5 times he started reading it out phoenetically, I then had to report that typing "hoteltangotangopappacolonslashslashwhiskeywhiskeywhiskeydot....." into the browser didn't work.

By the end of the call the only time I'd got off the sofa was when I went to make a cup of tea, and had had him on the phone for 45 minutes - I could have kept him going longer but the film finished and I had other stuff to do, and before I hung up I made sure he realised he was a theiveing scammer !

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