back to article PC repair chap lets tech support scammer log on to his PC. His Linux PC

Why look at that! Friday is upon us, which means it’s time for another instalment of On-Call, The Register’s weekly column in which readers share memories of being asked to fix odd stuff at unpleasant times of the day. This week, meet “Shane,” who used to do a bit of computer repair work on the side, and kept a phone just for …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The beauty of virtual machines

    At one company I worked for, one of the tech support guys got a call like this. They fired up a virtual machine and let the scammer loose on that. Of course every reboot, all changes were lost ... I don't know how long the charade went on for.

    I do know the techie in question seemed to have a lot more patience for remote scammers than they did colleagues in need .....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The beauty of virtual machines

      Probably until someone realized it was a VM and tried pulling a hypervisor attack on it, forcing the virtual plug to be pulled.

    2. Steve Button

      Re: The beauty of virtual machines

      "Of course every reboot, all changes were lost"

      That's not how VMs work.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The beauty of virtual machines

        "Of course every reboot, all changes were lost"

        That's not how VMs work.

        It is if you set them up to not commit changes to the VM disk file on power off

        1. TheVogon Silver badge

          Re: The beauty of virtual machines

          "It is if you set them up to not commit changes to the VM disk file on power off"

          That's VDI you are talking about, not just a VM...

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: The beauty of virtual machines

            It's called snapshotting. You store a specific state of virtual machine and simply revert to it each time you finish your session. Even VirtualBox has such a feature.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The beauty of virtual machines

              I had the pleasure of getting a scam call a long time ago that was made to a support number that diverted to a mobile out of hours. So roll on that night and the decidedly low tech duty support mobile rings and when I answer I realise what's going on. I don't believe that he's from Microsoft for a second and said I was on my way home so if he could wait a 2 mins I'd be home. Happened to be approaching an Internet cafe who I knew used a VM with deep freeze prog so went in there and played along merrily using the installed VNC.

              Bloke told me he had to fix something and made a good job of looking around the Windows folder but was obviously very perplexed when he couldn't find anything in My Documents on the computer. He kept asking me why was there a clock counting down in the bottom right hand side of the screen. I told him that also needed fixing as it was a program I hadn't installed. After a few minutes I said I had to go to the door and see who was there. I told him I would leave the computer on for him to "fix" whatever it was that was wrong and hung up. He kept trying to do searches for .doc, .xls etc. files that didn't exist and looking for emails when there was no client installed to receive them. When the countdown reached zero it obviously cut him off and reset the machine.

              He called back very concerned and I said I had to go out so would have to be quick. He asked where my files were stored and I said oh they're on my floppy disk. Why did the machine shut down? Well it's a virus and it shuts down the PC after 30 minutes, "I hope you didn't get infected by that it's very nasty" when the line went dead.

          2. gotes

            Re: The beauty of virtual machines

            Pretty much every Hypervisor/VM host I've used has that option, possibly even "Microsoft Virtual PC". I believe VirtualBox used immutable disks by default when I first used it.

            Edit: Virtual PC Undo Disk

      2. www2

        Re: The beauty of virtual machines

        Look more a VM with deep freeze or a similar software packet

      3. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: The beauty of virtual machines

        It is how some virtual machines work. I know of one company that supplies such a setup to the educational market. The teacher can set up a template computer with the software / files required for the lesson, and it all gets reset at the end of the lesson.

        1. HWwiz

          Re: The beauty of virtual machines

          Sounds like the old Microsoft SteadyState.

          User profile is set back to a set standard on every login.

      4. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: The beauty of virtual machines

        Actually Steve Button, that *is* how VMs work when you've set them up that way.

      5. Ilsa Loving

        Re: The beauty of virtual machines

        Note to self: Don't hire Steve Button for anything computer related, since he's demonstratively proven he doesn't understand the even the most basic of VM settings.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The beauty of virtual machines

      Question:

      Somebody claimed that they were going to use Virtual Machines on computers that were loaded with only a BIOS and a very small Hypervisor program. They were explicitly claiming that the computer would not be loaded with an OS at all, except into the VMs.

      This didn't make sense to me, unless somebody has written or employed a very tiny OS and built it into their Hypervisor product.

      Comments?

      1. Ilsa Loving

        Re: The beauty of virtual machines

        RE: Question about virtual machines

        That is what's called a Type 1 hypervisor. It runs a top layer that has only enough to it to manage virtual machines. Examples include Citrix Xenserver and VMWare ESXi. As you surmised, it is literally a super-tiny OS that only has enough smarts to initialize the hardware, let VMs use that hardware, and provide a management API. They are typically used in server workloads, where the whole point is to share the hardware among a large number of applications that you want to run completely isolated, and the machine itself would be used for no other purpose than hosting those virtual machines.

        This is as opposed to a Type 2 hypervisor, which is a virtualization layer that runs on top of an existing operating system. Examples include VMWare Workstation, VirtualBox, and Parallels. These are typically used by end-users who need to run additional environments on top of their existing OS. For example, a Mac user that needs to run a Windows application but doesn't want to dual-boot or have a second machine. Another common example is a developer who is developing an application in Windows, but needs to test against a linux environment.

      2. WayneH-nz

        Re: The beauty of virtual machines

        Hi, small is relative, VMWare vsphere not much disk space, about 1 gb Ram, can load to to a screen that can customize the connections and management, but not do any actual work.

        Screen shot of login screen

        http://www.sysprobs.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/first-screen.png

        download from below link

        https://my.vmware.com/en/web/vmware/info/slug/datacenter_cloud_infrastructure/vmware_vsphere/6_5

  2. Tezfair
    Trollface

    done the same

    However for me it was to learn their full process and pass the information on. What I did like was when they opened notepad and pretended to be a card machine by pasting lines of text into it. By this time they had hung up so when I started to type random card numbers into notepad, the 'card reader' started having a conversation with me!

    Hilarious.

  3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    It was most likely hist real IP

    Most of the "support personnel" used in such scams operate on a script given to them by the handler and neither have the competence nor the technical capability to hide their IPs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It was most likely hist real IP

      But odds are the IPs also belong to countries who wouldn't give a soaring screw about this kind of stuff since they're attacking non-friendly nations. Why use a cover when you don't really have to?

    2. Naselus

      Re: It was most likely hist real IP

      Yeah, there's whole warehouses in India being used to run this kind of scam. Wasn't there one that was busted a few months back, and the people working there were amazed to discover that they didn't really work for Microsoft?

      1. William 3 Bronze badge

        Re: It was most likely hist real IP

        warehouse full of Indians at a scam call centre = "amazed they didn't work for Microsoft"

        restaurant full of Italians at a protection racket ring = "amazed they worked for the Mafia"

        Sure

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It was most likely hist real IP

        Wasn't there one that was busted a few months back, and the people working there were amazed to discover that they didn't really work for Microsoft?

        Just like the warehouse full of Indians "working on telecoms OSS/BSS/NMS"(*) the CEO and the Marketing director from one of my old jobs (going back nearly 20 years) employs there occasionally.

        He hires them for 2 days to sit in a typical Indian sweatshop setting, shows them off "working hard on the customer request" to customers from 2 and 3 letter telecoms companies who are buying the software and fires them the day after. He keeps around a couple of "team leads" (quotes needed) to answer questions, but even these do nothing the rest of the time. They are for show, like the rest of the Potemkin village setup. And they really "do not know" what they are hired for.

        (*) In reality the OSS software is written by 5 Bulgarian guys working in a luxury air-conditioned office in Sofia.

  4. jake Silver badge

    For the phone scammers ...

    I ask 'em if their mommy knows what they do for a living, and if mommy is proud of them. When they realize that I know they are scammers, the swearing gets quite inventive.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: For the phone scammers ...

      I usually employ the phrase "You do know that you're committing fraud for a living?". You follow it up with not-so-much pleas to their better nature, but attempts to embarrass them. "Is this what you went to school for? So you can scam old ladies to earn a pittance? Would your friends be proud if you were to tell them what you do? What if someone phoned up your mother and tried this? Would you be proud of that? Hey, mum, that's cool! I scam people for a living in the same way! How funny! How's it working out, the fraud game? Does it earn you a lot? More than just sitting in a respectable job making the same kind of phone calls but with a genuine purpose for a real company? What are you going to do if you get caught? Is that going to go down well? Are you going to still be able to afford to keep that job when the police knock on the door and start asking for your victim's money back?"

      I've had everything from "Microsoft" to "BT" calling up to try to tinker with my systems, but no one has lasted more than a minute or so against that, even the ones who protest and want to argue and think being forceful will just make me comply. I'm sure they don't go off and rethink their lives immediately but hopefully if enough people do it, the ones who are just "led" into doing it and don't think about what they're doing will drift away from that kind of enterprise.

      And no genuine person on the phone is going to tolerate that kind of phrasing, so if they are actually trying to help (e.g. you're in a large company, not very techy, and you didn't know that they were contracted to provide IT support or whatever), the chances are they'll then set out to provide proof that they're authorised to do what they're doing.

      1. Olivier2553

        Re: For the phone scammers ...

        I tend to think that the only effective way is to make their business not profitable, by keeping the call going on as long as possible, having them jump through all the possible loops, and not paying at the end.

        If they hang up after 1 minutes, they have time to call another victim and maybe they will score. If they stay on the phone for 45 minutes and make no money, that hurts.

        Same thing for the phony BT or whatever technicians, keep them on phone, while with us, they cannot scan a less suspecting person.

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: For the phone scammers ...

          I used to string them along as long as I could, but got tired of it after a while.

          Now I just tell them they're a bunch of lying gits as soon as they start and put the phone down.

        2. Valerion

          Re: For the phone scammers ...

          Same thing for the phony BT or whatever technicians, keep them on phone, while with us, they cannot scan a less suspecting person.

          The same technique works for real BT sales people.

        3. ridley
          Holmes

          Re: For the phone scammers ...

          In my days of running a small bespoke PC/Components business that also supplied mail order, scammers were a constant problem. The only saving grace was that they were invariably stupid by "buying" large quantities of large value items on their CC without asking for discount etc.Oh and invariably the delivery address was part of a block of flats so they could pull the "Oh is that parcel for number 945? (ninth floor), sorry mate the lift isnt working shall I take it off you here?",

          Several times I tried to involve the police but they were not interested as if I sent out an empty box and the customer turned out to be real then they would be knowingly involved with fraud, I was reluctant to send out thousands of pounds of kit that if everything went wrong I would lose and if everything went well would spend months/years as evidence.

          So what did I do, tell them the parcel is on the way.

          Next day they would call asking for an update on delivery time which was always "ten minutes away"

          The longest I had a scum bag waiting in a smelly stair well for was three days

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Ridley, re: boxes.

            Send the box. Filled with nothing but packing peanuts. Billions of them. Nothing else, just the peanuts. They'll have to empty the box of peanuts in order to confirm that there's nothing else in the box, at which point they've got a room full of loose packing peanuts to clean up.

            I've never had them call back to complain. Maybe they wised up that I wasn't the sucker they thought, or else they took too long cleaning up the mess & died of boredom.

            *Cackle*

            1. Paul

              Re: @Ridley, re: boxes.

              Two words: glitter bomb

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: For the phone scammers ...

          My record is 57 minutes.

          I was accurately reporting what I saw on the screen of my Linux box when I followed their instructions to open the Windows shell. They wanted me to run a program called "assoc" to "prove" that the CLSID they had come from my machine. (It's not a security code.) At one point I suggested that Windows 10 might have changed things with a recent Automatic Update. They were insisting I kept trying to do the same thing. Eventually I said I'd switch to one of my other computers. "Great", they said. It took a long time to boot, a Microsoft Update...

          By now, I was talking to a "supervisor", who was, every time, telling me to do exactly the same thing. In the end, I said I didn't think he knew what he was talking about, there must have been something in the latest Update, and I hung up on them.

          Somehow, I never got around to telling them that I was running Linux

        5. jgarbo

          Re: For the phone scammers ...

          My strategy, too, especially cold callers.

          "Really? That's sounds very interesting. Just a minute".....and let the bastard dangle for five minutes while I get a beer. Never had a call back.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: For the phone scammers ...

            "Never had a call back."

            I had once. The salesdroid's supervisor rung back to say the call must have been cut off.

        6. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: For the phone scammers ...

          I had a coworker who lived for the scammer phone calls. He would turn on his recorder, assume his backwoods yokel persona and proceed to act like a fish on the line. Just about commit to send money, then waver, suddenly full of righteous rage that he was being played for a sucker but allowed himself to be reeled back in - and on and on. Kept them on the line forever.

          This was his entertainment - didn't seem to have much of a life otherwise. Always brought the tapes in to play for us and there were some hysterical moments.

      2. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

        Re: For the phone scammers ...

        I once read about some scam that pretends to lock up android phones and demands a ransom to 'unlock' it. The sequence to get out of it was pretty simple as I recall but not immediately obvious. So I rang the scammer and pretended to be really really upset, I made up a sob story about my little brother needing an operation and we needed the money and it was his phone, and he was gravely ill in hospital (I don't have a brother of course). He actually relented and told me the sequence to get out of the 'lock', saying he was sorry.

        1. HelpfulJohn

          Re: For the phone scammers ...

          "He actually relented and told me the sequence to get out of the 'lock', saying he was sorry."

          So?

          Are you going to tell everyone?

          1. gotes

            Re: For the phone scammers ...

            @HelpfulJohn

            Are you going to tell everyone?

            Does anyone care? It sounds like it's the sort of thing that can be "fixed" after a few seconds with a search engine, unless of course your browser's been hijacked by some scumware.

      3. KeithC

        Re: For the phone scammers ...

        I sometimes say, in my creepiest voice "ooh, you sound nice..." The phone usually gets slammed down before I can get to "... what are you wearing?"

    2. Anthony 13

      Re: For the phone scammers ...

      Yes, I've done similar, immediately questioning them that they must not have had a lot of opportunities and life must be tough having to get involved in fraud. What I don't get is that they still spend 5-10 minutes trying to convince you they aren't a fraud - clearly they don't consider the cost-benefit analysis of wasting time on people who know who they are. They always ends up with them swearing at you for some reason though... I equally despise and (perhaps naively) pity them.

      1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

        Re: For the phone scammers ...

        Crooks are often on what might be called the sociopath spectrum. They enjoy putting one over and really will spend time arguing that they are legit, because to convince you means they win. They cannot be shamed because you are the sucker and it's all about them winning. I once foiled a pickpocket and he swore mightily at me before speeding away, because the woman's wallet was 'his' and I had deprived him both of it and the win.

        So I am all for spinning out the call and wasting their time, because it reduces the minutes in the day they have to try to 'win' elsewhere. But I don't try to shame the shameless.

        1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: For the phone scammers ...

          I've managed similar results before. Had a pickpocket try no less than 3 times to get into my pockets at a music festival (metal zips and tight back pockets make it quite the challenge) which on his third attempt resulted in one grasped hand. Which got squeezed...alot. enough that I felt something go pop followed by frantic pulling and a look of terror from a member of the audience.

          Play with fire and all that.

          1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: For the phone scammers ...

            Pickpockets were getting really bad at one annual event, and the tip went around for patrons to fill a spare pocket with fish-hooks. It had the effect of reducing the number of pickpocketing incidents to practically zero.

        2. veti Silver badge

          Re: For the phone scammers ...

          @Hollerithevo: the thing is, sociopathy is a spectrum. Sure, it's often pointless to try to appeal to something that's not there. But not every crook is like that.

          There is such a thing as a crook with a conscience, and you never know when you might get lucky enough to run into one. The thing is, on the phone, you can afford (if you choose) to take time to find out.

      2. JLV Silver badge

        Re: For the phone scammers ...

        >cost-benefit analysis of wasting time on people

        That's funny, because studies have hypothesized that their 419 Nigerian Prince brethren purposefully sprinkle in glaring mistakes and typos. Or at least found it didn't hurt:

        If you weed out all smarties in your, cheap, first round of fishing, you lose less time with folks who see through you after you've spent more time grooming them in personalized contact.

        1. Wayland Bronze badge

          Re: For the phone scammers ...

          Oh that is so cleaver. Only the stupidest people respond, the ones you want.

    3. Richard Boyce

      Re: For the phone scammers ...

      I usually do similar. Some are clueless about what they're involved in, just following a script until they find someone who qualifies to be passed on to someone more knowledgeable. Most know what they're doing, but give excuses.

      One lady quoted my address and said she was going to come and kill me. I laughed and considered that a success.

    4. Chris King Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: For the phone scammers ...

      I've used that approach as well, and it really pisses them off.

      Rant level: Davros.

      Imagine Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine or Spike Milligan delivering Davros' later lines from the "Unlimited Rice Pudding" scene in a fake Indian accent, and you get the general idea.

      I don't bother wasting their time, I prefer to wind them up and stress them out as fast as I can. They're crims and they deserve that ulcer, what more is there to say ?

      (Icon, because they'll need a lot of Gaviscon to put that one out)

    5. graeme leggett

      Re: For the phone scammers ...

      I do try the "are your parents proud of what you do?" angle

      But I have such a strong fight-or-flight response* to these scam artists, that I can seldom enjoy trying to get one over on them.

      *I guess it's because if I was in same room I would try and plant my fist in their face- for what little good that would do...

    6. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: For the phone scammers ...

      "I ask 'em if their mommy knows what they do for a living, and if mommy is proud of them."

      I like this technique the best:

      scammer: "You have a virus on your windows computer"

      me: "What was the name of your company again"

      scammer: "company name"

      me: "I'm really busy right now, can I call you back? What's your phone number there?"

      If I can troll enough information from ANYONE _DARING_ to phone me with _ANY_ kind of cold call, scam or otherwise, I then inform them that MY NUMBER IS ON THE NATIONAL DO-NOT-CALL LIST, and tell them to NEVER CALL BACK, usually with profanity attached.

      Then I report them on 'donotcall.gov' with as many details as I was able to glean.

      Yes, NOTHING is too good for our "friends" !

      1. HWwiz

        Re: For the phone scammers ...

        I always used to put on a really old mans voice and say we didnt have a computer. Dont know how to use those modern fangled things !.

        Now we dont get any fake MS calls anymore, so guess we were taken off the list. Yay !.

        Bit like the Conservatory companies that used to endlessly phone up. I started saying i was in a 5th floor flat, what do i want with a Conservatory ?. Now we dont get them calling anymore either. Good times...

        1. Z Ippy

          Re: For the phone scammers ...

          Conservatory Sales....

          I was pestered and pestered by double glazing sales and got fed up and one day said yes I would love a conservatory.

          Got them to tell me all about the styles they did and the colours the plastic came in etc. etc. Took about 10 minutes.

          They then asked for my address so the "consultant" could visit.

          Flat 16, Bermuda Towers......

          1. IHateWearingATie

            Re: For the phone scammers ...

            Ah. For those guys you need to give the address 4 Poets Way, Harrow, HA1 1SG.

            Poets way is a very short connecting road between two others just behind the Harrow council offices. There are no houses in it, but the road and postcode is correct and they won't know that till they get there :)

        2. RichardBarrell

          Re: For the phone scammers ...

          A conservatory on a 5th floor flat would look really cool though! Glass structures seemingly suspended in the sky are beautiful. That's why I always love to build them like that in Minecraft.

          What do you mean, unrealistic structural mechanics? :)

    7. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: For the phone scammers ...

      Better to just set a bot from the Jolly Roger Telephone Company on them.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: For the phone scammers ...

      "I ask 'em if their mommy knows what they do for a living, and if mommy is proud of them."

      And if they respond, "Yes, as a matter of fact, my mum recommended the job to me."

      "I usually employ the phrase "You do know that you're committing fraud for a living?"."

      And if they respond, "No, as a matter of fact, there IS no such thing as fraud where I'm calling from."

      It's hard to use the strategy when the caller comes from a society where backstabbing the enemy is commended.

    9. fedoraman

      Re: For the phone scammers ...

      "All of our calls are recorded, for quality and training purposes ..."

    10. Youngone Silver badge

      Re: For the phone scammers ...

      I also ask them what their Mother thinks, but some of them rather convincingly argue that they do work in Tech Support and they are just trying to help.

      I am not sure if they are good actors or gullible idiots.

  5. Szymon Kosecki

    One could always send them to Lenny ;-)

    1. David Shaw

      professional scammers

      I work in Italy, so I was mildly surprised when I received a phone call from a UK '0345' number.

      He/she/it/they said "Hello Mr. Shaw" in perfect English to which I replied in Italian, for the lulz.

      He/she/it/they continued the conversation in Italian (wow!), claiming to be from Intel UK - wanting to send me "a pdf" of their latest processors.

      I graciously declined his/her/its/their kind offer of a Remote Access Trojan or whatever, and they hung-up.

      Perfectly professional, courteous, and slightly more intimidating than a run of the mill scammer - and FYI I use very-offline PGP (with a 3 month validity) at a non-networked PC when I en/de/crypt messages to that particular CERT - so in the end, fruitless - but carry-on chaps/chapettes/. . .

      I get the MS calls from Asia too, but just leave the phone next to the radio whilst I simulate looking for the Windows administrator, until they too give-up. . .

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: professional scammers

        "He/she/it/they said "Hello Mr. Shaw" in perfect English to which I replied in Italian, for the lulz."

        I'd have thought linguistic skills ought to be able to earn them a better legitimate income than scamming. Or maybe the scamming's just a sideline.

        1. Jelder

          Re: professional scammers

          Could have been a spearfishing attempt, which can be way more profitable than bogus support calls. Companies have lost millions through clever social engineering, and they may have been building a target profile. The scammers for these types of events are often highly capable, with inside knowledge and decent skills to sound convincing and launder the cash fast.

    2. julian.smith

      I WANT to send them to Lenny but can't:

      - Lenny seems to be USA only

      - I can't get any of the SIP addresses to work

      If you have any ideas please post them.

  6. LinuxWrangler

    happens all the time

    I get these telephone calls two or three times per week. The most recent was a lady with a Indian accent who was adamant that my windows computer was sending 'broadband noise' and they would disconnect my connection if it wasn't resolved immediately.

    I enquired as to which one of my several computers the lady was referring to, she responded 'The windows one'. My response was quite accurate 'I don't own a windows computer, you f****** liar'.

    The only response I got was 'you a liar'. before they hung up.

    Might have to start playing these VM games instead :)

  7. Ole Juul Silver badge

    the supervisor

    I usually just tell them I'm not running Windows. Next question is "Mac?". "Nope - BSD", I say. Some ignore that because they don't know what it means and I tell them they're an idiot and that's the end of that conversation. Others say "oh" and hang up.

    But one time as response to "your computer is sending out viruses" I said "yes?" and he repeated the statement several times until he finally heard me. "Yes, that's what I do for a living", I calmly said. "How may I help you?" He was silent for moment, then said "just a moment, I'll get my supervisor". The supervisor came on and repeated the accusation, and I explained to him that this is no surprise since "that's what I do for a living". I could literally hear the wheels spinning in his head for a moment, and he finally said "Oh, that's fine then." ... and hung up.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: the supervisor

      @Ole Juul

      One up vote is not enough! Fantastic reply... That's thinking on your feet ;-}

      Have one for the weekend!

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: the supervisor

      I'm so trying that - Brilliant! Have a beer.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm missing out

    I've never had one of these calls :-(

    I always wanted one to try to get their IPs out of them and pass them to a rather dodgy bloke I used to know in the USA. But the call never came and that particular dodgy bloke was arrested by the FBI a few years back.

    Ah what could have been.....

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: I'm missing out

      It's annoying isn't it.

      I'm here, constantly batting away phone calls from PPI people and ambulance chasers, when all I really want is to have fun with an Indian chap trying to scam me out of a few quid.

      Like really what have I done to not get that? Who do I have to kiss?

      1. Allonymous Coward

        Re: I'm missing out

        > Like really what have I done to not get that? Who do I have to kiss?

        Take out service with TalkTalk. That should do it.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: I'm missing out

          "Take out service with TalkTalk."

          There are limits. Now go and scrub your keyboard with soap and water.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: I'm missing out

      The missus got one of these calls on our landline, I wish I had been there... I could have pulled my classic Vinnie Barbarino "Whut?" "Huh?" schtick all the while pointing him to an ancient version of OS X or Linux Mint or... anything but Windoze.

      Pint as it's Friday!

    3. quxinot

      Re: I'm missing out

      >I always wanted one to try to get their IPs out of them and

      I never get these calls either.

      I wonder if those ddos-as-a-service folks do free samples? If you've got their bare IP, it could be a giggle....

  9. TonyJ Silver badge

    I had a rather panicked neighbour...

    ...knock on my door as they'd fallen for this scam to the point of putting the remote control software on.

    Luckily they hadn't done anything else and were waiting a call back.

    When they called back I said to tell them they were handing the phone over to me.

    "It's Vijay from Microsoft here...your friends PC is sending out lots of spam and other virus related stuff but I can help them to sort it out."

    "Cool...what's your surname Vijay. I can look you in the Gal and we can do it on OCS, cos y'know I work for Microsoft* too and I wasn't aware of this service we offer...."

    Click...

    *I was actually working for them at the time over in Belgkum.

  10. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    "To my knowledge, nothing ever came of the email I fired off to his ISP,"

    I would bet my life on that!

    It was back in the days where ISPs apparently had no responsibilities

    Even now it takes a court order , not a random email

    and even then the suspect has to be doing something blindingly obviously wrong , like sustained piracy , or selling drugs

    1. 404 Silver badge

      Back in the late 90's and early 0's, it was my job to go after people abusing our network, killing them off and blacklisting them with other local ISP's in Tucson/Southern Arizona. We didn't take kindly to that sort of villainy - I miss those days.

      All about the money and the internet just isn't as fun anymore (and seems to be missing parts).

    2. ma1010 Silver badge

      It wasn't always that way

      No doubt what you say about no ISP caring is true nowadays. But back in the late 90's, our firewall caught someone port scanning our IP address. I traced it back to an ISP in Holland and sent an email to the ISP with the log details. I got a reply back from them saying that they had closed that person's account and suggested that I also contact Dutch law enforcement.

      Those were the days.

      1. Chloe Cresswell

        Re: It wasn't always that way

        Who else here remembers Afterburner from Erols, later RCN?

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      "Even now it takes a court order , not a random email"

      I've gotten responses to ISP complaints before, and seen what APPEARS to be an action from the information I give out (such as logs), but yeah without some real evidence they can justify taking action with, it's probably just going to be "noted".

      Does the UK have something like 'donotcall.gov' where you can report scammer calls?

      Perhaps a nice log/capture of what you did on your computer, along with a play by play description, would do it? Dates and times would help, too. They need that to look up dynamic IP assignments.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Does the UK have something like 'donotcall.gov' where you can report scammer calls?"

        The problem with such a system now is that VoIP allows you to (a) disguise your number and (b) call from out of sovereign reach.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "Does the UK have something like 'donotcall.gov' where you can report scammer calls?"

        Yes: Actionfraud.police.uk

  11. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Hold them on the phone as long as possible.

    As someone in semi-retirement I used to walk them down the garden path and throw them in th compost heap. Alas the PC I was pointing them at (w98) died and I cant be arsed to find the disc to set up a VM. I've have been tempted to brake the law and take them over but can imagine how pissed off you'd be going up before the beak for doing the world a favour.

  12. Ikoth

    Depending on my disposition on the particular day, I either unload a torrent of abuse that would make Malcolm Tucker blush - I find it very cathartic; or I explain that I don't have a computer, or a phone or electricity as I live in a tent. In a field.

    A variation on the last one, for the "you had an accident" scumbags, is to agree that it was indeed a very serious accident, in which I died. The longest period of confused silence before they hang up is currently seven seconds.

    1. Chris King Silver badge

      A variation on the last one, for the "you had an accident" scumbags, is to agree that it was indeed a very serious accident, in which I died. The longest period of confused silence before they hang up is currently seven seconds.

      I use a similar line to wind them up... "I don't remember that accident... Hey, the brain damage alone must be worth MILLIONS !!!"

      1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

        OK, I'll wheel it out again... this is a recording I made when the 'you've had an accident' scammers called me about five years ago. It's me vs an indian scammer basically. But due to previous phone scam calls where I gave them a lot of fake information, they actually think I'm Adolf Eichmann who lives in Tampon Road.... https://youtu.be/UakaSdXk8ZI

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mr Eichmann

          You bastard!

          You got me fired over that!

          Do you know how hard it is to get a job in an Indian scam-call centre after one has already fired you?

          Piss easy.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          But surely the DoB should have been 1/4 not 1/1.

    2. 0laf Silver badge

      Hmmm I've never tried the death scenario must try that.

      I tried making up a ludicrous story about an accident involving an oil tanker that crashed and rolled into a field setting the sheep on fire and they were running around bleating...and on and on

      At the end it turned out he'd taken me seriously and had noted it all down. Even the bit about the flaming sheep setting my barn on fire which contained my collection of antique clown dolls

      Fun went out of it then

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Accident scammer

        I had one that called to tell me I had been involved in a minor car accident.

        I responded rather forcefully along the lines of Minor accident, you bloody call being hit by an artic lorry minor, the wife is dead one of the kids has a broken neck and need to be on a respirator for the rest of his life and I will never walk again a minor accident. What the fuck to you call a major accident you bastard I hate you all.

        Best acting I've ever done. LOL

    3. JimboSmith Silver badge

      I refer you to the post I made several months ago:

      "I rarely get cold calls"

      Last one of those I had was at work and when asked by the lovely chap from the Indian Subcontinent if I had been injured in the accident that wasn't my fault, I said:

      Me: "Yes it was awful I've never been in a fatal accident before at least not one where I died"

      Sounding very interested: "So you were injured in the accident?"

      Me: "Yes mortally wounded as it turned out, the funeral was lovely though"

      Sounding very interested: "Can you describe your injuries?"

      Me: "Yup Death by Decapitation and not the good kind*, not going to walk away from that"

      Sounding extremely interested: "Have you spoken to a lawyer yet?"

      Me: "No very few people talk to you when you're dead, I'm grateful for your call."

      Sounding disinterested: "Are you saying you didn't survive the accident?"

      At this point there is the sound of someone else joining the call.

      Me: "Yes, and I wouldn't recommend cremation if I were you!"

      Line goes dead

      If he'd asked the what the good kind of decapitation was my reply to him was going to be...

      "The painless kind".

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The only call I ever got from one of those is one I missed - it just came up on the phone's missed call list.

    What I do get from time to time is SEO spam in my Hotmail spam bin - that and phishing scams pretending to be from Outlook etc are the only ones that the Outlook filters let through. Occasionally I've delved into the Hotmail junk folder and sent replies to the usual amazing business propositions written as an out of office response and giving them the SEO address. After all, they're all in the same line of business so surely they'd appreciate the introductions.

    Other responses are to ask them for the URL of the site they're sure they can improve because otherwise I can't tell which of my many(!) sites it is. Oddly they never respond. Another, bearing in mind that they're probably very proud of their English* is to reply pointing out how badly written their email is and I doubt that if this is the best they can do they couldn't be trusted with a site.

    More recently I've taken to pointing out that if they're able to get first page in Google their own site must be on the first page if I search for "first page in Google" in Google but they seem to have omitted its URL so I can see for myself and what's more it's odd that they're using a gmail address rather than their own domain. Usually, of course they can't reply because their long established company - whose name they also managed to omit - is just a single chancer without a domain let alone a web site.

    But then I got a reply from a different name. I realised the spammers are just taking any responses and selling on the leads. The reply came from a real business based in India but with branches in the UK (Streetview finds it above a "language school" in a shop-front in Longsight) and Australia, presumably the owner's cousins, brothers-in-law or whatever. He included a number of reference sites to I wrote back pointing out the errors in the UK examples: bad copy ranging from poor English to complete nonsense, over-dependence on Javascript and news items that broke off in mid-sentence - even mid-word. I've not heard back but I wonder if his Mancunian cousin got a bollocking for slack work.

    *I wonder, however, if they've bought the text of the email along with the spam list.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I did this for a time, but once they gave me the links to examples they did I'd email those owners and point out all the problems, and offer to fix it properly for them.

  14. David Webb

    VOIP

    I guess around a year ago I killed my copper line and went pure VOIP (FTTP so no copper), since then we've not had a single "support" call, so quite obviously the trick they use to spoof their number gets flagged up by Vonage and we never get the evil calls. So the question is, why can't BT do that?

    By the way, you win against the scammers if they call you a mother [bleep] before they hang up.

    1. Sparkypatrick
      Trollface

      Re: VOIP

      "By the way, you win against the scammers if they call you a mother [bleep] before they hang up."

      I am a winner!

      I strung out the last call from the "Windows" team for a good 20 minutes before getting bored. Haven't heard from them since.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: VOIP

        By the way, you win against the scammers if they call you a mother [bleep] before they hang up

        I've won. I went through the rigmarole with the scammer who phoned me, but I acted really stupid, which made it so difficult and complicated that he passed me to his "supervisor". After another 15 minutes of acting stupid, I agreed to give him a credit card number. When I read out the number from a Tesco loyalty card he got really angry and said "Why are you wasting my time?"

        1. 's water music Silver badge

          Re: VOIP

          I acted really stupid, which made it so difficult and complicated that he passed me to his "supervisor". After another 15 minutes of acting stupid, [the supervisor] said "Why are you wasting my time?"

          Sounds a bit like my career

    2. Dr Paul Taylor

      if they call you a mother [bleep]

      My parents got one of these calls, even though they didn't have broadband. My mother had

      Alzheimer's, so we let her take the call...

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: VOIP

      "you win against the scammers if they call you a mother [bleep] before they hang up."

      OK this reminds me of a "troll point" list that was once posted to the alt.hacker newsgroup. In short, if you feed trolls to string them along, etc. you get points for the responses your trolls give you, such as (making this up as I go along):

      a) attempts to DDOS you - 10 points

      b) sends a windows virus to your Linux computer - 25 points

      c) calls you on the telephone - 100 points

      d) subscribes your e-mail address to dozens of mailing lists - negative 5 points

      etc.

      A similar list could exist for these phone scammers, such as:

      a) provides you with contact information - 25 points

      b) is actually at the number the provide you in 'a' - 100 points

      c) calls back "later" when you ask them to - 10 points

      d) tries to scan your Linux/BSD computer for vulnerabilities (knowing it's Linux/BSD) - 10 points

      e) tries to VNC into your Linux/BSD computer - 10 points

      f) gets caught in your honeypot after doing 'e' - 25 points

      g) tries to install a windows virus/trojan on your Linux/BSD computer, even after it's obvious it's NOT a windows computer - 25 points

      h) DDoS's you after the phone call ends - 100 points

      etc.

      (trolling the trolls)

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: VOIP why can't BT do that?

      BT get paid by the call and the time - or a contract. I'd imagine you VOIP comes out of your ISP non-existant monthly allowance.

      BT dont do it cos they make money out of it, your ISP does it to stop sending them an email which costs more to respond to that than simply cutting off the hawker.

  15. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

    ISP reports...

    ... are typically useless. I file them regularly and I never got any answer or acknowlegement ever. The crappola ISPs these people use probably pipe abuse@ to /dev/null (in a couple case I even got a "recipient does not exist" response)

    1. Havin_it

      Re: ISP reports...

      (in a couple case I even got a "recipient does not exist" response)

      Now that *should* be enough to see action taken by their (the ISP's) TLD registry, as it violates RFCs, but I imagine for most of them this is equally fruitless.

      What you can do however is report the offending IP (and in some cases the ISP's whole IP range if there is enough evidence of endemic misuse) to various spam blacklists (there are many). Then at least you're hopefully reducing the pain for others.

      1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

        Re: ISP reports...

        > equally fruitless.

        Yup.

        I was only talking about reporting IPs here, but I also sometimes report "cloud" accounts, with the same results usually. One exception being an answer from Yahoo! to a spam report (a lot of volume from a single yahoo account, a yahoo IP but various other reply-tos). The content of that answer? The reply-to is not on our systems, contact them instead. Yeah right, thanks a lot.

  16. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    There's a load of YouTube videos of people setting up scammers along these lines, but this is one that I would like to see.

    I now kind of want to set up a VM with OS/2 Warp 4, stick VNC on it, sit back and wait for a phone call just to see what happens when they try to get their heads round that :)

  17. Sir Sham Cad

    They tried this with my old folks

    Same Old Folks who I could never go to see without some sort of computer problem to fix. In their 80s.

    First time round they declined the service explaining that I already had remote access to the PC and what I did for a living. Then they called me about this strange "Microsoft" call and have I heard of this sort of thing before? Since then, every repeated attempt to scam them was met with "No thank you" and *click*

    User education really does work to immunise against these threats!

  18. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    Give 'em hell

    I know two (or more) YouTube videos about tech savy people who encrypt a JPG file as a virus. The nasty ones. So one day the scammer called and one one them pretended to be an idiot. He then convinced them that he has taken a photo of his credit card and he sent the scammer the file of the "photo" to ensure he's able to pay for the "fee".

    Guess what happened when they clicked on the virus-disguised-as-a-JPG-file?

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Give 'em hell

      Malwearbytes flagged it as dross and quarrantined it?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had one of these calls, I was using a Mac but had a Windows PC running as well. I went along with it until she said press the windows key, I replied I didn't have one which confused her and we had a discussion about computers were being used. At that point I just accused her of being a scammer which she was adamant she wasn't, got bored and hung up.

  20. adnim Silver badge

    Too many times

    I have:

    Hung up without saying a word. And hung up with a simple fsckoff.

    I have behaved as if I didn't know what I was doing and kept them on the phone for around an hour and allowing them control over a VM before telling them I have been messing with computers since 1983 and asking them why they scam for a living.

    I have allowed them into a VM, screen recorded everything and sent it to the UK police online fraud website: actionfraud.police.co.uk (I have incident numbers but never heard anything back)

    I have even run Tcpview from sysinternals while they are viewing the vm and told them I am logging their IP address for a fraud report. Sometimes they just carry on trying to scam, other times they have disconnected immediately and hung up the phone.

    My response depends on how busy or bored I am. I get many of these calls, occasionally 2 in a week. So much so that I have a dedicated Win7 VM setup just for this purpose.

  21. Timmy B Silver badge

    I used to play with these people but it just got boring

    I installed phones with BT Call Guardian and haven't had a single call since I did. This should be something BT offer for free / discounted to pensioners.

  22. Esme

    Depends on my mood

    I've had about a dozen such calls over the years, and have done everything from simply put the phone down on 'em through to playing dumb as if I were a computer illiterate trying to follow their instructions - which, as I have only run Linux at home for many, many years, are completely impossible to follow anyway (That can be fun, depending on how IT-illiterate and patient the scammer is)

    Occasionally I've sworn at them and told 'em I don't talk to criminals (one actually phoned me back to tell me I was rude! Not wanting to disappoint, I was rude again before I put the phone down again), and I've tried telling them politely that they're incorrect as I don't have a Windows PC, I use Linux, only to be told that they can see that I do have a Windows PC, at which point I asked them to tell me where it is then which resulted in about another minutes conversation with an increasingly confused scammer who'd evidently never heard of computers being anything other than Macs if they weren't Windows boxen.

    I so hope I get such a caller one I've got a Haiku box up and running... :-)

  23. Siberian Hamster

    Ideas for a new game

    As an experiment into the gullibility of these scammers have various VMs set up ready to go for various scenarios;

    Office of the Chief Scientific Advisor to the President: with various documents being drafted and 'videos of captured extra terrestrials being interrogated' open on the desktop...

    Dr A. Rimmer: various docs and emails for the final stage of rolling out a global epidemic 'duodecimsimiae' to with projections of wiping out 97% of all human life.

    Feel free to come up with even more twisted ideas...

    1. David Robinson 1

      Re: Ideas for a new game

      Desktop wallpaper: Fulchester Metropolitan Police - Cybercrimes Division.

      Inspector Sidney Smutt. You don't necessarily say what you're inspecting...

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Ideas for a new game

      Final plans for the invasion of India with a special unit to be dedicated to liquidation of phone scammers.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Ideas for a new game

      "Feel free to come up with even more twisted ideas..."

      Just put the most hideous shock-site graphic you can find on the 'simulated' desktop as wallpaper. Or back-hack their machine and open up an infinite number of popup windows containing the "you are an idiot" flash bomb.

      1. SharpOB

        Re: Ideas for a new game

        There's this website that, when opened, blasts at max volume and showcases some very shocking stuff. I can't remember the exact name, but if you google for it, it should be found easily.

  24. Just A Quick Comment

    What is a computer?

    I told one scammer I was using my Xbox One, and was promptly told that was not a computer! Hello? It has Win 10 on it, and a browser. Is my Samsung TV a computer? It has a browser as well.

    Too advanced for these script-reading idiots!

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I never get these

    I really wish I did, because the other day I found my Blaster (black box, with four choices of nois, loud noise, Death Ray is the best!!)

    This it what I would do

    Talk quietly so their hearing is nice and sensitive.

    Wack them with the noise.

    Imagine the shriek and jumping out of seat the other end.

    ROFL.

    Alas I never get these calls so I don't expect to get any satisfaction soon.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All too labour intensive

    just invent a network topology with lots of switching NATTINg etc and make them talk through finding the right device.

    I have however used many of the tactics depending on mood/time availability though.

    The few that appear to know any personal detail e.g. address I am always more fascinated on how they get that as it may be an insider at a company you have dealt with or a data leak. They call on ex-directory numbers too.

    Mind you, real support engineers from the companies they claim to represent are often no more techie. I have been asked to reboot a mainframe to see if it will fix a network problem in the past...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The motherlode

    I had one of those the other week. When I said I was confused could they tell me which desktop they meant had the reported issue, they said it could be all of them and we would have to look at each one. Then they asked how many PCs I had. So replying "around 2,500 PCs running Windows 7 at the moment" lead to a sharp intake of breath at the remote end. I am sure that he thought it was his lucky day.

  28. eJ2095

    i like this game

    Me and my friends have the who can keep them on the phone the longest

  29. Spaceman Spiff

    I got one of these calls last night. Unfortunately I had just come home from a 2 day drive from NYC (I live outside of Chicago) and was too tired to do much other than threaten the scammer with a complaint to the US federal authorities (pretty useless these days). We have no Windows systems (VMs or otherwise) in our house. Wife only uses Apple systems for home and work (she is a staff physicist at a major national laboratory - I think only HR uses Windows there), and I only use Linux systems (CentOS on my server and Mint on my laptop/workstation).

  30. Bill M

    Answer the ringing doorbell, rescue the potatoes etc.....

    I had some friends who used see how long they could keep a scammer on the phone for :

    ** Speak slowly pretending you are gullible, stupid & believe them for a couple of minutes

    ** Then say some is at the door and you need to see who it is & put them on hold for a couple of minutes

    ** Speak to them for a couple minutes, but make sure to forget all they said previously so they have to repeat it all again

    ** Then say there is a pan of potatoes boiling over & put them on hold for a couple of minutes

    ** Speak to them for a couple minutes, but make sure to forget all they said previously so they have to repeat it all again

    ** Invent something else you need to attend to & repeat ad nauseum

    They would regularly waste hours doing this until they got bored doing this and reverted back to old fashioned mockery & abuse.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Answer the ringing doorbell, rescue the potatoes etc.....

      "They would regularly waste hours doing this until they got bored doing this and reverted back to old fashioned mockery & abuse."

      Dunno about you, but I think my free time is more valuable than that...

    2. Old Used Programmer

      Re: Answer the ringing doorbell, rescue the potatoes etc.....

      Don't forget the delay while you vacuum ("Hoover" for our UK friends) the cat.

    3. Sanguma

      Re: Answer the ringing doorbell, rescue the potatoes etc.....

      I'm sure someone will come up with a version of Married With Children's enormous everlasting "if you have x press 1, if y press 2 [...]if your topic is k press 1[...]if you wish to speak to a technician press 1[...]if your problem is m press 1 [....]"

      This menuitis would naturally follow a reply of "Just a mo, I'll hand you over to our manager ..." and would rely on having an automated system running some appropriate phone pseudo-network ...

      Why let whassiname Bundy have all the fun!?!

  31. Paul IT

    Story - could be fake news?

    I read about someone who pretended to be attacked with a gun during the scam and made the gun shot noises audible enough for the caller (scammer) to hear then asked the scammer to call the emergency services and made sounds like they were dying slowly loss of blood. Encouraging the scammer to write down the last voice messages such as please let my mum know I love her etc...

    And finally to say, please stay on the line as you are a witness in this crime.

  32. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    I say don't waste your time.

    You may enjoy wasting their time, but is it more valuable than yours?

    Tell them that your husband / wife (same sex as you) uses the computer, and hang up.

  33. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    My response depends when that call me.

    Most of the time it is when I'm about to sit down to eat so they get a simple

    "May your mother revert to being a virgin and that you were never born"

    And I hang up.

    If I'm bored then I'll play along with them just long enough to get out into the Garage and boot my MicroVax that runs VMS. Then they get to log into that and I'll have fun watching them flounder about trying to find c:\windows\system32

    Yesterday, I got on as I was about to go to the dentists. The response I gave ended in OFF!.

    I was recently away for a couple of weeks. 37 calls and 0 messages on thre answerphone.

    Guess what those calls were about?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shouldn't robots be doing this job by now

    Surely we should be able to come up with some sort of Siri/Alexa/Cortana style "AI" that could string the scammers along for an indefinite amount of time. I don't think it would have to be very clever.

    1. Sanguma

      Re: Shouldn't robots be doing this job by now

      Moments like these you need ... emacs. meta x doctor and feed it two ways through a speech program.

      I'm sure Eliza'll do the trick.

  35. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I ran XP for five years. Reloaded it twice,each time for hard drive upgrade reasons and saw one BSOD traceable to NAV nagware.

    Haters gotta lie.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      Same here. I installed XP exactly once, and run it without any major issues since I had to bail on Win98 until recently having been forced onto Win7 by lack of XP driver for my new GPU. It's still running just fine albeit now dead slowly without an OEM VGA driver.

  36. Andytug

    I've done the Linux thing

    Get my old Linux Mint netbook out and act dumb, from not being able to find the start button (there isn't one, obv) to when I hung up laughing because the woman at the other end had just tried to tell me Linux runs under Windows.

    More seriously, had 4 dangerous scam messages left on home answerphone today from a James Anderson claiming he was from HMRC and I should ring him back urgently to avoid legal action.

    His number is 01271220624. I rang him back from work ( as we don't send CLI). Gave him a fake name and phone no. He read back to me the person's name at that number, so clearly had access to the whole directory. When I pressed him as to which department of HMRC he worked for he became very rude, then hung up when I said I'd report him. A very nasty scumbag, the usual sites (whocallsme, etc) are full of reports of him.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I've done the Linux thing

      "he woman at the other end had just tried to tell me Linux runs under Windows."

      Well they do have a Ubuntu subsystem in W10 - although I doubt the average scammer would know that.

      1. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: I've done the Linux thing

        Ubuntu, suse and fedora now!

  37. Retro-Coward

    Sell them something.

    My game is to interrupt them as quickly as possible with the question, "Never mind that. Do you drive a car? I can save you money on your car insurance."

    When they say they don't drive, you can ask them whether their Wife / Friend / Mum / Dad / Brother / Sister etc would like to save money on their car insurance. Eventually, once you've exhausted all avenues, I finish the conversation with, "I'm very sorry. It would seem that I'm not going to be able to help you today."

    On numerous occasions, they have THANKED ME! and hung up. That's my win.

  38. adam payne Silver badge

    I spoke with my neighbour this week and she said she'd had an strange and upsetting call from someone from a company she had never heard of (Microsoft) asking her to turn on her computer.

    She told them she didn't have a computer and they verbally abused her down the phone.

    This neighbour is a sweet old 82 year old who certainly doesn't have a computer and has probably never used one.

    Verbally abusing an 82 year old down the phone, utterly disgusting.

  39. BazzF

    There's a youtube video that won the internet. The 'victim' manages to get the scammer to change the local admin account password AND the BIOS admin password without writing either down.

    Then reboot the machine. Had me in stiches.

    1. Paul

      https://youtu.be/Du6acZ-PZQ8

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bacon sandwiches,

    Cruel: pretend you're expecting a callback from Just Eat, be very grateful and order everything verboten...

  41. Reader2435

    Scam them back...

    Every minute they're on the line to you they're not stealing off someone else.

    My favourite trick is to spend a minute or two convincing them that I've fallen for the scam hook line and sinker. Then I go and ring my own doorbell and I tell them "Oh, hang on a minute, there's someone at the door - I'll be back in a minute"

    I then put the phone down on the table and walk away. It's amazing how long some of them hang on for!

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Please replace the handset and try again"

    - said in a monotone, repeatedly - doesn't take long.

  43. Bucky 2

    How do you tell the difference between a genuine scammer and an ordinary sales person?

    I mean, okay, one is legal and the other isn't. But it's the same game. It's all about trying to convince someone to give you their money against their own better judgment, either way, isn't it?

    Wouldn't you have to be on the sociopath spectrum in either case?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Question back: Who cares> Just because they're legal doesn't exempt them from our wrath. I hate cold calls of any sort from surveys to scammers.

      1. Lilolefrostback

        As far as surveys go, I lie. Not on every question, but some of them. My goal is to make surveys sufficiently inaccurate that people stop paying for surveys.

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      I don't need to.

      They both start the conversation talking about shit like the weather, and whether I watched the football the other night, before telling me who they are, what they want and why they're speaking to me.

      Literally, it's a flag on my mental "Hang Up" list to waffle incessantly to a person you clearly have never spoken to in your life about things which - anyone who knows me would know - I don't even discuss with the best of friends anyway.

      The people who I do actually have dealings with generally start conversations like:

      "Is that Lee? Cool, I've got some more of those laptops in stock, would you be interested?"

      Or "Hey Lee, what was the date of install for that equipment you wanted?"

      Or "Lee, mate, did we ever hear back about that quote?"

      Because they quickly learn if they don't keep things that terse, their calls mysteriously can't make it through to even our main switchboard for some obscure technical reason. (clicks button, closes telephony server control software, whistles innocently).

  44. People's Poet

    Just do what the SAP used to tell women who got heavy breathers calling them, they'd even supply the means! Get a Police whistle and blow it very loudly into the mouth piece. You won't get a call back.

    1. fishman

      "Get a Police whistle and blow it very loudly into the mouth piece."

      Back in college in the '70s I took care of one of them by blowing a firecracker next to the mouthpiece. They had been calling everyone in my dorm, and stopped after they got to me. (The phone numbers for the dorm rooms were in sequence - add 1 to get the next room. The next numbers were not called).

  45. gannett

    I just become my elderly Dad - none of the provided instructions work - I don't know what he means by xyzzy please explain more - jump into sounds control panel and just keep generating bleep, bongs and pings down the phone. Add in a few choice phrases like "This won't upset my internet banking will it ? " & Can I send you a cheque for helping me fix this ? - Rinse and repeat.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My personal best is 45 mins (including a lecture on the Computer Misuse Act 1990, Data protection Act 1998 plus potential fraud in claiming to analyse a Windows issue on a Linux box).

    When I'm less patient I just ask if their parents are proud of them using their education to work as scammers.

    One colleague a couple of years ago (when this was relevant) amused our office once with a really good piece of acting "A virus??!! it's not Ebola is it?? I've been emailing a chum in Nigeria recently about banking !! can I catch it through the keyboard?/ Oh God!! i'd better get some Dettol straight away!!..." The reaction of 'Richard' in India was priceless :-)

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A word of caution

    These shits may be dialling randomly but some know what number they called and they can make your life hell if you upset them.

    I changed my behaviour after discovering that the hard way. I now just play ignorant and confused, not understanding; haven't got a computer, haven't had an accident, never had a bank loan, keep insisting they must have got the wrong number. Apologising that I'm not the person they wanted and hoping they do find whoever they should be talking to can still waste a fair bit of their time.

  48. Andy Taylor

    Remember extension 666?

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/04/29/it_helpdesk_creates_oh_hold_hell/

    I've recently set this up at home, so any unwanted calls can instantly be put through to extension 666 which is an endless repeat of this audio purgatory.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Remember extension 666?

      We used to have "The Scottish Office", which was a roach-motel extension that played bagpipes down the phoneline 24/7.

      I actually found it rather soothing, personally...

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boobytrap a VM.

    Create a VM of an older version of Windows (98, XP, Vista, ME, etc) & place a file on the desktop called "Passwords.Txt.Bat". Use the hide known extensions function so it appears as "Passwords.Txt" instead.

    Let the scammer have access to the VM & wait for them to click the file. I've set mine to reformat their HDD, Run As Admin, forced, silent, auto-confirm.

    I get quite a laugh when their connection suddenly locks up & they start screaming down the phone at me. I thank them for playing & quietly hang up.

    Ahhhh, the joys of being a BOFH. I'm not THE Simon, I merely follow in his glorious footsteps.

    *Raises a tankard in salute to the man*

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Boobytrap a VM.

      "Passwords.Txt.Bat".

      Out of curiosity, how does a Windows batch file in a VM on your PC manage to format the scammers hard disk? I've not really used Windows much since about the time XP was the next big thing so am genuinely interested in how this works.

      1. Havin_it
        Holmes

        Re: Boobytrap a VM.

        Mm, I wondered the same. Not sure the CMD shell can even do that on the host VM all that easily, let alone reaching back through the tubes and doing it to the VNC client's host machine.

        Not to mention that if Hide Extensions is enabled (as has been default for quite some time), the mark might wonder why the file *has* a .TXT extension showing?

        Now you could name it "Passwords.bat" but the icon would still be wrong. Worth a try would be creating the batchfile elsewhere and placing on the Desktop a shortcut to it, which IIRC you can change the icon of the shortcut.

        But I'd still like that recipe for how this batchfile is pwning the intruder's machine. Still with us, OP?

        Icon: closest available to "chinny reckon".

        1. Montreal Sean

          Re: Boobytrap a VM.

          I would guess that the scammer would copy the file to their own machine before opening it.

          The scammer wouldn't want to be seen opening the file after all!

  50. Identity
    Joke

    I usually

    ask them if their mother's know how they make a living.

  51. Dave Bell

    All these calls: scammers, illegal automated calls; don't give a company name and withhold their number.

    How can you make an effective report when they do that?

  52. Disgruntled of TW
    Pint

    Holiday project Eliza for this year ...

    So this year I am considering writing my own ELIZA in Python, with text to speech and IVR. I'll put it on extension 666 on my Asterix PBX and stand ready for the next dimwit that tries this.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Depending on my mood I either tell 'em to f--- off or if I'm bored I take them for a long dumb-ass rigmarole before letting it emerge that I'm running CP/M or Spectrum Basic or BSD or Linux.

    Can be quite hilarious as they get more and ore confused.

    I really hate those shitheads.

    ;-(

  54. lorisarvendu

    There's a first time for everything

    Unusually today I found myself discussing a Windows 10 problem with an MS Engineer from India. At the end of the call I realised it was the first time I'd ever spoken to someone with a foreign accent who actually was from Microsoft.

  55. MatsSvensson

    ya mama

    I usually run trough trough the scenario that Im using an Amiga 1000.

    I take them trough multiple reboots, with kickstart-disk swapping etc.

    Some hang on for quite while before giving up.

    Or i say "hang on while i turn off the stove", and i just let the phone lay there while i go back to watching TV or whatever.

    Sometimes you can hear them yell after a while.

    Or i start asking them about how much their sister/mother would cost per hour, etc etc, in the same shitty dialect they use, and turn the insults up gradually from there.

    Like the saying goes:

    "Some people are harder to feel sorry for than others"

  56. Mandoscottie

    i used to play along but not these days

    I find when they start claiming they are from MS etc,I usually say, aye of course you are,

    you scamming pr**k now F**k off and hang up.

    works everytime :P that and finally ditching the house phone, if its not MS scammers, it is some twat insisting i had an accident in an Audi...I may work in IT, but I dont have the obligatory Audi A4

    RJ11 Pulled out the wall socket for the handset is a fine fix.

  57. Paul

    https://youtu.be/Du6acZ-PZQ8

    Victim turns the table and manages to trick the scammer into setting and forgetting a bios password and bricking his own computer

  58. Chris Evans

    Professional duty?

    Many of my IT friends and I feel it is our Professional duty to string these scammers along for as long possible. I don't always have time the time but I've managed to keep them on the line for over an hour a couple of times. "I'll go and turn it on.... The computer is upstairs and doesn't have phone near it... Oh its crashed I'll have to reboot... Should I turn my router on... My keyboard hasn't got a windows key... " When I eventually give up, i do try the what does your mother think or what are you going to tell your children. I've had them phone me back to tell me how bad I am. One friend managed to string them along for two and a half hours (respect). I don't think I've got the patience or skills to last that long even if I had the time.

  59. J.G.Harston Silver badge
  60. Snorlax Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Jeopardy!

    PC repair chap lets tech support scammer log on to his PC. His Linux PC

    I'll take "Things that never happened" for $1000, Alex

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    many times

    They have called me multiple times over the years, usually I string them along. sometimes for 10 minutes, the longest over an hour.

    One time I got a call, they wanted me to press the windows key, asked which that was, it was the one between the ctrl and alt, said they wasn't a key there over and over they would go what keys i havewould always miss the windows key. Got transferred to another 'agent' they got me to press ctrl esc, then wanted me to go to control panel and the event viewer, said there wasnt an event viewer, went over and over again to find it.

    Transferred to their supervisor, he asked me to open internet explorer and go to, cant remember the remote control app site. I said it just said i had no connection, over and over would spell out the sites name. Then I said i dont have internet access. He then started questioning me about how i get online, said my wife uses it on her phone and that i use it at work. Also asked about if i had kids and what about them. Said they dont have access, he then started telling me how i should get internet for my kids so they can chat to friends and play online etc, also they my computer, which i informed him was a windows 95 machine bought used many years ago worked fine and did everything I wanted. At the end of the call, wished me luck. he was actually quite nice :)

    Unlike some others, one had my son (Norwegian) talk to one, he didnt understand everything so this guy started swearing at him and then said he was going to rape and kill him.

    Another one also after realising that i was stringing him along start came out and said, you have a small dick. I said what, he again said you have a small dick. I replied, that's not what your wife said last night. he came back again with you have a small dick you fucker, then he hung up.

    Another i ended up getting them to start telling me about them doing this and that if he told me how many people they get he would get fired :)

    I stopped answering them a while back and they also have stopped calling.

    1. CentralCoasty
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: many times

      My youngest "manages" these calls for us... and has my wife and I in stitches every time...

      .... he starts off by putting on an outrageous accent and then starts "attempting" to follow their instructions.... when asked to type something (or run etc) he tells them he is sorry but he cant do that because he is blind..... this soon degenerates into him asking them to speak louder as he tells them that he is also deaf..... this has also ended with him telling them he doesnt have a phone/electricity/legs/arms/(anything he can think of at the time).

  62. hydranix

    I had the Ammy scammers call me up once again for close to the 10th time that year.

    They sounded indian, I knew what to do... so I stalled them and told them my internet was down for the next hour.

    In that hour i built a windows 7 system via QEMU/KVM and heavily modify everything i could.

    I was familiar with what they were going to do as I had done this before ;)

    Using "image hijacking" and a little autoit3 magic I made event viewer into a an hardcore fetish porn player. Placed the worst of the worst I could download from 4chan and encyclopedea drammatica within an hour, images of terrible things all over the desktop and start menu. File icon thumbnail size large.

    I left some goreporn playing in the background, replaced the WinKey+R run dialog with an error that said some nasty things about recent india-pakistan relations (which i have no true opinion on, it was just for a little emotional appeal)

    Finally I put this on loop and made the window impossible to close, it moved around the screen blocking other windows and grew and shrank in a very annoying fashion.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdyC1BrQd6g

    I have not received one single call since...

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are two kinds of fool who respond to these scams.

    Type one is the sought after non-IT aware individual who believes the scammer. All the publicity hasn't penetrated their skulls, there's nothing more to be done but leave it to Darwinism to eliminate them from the gene pool as a result of their ensuing financial ruin.

    Type two is well represented here. Proudly detail how you scammed the scammer and bore everyone rigid in the process.

    The bottom line is that if you engage with them at all then you have been scammed.

    The scammers are based in a low wage economy, their targets are affluent. The scammer may be on USD1 per hour. Their targets (us) will regard USD10 per hour as poor. The time you are wasting by engaging with them in conversation and then boasting how much of the callers time you wasted telling the world adds up to hundreds of dollars of your and your bored audience's time wasted.

    Put the phone down, do something constructive and shut the f*k up about how smart you were to scam the scammer.

    (Type 3 is me wasting 10 minutes on this fully aware that nobody will take a blind bit of notice, far better use the call as an excuse to create a story to boost your own ego.)

  64. rob_s_smith

    I've played with these scammers many times, wasting their time is fun, though of course you are wasting your own time as well. Some of my favourites

    1 Pretend to follow their instructions, but every time they ask you what happened after you type a command or go to a website, say a picture of Bruce Springsteen appeared on screen. They'll spend ages asking to try again, reboot etc (during which time you can make a cup of tea) Act indignant that they have done something to your computer that makes pictures of Bruce Springsteen come up. Demand payment from them for getting your computer fixed at which point they hang up.

    2 Pretend you don't know the difference between a computer and a cooker "What happens when you click the start button sir?" A blue flame lights. "What can you see on screen sir" Baked potatoes. I got put through to their supervisor who then gave up.

    3 Say your happy to talk to them but they need to go through security first, Issue them an eight digit pin code that they have to repeat at every stage in the procedure. Keep telling them they got it wrong and the pin code needs to be reset

    4 Tell them Mr Caine handles all the IT issues in the house, do Michael Caine impressions, then when they get bemused hand over to Mr Spencer. Fun but the scammers will not get the cultural references.

    5 Tell them your happy to do what they say but you warn them that you have a medical condition where you make chicken noises. Slip in and out of carefully acknowledging their instructions and making chicken noises. If they accuse you of not taking it serious , get irate and demand to speak to their supervisor claiming they are mocking your medical condition.

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