back to article 'Your computer has a virus' cold call con artists on the rise – Microsoft

Microsoft has released stats showing that tech support scams are on the increase, with 153,000 complaints received and 15 per cent of complainants losing cold, hard cash. For those who have been fortunate enough not to be subject to one, a tech support scam is typically where a ne'er-do-well will call up a user, usually …

  1. }{amis}{ Silver badge
    Stop

    Ugh!

    So sad that the Brown not is not a thing, if it was i would keep it on hand for just this kind of a@$£&%e.

  2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

    Oh no it's not. Leading them down a long alley for 20 minutes while pretending to be a dimwit is the right thing to so. Especially at the end of a call when you ask if the fact that you run Linux is perhaps the reason you can't see the screens or issues they are suggesting?

    They seem to disappear pretty quickly after than IMHO.

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

      Leading them down a long alley for 20 minutes while pretending to be a dimwit is the right thing to so.

      I prefer the 'deny everything' approach, also known as the 'argument sketch' approach, in which you contradict the person on the other end on everything..

      Declaring I didn't have a phone really confuses them for a moment, also presumably when the catch on as line goes dead after a moment...

      1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

        Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

        "I prefer the 'deny everything' approach, also known as the 'argument sketch' approach, in which you contradict the person on the other end on everything..

        Declaring I didn't have a phone really confuses them for a moment, also presumably when the catch on as line goes dead after a moment..."

        This sounds like a great idea to me:

        Scammer: "Is your computer switched on?"

        You: "I've told you once"

        S: "No you haven't!"

        Y: "Yes I have"

        S: "When?"

        Y: "Just now"

        S: "No you didn't!"

        Y: "Yes I did!"

        S: "You didn't!"

        Y: "I did!"

        S: "You didn't!"

        Y: "I'm telling you, I did!"

        S: "You did not!"

        Sounds like a giggle to me, I think I'll try this next time.

        1. annodomini2

          Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

          Also have a recording of dial up tones on hand.

          Pretend people are at the door.

          Making a cup of tea.

          Computer is slow

          Then have a secondary Linux machine on a 3G modem (can't be too fast) rigged up with a screen to look like your favourite five eyes supporter (e.g. GCHQ, NSA, CIA, FBI etc) with network logging, (their IP address is always good, with automated extrapolation of their location on your favourite mapping software).

    2. David Harper 1

      Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

      My wife regards this as an excellent sport, and she will happily spend 20 minutes playing along. My preferred approach involves making anatomically impossible suggestions, which generally results in a far shorter call.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

        @ David Harper 1

        Upvote for your wife's good work..

      2. Platelet

        Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

        "My wife regards this as an excellent sport, and she will happily spend 20 minutes playing along"

        I'd recommend listening to replyall episodes 102 & 103. It's Olympic standard "playing along"

        https://www.gimletmedia.com/reply-all/long-distance

        https://www.gimletmedia.com/reply-all/103-long-distance-part-ii

        1. Autonomous Cowherds

          Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

          @platelet - Wow - 102 starts pretty standard, (with some very long and incredibly cringy advert-plugs) but by the end, its a very, very interesting insight into the tech scam world; not that far away from a 16/17 year old in the UK finding themselves in a double glazing cold call office.

          Thanks for posting!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

        > My wife regards this as an excellent sport

        She might not when they call back at three in the morning for weeks on end to see if she wants another spin of the wheel.

        1. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

          Most if not all of these twerps are operating over a Voice over IP line, so cannot press tone buttons even if they wanted to. So, more or less the same tool has been created several times to torture and waste the time of these idiots.

          It starts off fairly simple: "To ring this phone, press 1, if nobody answers you talk to the answerphone. To talk direct to the answerphone, press 2, otherwise please hold and Lenny will be with you shortly".

          "Lenny" is what might be termed an Artificial Stupidity program. When the call begins, it plays its greeting, sometimes several times until the moron answers. Then it merely waits for the moron to stop talking for about 1.5 seconds, and plays one of a dozen or so sound clips at random. This is all it does; greets then plays random responses when the moron stops talking.

          Strangely enough, this is generally enough to keep a scamming moron happy and engaged for quite a long time. Lenny's exploits may be heard on the Lenny Youtube channel:

          https://youtu.be/vWrkDOt_IfM

          1. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

            "a Voice over IP line, so cannot press tone buttons even if they wanted to"

            What kind of shitty VoIP system can't pass touch tones? I've had to use some really terrible ones, but I've never found one that didn't work with touch tone menus.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

        Might I suggest that the old maxim 'Everyone has a book in them', which when correctly used also includes the rest of the words 'which, with plenty of lube and the necessary force, can be put back in them' would also apply here?

      5. Chris King Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

        "My wife regards this as an excellent sport, and she will happily spend 20 minutes playing along".

        I prefer a sprint to a marathon - the faster I can stress them out and get them screaming obscenities, the better.

        The other week, I had one screaming that his $DEITY would smite me.

        I just told him I would be way down the queue, as $DEITY is probably too busy smiting all the criminal scumbags taking his name in vain.

        Icon, because it's going to take an awful lot of Gaviscon to cool down that ulcer.

      6. Mark 85 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

        A salute and applause to your wife. She's obviously a master and rest of us are rank amatures.

        Icon: A toast.

    3. Davegoody

      Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

      After a MAHOOSIVE 1hr11minutes, I told my (Indian) "Tech Support Man" - their description - that my computer had crashed as my 16K RAM pack had wobbled......... He sounded really Pissed-Off when he put the phone down on me.

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

        1hr11mins on the line?

        For reals?

        Have one! :)

        1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

          1hr11mins on the line?

          Lightweight...I managed to keep one strung along for just over 3 hours. Cordless phone with speaker on it so could carry it around the house with my while I got on with my chores. Just had to remember to put in on mute from time to time (the sound of flushing would be a bit of a giveaway that I wasn't taking it seriously)

        2. TFL
          Linux

          Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

          I got one up to 45 minutes, and thought to record the last half. Escalated through several people, before the last one called me an asshole and hung up.

          The approach I took was:

          - Attempt to play along on Linux.

          - Don't advertise that it's Linux, but would tell them if asked. No one did.

    4. Colin Bull 1
      Trollface

      Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

      Oh no it's not.

      I used to get one every month, but not had any for about a year. Think it is because the TalkTalk data list is past its sell by date.

      Spoilsports

    5. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

      They seem to disappear pretty quickly after than IMHO.

      Not in my admittedly limited experience. My Father had one of these calls, which he immediately handed over to me.

      Cue the PC taking a long time to turn on, not knowing my way around a keyboard ("press the key next to the CTRL one in the bottom corner of the keyboard" - cue "pressing" the "Fn" key multiple times with no response. etc)

      After about half an hour, my breakfast was served, so I told him just what I thought of him, and thanked him for letting me waste his time.

      This seemed to particularly vex him, so he kept calling our number for another half an hour, to which I dutifully answered, ignored the insults, laughed, and put the phone down again.

      I'm not normally anywhere near that good at aggravating people.

    6. Wilseus

      Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

      "Oh no it's not. Leading them down a long alley for 20 minutes while pretending to be a dimwit is the right thing to so."

      This. This is exactly what I do.

    7. swschrad

      one of those schmucks woke me at 4 am for this

      probably sent the weasel off on a curry break, for I railed at him with the knob at 11. or 12.

    8. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

      I once kept a guy on the line for 10 minutes while following his directions on a Linux system.

      When he wanted me to hit the Windows key, I told him I didn't have one. This was true...I have an IBM Model M keyboard on my system. He finally gave up and told me to call Microsoft.

      I replied, "When I do, should I tell them I'm running Linux?"

      His reaction was: "Sh...<click>"

    9. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

      "Leading them down a long alley for 20 minutes while pretending to be a dimwit is the right thing"

      and, gloriously entertaining!

      sorta like the "419 eaters"

      /me notes that in the article, along the side, it notes that the U.S. treatment of these worthless scumbags is overly tolerant, whereas the U.K. response is much more appropriate. I think that EVERYONE is being too kind to these sociopathic PARASITES, as they STILL LIVE.

    10. adnim Silver badge

      Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

      I have had so many of these kind of calls I just say fuck off and hang up now. I got bored with baiting them and sick of being called when concentrating.

      I have had fun with them in the past, 40 minutes is my record for keeping them talking. I have also screen recorded them installing malware on a VM and reported it to the police. The abuse I have received when I have told them I am an IT professional that is taking the piss... Funny.

      I have also had a long conversation with a "supervisor". I asked if they were proud to be scamming innocent people. The response was unexpected honesty. He said he knows that it's not right but he has a family to feed. Choices for work in his part of India were limited apparently.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

        "I have had so many of these kind of calls I just say fuck off and hang up now."

        I havent had any , but thats my plan. Fun tho it might sound stringing them along , i cant be arsed . its wasting my time as well as theirs.

        If I get some email / ebay related scam i might bat that back and forth a bit ...

    11. Big-nosed Pengie

      Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

      I did exactly that. Kept them on the line for an hour. :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

        Usually when I these calls, they ask for my wife by her unmarried surname. She is obviously on the phone list they have acquired. I just say that I will go and get her, put the phone down on the table then see how long they wait before hanging up.

    12. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

      There's another approach that requires a little bit of work before hand.

      First you need a Windows VM. No need for it to be a recent version, or to be updated, a bog standard WinXP SP2 box is fine.

      Find some remote access trojan, and save it on the desktop as "sekret passwords.txt" or similar.

      When you get a call from a tech support scanner, allow them access to your honeypot VM, and wait for them to copy off your 'sekret' trojan, and run it on their own machine.

      ???

      Profit!

    13. Tom 35 Silver badge

      Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

      I always consider it a challenge to get them to swear at me. For the ones with Indian accents telling them how disappointed their mothers must be after all the work of raising you only to get a cheap crook, works almost every time.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

        I have recently noticed many of these guys introduce themselves by some very British sounding name (I had a "Mark Williams" recently) in a thick Indian accent. I am SOOO tempted to answer in an equally thick accent "this is Bill Gates speaking". I wonder whether I should use a thick Indian, Scottish or Aussie accent.

        Choices, choices

  3. J27 Bronze badge

    This could be avoided if we ditched the old phone system for one that could actually verify who was calling you. It would be VERY easy to build a system like that on top of the Internet and would quickly reduce costs for phone companies. Why aren't they doing it? Legacy thinking and legacy technology.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The internet would be the worst option, it was never designed for secure unfalsified identification. It is trvial to spoof the source address.

      The existing phone network is more secure, and does have most of the necessary technology to do this, at least for non-international calls. The problem with international calls is that, just as with the internet, the network that received the connection has no way to know if it can trust the network that originated it.

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        "at least for non-international calls"

        Well actually the standards for the same for international and non-international calls. The "problem" is that some phone providers are very sloppy when dealing with those numbers. It's not unlikely that a phone call from Germany to Germany will have a Swiss network provided number, because the carriers the call went through couldn't be arsed to do their job right.

        BTW what good does it do if you know the number? It could still be a company acting as a front for someone. In a time when coorporations can create fake identities by building fake companies, a phone number is worth nothing.

        1. kain preacher Silver badge

          The solution to the problem is use the ANI and not CLIP for caller ID.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            The solution to the problem is use the ANI and not CLIP for caller ID.

            True, but CLIP is defined as the presentation-level service because there are times when it is legitimate to display a different number to the real one. A company may want to display an 800-number for return calls, for example.

            What we need is a way to store the ANI value so that a customer can flag a call as bogus, and have the ANI registered. Even so, spoofing ANI isn't impossible, especially for calls from a different network.

            Even with the actual number, though, the problem is then how to get the phone companies to block calls from agreed callers using ANI details.

        2. veti Silver badge

          The option to spoof the calling number is a feature, not a bug. It's something that, historically, companies have gone out of their way to enable people to do.

          The use-case is for - yes, call centres, but also other types of offices, where people make outgoing calls but want the return call routed to somewhere else.

          Of course, scumbags quickly came up with another use for it. But that's true of approximately every feature ever added to anything. Scumbags are inventive.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "The option to spoof the calling number is a feature, not a bug."

            It may have started out that way. We should now treat it as a bug.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "The problem with international calls is that, just as with the internet, the network that received the connection has no way to know if it can trust the network that originated it."

        The phone network does, however, have the ability to label the call as international and to display a warning if it's then trying to spoof a number.

        1. Chloe Cresswell

          How does the system know the number is being spoofed?

          I once had a call from 1234567890. Becuase the internataional info had not been setup properly in .ve. So it was 100% conviced it was sending the valid phone number.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "I once had a call from 1234567890"

            Was the ANI 1234567890? No? Then it was spoofed. Not necessarily intentionally but spoofed none the less.

    2. Christian Berger Silver badge

      "This could be avoided if we ditched the old phone system for one that could actually verify who was calling you."

      a) There already is a field for the "Provider Asserted Identity", it's just that providers often are rather sloppy.

      b) You're suggesting no less than a complete redesign of the phone network, a network that has grown over a century and consists of wildly divergent technologies, often as many of 3 generations being active at the same time.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        " often as many of 3 generations being active at the same time."

        you sure there's not a manual switchboard someplace, with Lilly Tomlin as "your operator" ?

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Lilly Tomlin as "your operator"

          "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company!"

    3. WonkoTheSane

      I doubt that entered into BT's considerations when pledging to shift all calls to VOIP by 2025, but you never know...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This could be avoided if we

    RLY?

    Cheers

    J27

  5. Christian Berger Silver badge

    There is a "non-filler" talk about that topic here:

    It was held during the SHA2017 and talks about some people who decided to hunt down such a callcenter.

    https://media.ccc.de/v/SHA2017-233-a_trip_to_india

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Devil

    I missed my call

    the missus fielded the call not to long ago... Wish I'd been there ;-}

  7. Ye Gads

    Are they still doing this?

    I remember being called at home repeatedly by these guys. What finally worked was playing clueless with a twist:

    "I'm afraid I don't know very much about PCs. I work as a lumberjack. Let me tell you about my job".

    They hung up halfway through the second verse, which is a pity as that's when you get to the really fun lyrics.

    But there you go.

    1. Def Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Are they still doing this?

      So...

      I'm glad I don't have *that* song stuck in my head now.

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Are they still doing this?

      Got one last week. Too busy writing / editing.

      Also do NOT say anything that can be interpreted as an affirmative in case of faked contracts / sales.

      I tell them that all calls are recorded for training and security purposes and they hang up.

  8. Christian Berger Silver badge

    I still think those "victims" are rather silly

    I mean isn't it absurd to think that a software company you pay money to would actually give you support?

  9. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Number Witheld.

    Most of the time I get calls from 'Microsoft Support', the number is withheld.

    I'd love to put a call blocker on my line but most of the NHS has moved to calling with 'Number withheld' all in the interests of patient security.

    I learned a few choice swear words in Hindi that question the callers parenthood for these people calling from MS.

    Other calls get answered with 'what are you trying to sell me?' That gets rid of most of them.

    1. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: Number Witheld.

      Steve I've learned that calling them Pakistani drives them through the

      roof.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Number Witheld.

        "I've learned that calling them Pakistani drives them through the roof."

        I wonder what subtly insulting their ACCENT does...

        "I'm sorry, what was that?"

        "I can't understand, can you repeat that?"

        "Can you say it again, slowly?"

        "Can you spell it out for me?"

        "What was that one letter again, I didn't quite understand it?"

        "It sounded like [insert ethnic slur here] to me, is that right?"

        And of course, LOUDLY wind it up [right before they hang up in anger] with something like:

        "If you're going to SCAM someone in an ENGLISH SPEAKING COUNTRY, then LEARN TO SPEAK [profanity]-ING ENGLISH, you [profanity] [profanity] PAKISTANI!!!"

        or something like that. Then you get to troll them AND vent your spleen!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Number Witheld.

          Then you get to troll them AND vent your spleen!

          But don't forget that they have your phone number...

        2. Horridbloke

          Re: Number Witheld.

          ... or we _could_ skip the racial slurs...

  10. Ol'Peculier

    I never get these calls. Which annoys me as I even have a VM with Windows XP and a file on it's desktop called "bank details" ready for them.

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      I keep an acorn electron plugged in on a spare section of desk, Ostensibly to mess around with BASIC but really, it's in preparation for one of these cold callers. That way I can say that there's noting wrong with my windows, I can see right through them, following up with telling them I don't have any mice in the house - I keep it clean.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        You could just put MS basic on your pc:

        https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=22961

        and then just lie to the callers about your acorn ....

        or pretend you have a HAL9000

        1. ArrZarr Silver badge

          I could, but the keyboard on the electron is a joy to use.

  11. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    Like an old friend?

    Last one I had seemed surprised that I wasn't sure which computer was affected due to me running a network at home.

    Eventually I asked if he could tell me which version of Windows it was as there were different versions on different machines.

    He went for the only one not running - Windows 7.

    I even had one with Vista up -- and that's supposed to have more holes than cartoon cheese!

    I let him down gently, even the 'I know your'e a fucking scam artist' bit.

  12. Carl D

    I think I had another one of these scammers try to call me a few hours ago (I'm in Perth, West Australia). I only answer the call when I recognize the number (all family and friends, work, etc. are programmed into the phone so I can see straight away when they call).

    Phone rings, the caller ID shows a number with "Unavailable" (which means you cannot call the number back), call goes to answering machine, after the answering machine greeting finishes there was 5 - 10 seconds of silence then a female voice says "Hello.... hello" then a few more seconds of silence then the call disconnects. Another number added to my ever increasing blocked list.

    Had the same thing last week but from a different number. My phone is set to block all calls with no caller ID but the problem is, these idiots are able to generate a seemingly infinite list of "fake" numbers to call with and because they have a caller ID (even if is fake) the calls get past the 'no caller ID block' and go to the answering machine so blocking them becomes an increasingly difficult if not impossible task. At least they eventually give up once they realize all they are going to get to talk to is the answering machine.

  13. Anonymous Noel Coward
    WTF?

    They've upped their game, methinks...

    The last time I got one of these calls was from "TalkTalk," but there wasn't any kind of human connectivity with it.

    It was a case of "Your Internet is going to be disconnected. To speak to somebody, press #1. To disconnect, press #2."

    Nothing happened...

    1. Mike 125

      >> Nothing happened.....

      If nothing happened it was probably TalkTalk. I'm with them, and use the following logic: Based on their performance, anyone actually employed by them is barely capable of making *any* sort of call. So if there's a call, it's not from TalkTalk. Also, I only use VoIP, which means I'm anyway off-grid more than half the time...

  14. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "For those who have been fortunate enough not to be subject to one"

    Or unfortunate if you have the time and are looking for a bit of innocent amusement.

  15. Timmy B Silver badge

    Having rescued an elderly friend from a bill for nearly £2K from "Microsoft" I can heartily recommend call guardian if you live in the UK and hate this kind of stuff. I've seen it virtually remove all cold calls from the people I've installed it for. But then the support for friends and family I do is often for the elderly and it seems best suited for them.

    The only downside is I have it at home and I never get cold calls from "Microsoft Support" or any kind of religious body - both of whom I love to wind up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How much control do you have over the message that is played out? I legitimately get calls from people who won't understand an English message saying "Please state your name", I'd need to be able to record at least a bilingual message as I do for voicemail.

      1. Giles C

        Call guardian

        The latest model allows you to add you name to the message an unknown user gets, so you should be able to record something in a different language...

        My parents have it installed and it usually blocks around 10 calls a day... you do need a caller ID service though

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "This is the technical department of Microsoft" says the caller

    I am getting these calls *daily* and all are from females with Indian or Chinese accents. They all get the same treatment of termination within 20s.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "This is the technical department of Microsoft" says the caller

      "They all get the same treatment of termination within 20s."

      That's not very public spirited of you. If nothing else you could try "Just a moment. There's someone at the door. Can you hang on a moment while I go answer it." and put the phone aside until it starts whining.

  17. Carl D

    Wish I could set up "Lenny" here and let the scammers talk to him.

    https://toao.net/595-lenny

    Be sure to have a look at some of the calls on his YouTube channel (link provided on site).

    Hilarious stuff. Especially the ducks (about 6 minutes in - if the scammers/telemarketers stay on the line long enough. lol).

  18. WylieCoyoteUK
    Devil

    Automated calls

    They are using Automated calls now.

    "Hello I'm Shirley from ....Internet service provider...we have been trying to contact you.

    Your internet connection will be cut off in the next 24 to 48 hours. To proceed, please press button 1 on your phone".

    We have been getting these every couple of days for a fortnight.

    Strangely, our internet is still working........

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Automated calls

      "Your internet connection will be cut off in the next 24 to 48 hours. To proceed, please press button 1 on your phone"

      Scope for a bit of testing there. What happens if a button not in the repertoire is pressed? Or the number entered via loop disconnect?

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Automated calls

      Be bold... go ahead and press 1... then launch on whoever talks to you. Or just press "0" repeatedly. Sometimes you get a human.

    3. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Automated calls

      I get those from UB/RBS. They may be real as it happens the same evening when we have visited the branch. I've complained and they claim they don't know. I hang up.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Automated calls

        "I get those from UB/RBS. They may be real as it happens the same evening when we have visited the branch. "

        I used to get those ostensibly from HSBC when I had a business account with them. I always insisted that as I'd told my bank that I wouldn't take such calls they couldn't be who they said they were and in fact I wasn't either confirming or denying that HSBC was my bank. Always followed up by a letter from HSBC saying they'd really like to sell me some unwanted services discuss things with me.

  19. 0laf Silver badge
    FAIL

    I think I got one of these for the first time last week. I say 'think' because the chap's accent was so thick and the line so bad I really have no idea what he was saying.

    I'd be disappointed if it was one. I've been waiting years to get one. So long in fact the chap I was going to pass their details to has been arrested by the FBI and I've never heard form him again.

    The local scammers are getting soft. The PPI and accident claims calls guys hang up so easily now, they've no stamina to get led on. They hang up so easily I don't think they can possibly make any money any more.

    Man up FFS, I needs my entertainment.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I stopped getting calls with fake local numbers...

      When I said I'd grab my coat, it's 16:45, that's 5 mins for me to get down to their office now (town is tiny) and sign the papers at their office.

      Suddenly they "had to leave for home" and could not accept my offer.

  20. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    Need to stop worrying about fake calling number

    Who cares whether the calling number is fake or not. What you really want to verify is the identity of the caller. Now that the telcos are anyway starting to ditch the old-style clockwork phone system we need the opportunity to present your verified identity, perhaps via an x.509 client certificate. I was working on this with Thawte over a decade ago but Verisign discontinued it after the acquisition.

    Note to tin-foilers, I do say "opportunity" not "requirement".

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Need to stop worrying about fake calling number

      Note to tin-foilers, I do say "opportunity" not "requirement".

      I think we could safely assume it's an opportunity scammers won't take up. An opportunity for the callee to require it would be a different matter.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Easy to fall for

    I got a call from these the other day.

    Bad English, low intellect, and very pushy. I was convinced it was from the real Microsoft tech support.

  22. MJI Silver badge

    Some people recommend getting pervy

    That asking them willy size or propositioning them will get rid of them

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Some people recommend getting pervy

      That could go sooooo wrong.

  23. ma1010 Silver badge
    Flame

    The downside of all this

    Essentially, due to the flood of spoofed crap calls, I've completely lost the use of my landline. I just turn off the ringers and use it for outgoing calls only. Nobody can ever call me on it because if I don't do the above, it rings several times a day with crap calls that just waste my time.

    I can protect my cell phone better, using an app the blocks any call not in my contacts, although it does allow them to leave a voice message (for those few calls I get from stranger which I actually want).

    It's too bad we can't eliminate these sort of pests. Put them all on the B Ark, I say.

  24. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Windows in a VM is apparently a good idea

    I live in a man cave so no Windows but a friend has a VM set up so he very slowly takes the phonefool through booting it and very slowly following their instructions, even downloading their trojan (at around 2 baud) and once all is set up and they've gone away he kills and clones another ready for the next caller.

    I believe his understanding of the trojans and their origin and where they send info is of some interest to him but I dont ask as I think I might OCD myself into trouble with that.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aren't these 'tech support' scammers from India?

    Here is a video on Youtube showing how someone made a fool out of them.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_lPv2laCx8

  26. Stu_The_Jock

    After over 100 of these calls over a year or so I was getting fed up, Lately they have been calling into Norway and spoofing Norwegian numbers,including at one point "112" the Police emergency number, I seem to have found a "cure" for them.

    I'd bought a Flea-bay special "bike horn" that turned out to a piezo siren (smoke alarm on steroids, this thing WAS loud) , so I decided it was no use on the bike (my voice gets more attention) so when "Michael" from Microsoft called (from Delhi) I spoke softly to get him to run up his headset, then gave him a full blast of 15 seconds... then listened in to hear "He have a f***ing siren" . . not heard from them since :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's a phone...

      you could do so electronically, and not even have to listen yourself.

      Interestingly, some landline handsets have hold music. Very, very, very bad 8 bit hold music.

  27. Bonz

    Bruce Lawson is an absolute legend at handling these calls: http://www.brucelawson.co.uk/spam-letters/

  28. notthatbrian

    Shirley you can't be serious?

    Phony Microsoft calls? Don't the English names + Indian accents ring instant alarm bells?

  29. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Angel

    Not had one of these for years

    I feel quite cheated. Everyone else gets all the fun.

  30. Tristan Young

    I've tried telling scammers I don't have a computer. Not taking that for an answer, they usually respond with, "What about your laptop?". (sigh)

    Next time, I'll tell them I need a few minutes to enter the bootstrap code via toggleswitch, because my punchcard reader won't arrive till next Tuesday.

  31. Anonymous C0ward

    I've never had one of these

    Really wanna troll them with something old like IRIX or VMS though.

  32. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Happy

    "Hello, this is Lenny ..."

    `nough said. Haven't been bothered ever since (and my number has been taken off their "circulation list").

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Windows

    Is you fridge running, Are there any walls in the house at all

    This is the Electricity Co and we need to functionally check power operation in your area, Is your fridge running? Or An engineering company trying to locate a Mr Wall, Is Mr Wall there please, I am after a Mr Wall, John Wall, Jane Wall, are any walls there?

    Prank calls now get dangerous.

    My bank rang me the other day, using what appeared to be an internet phone number, they wanted me to identify myself. Huh !!!, What about you, I thought. So I made arrangements to visit the branch the next day. The bank had been ringing to tell me, no ask me if i wanted another 1% interest on my account balance for 3 months, without doing anything. I would never have believed it if I wasn't hearing it from a proven employee at the banks branch. Crazy world.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Is you fridge running, Are there any walls in the house at all

      "My bank rang me the other day, using what appeared to be an internet phone number, they wanted me to identify myself."

      They get very confused when you point out that they rung you and it's up to them to prove who they are and no, telling you half of your post code isn't good enough.

      1. Glenturret Single Malt

        Re: Is you fridge running, Are there any walls in the house at all

        I have had exactly the same argument with a representative of a large investment company with whom I have an account after he called me and then wanted me to establish my identity. Neither of us could prove convincingly who we were without revealing important details. In the end, we agreed that he would send me a letter which did indeed arrive.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I let the Microsoft Support Specialist access a VM

    They all do the same thing, they open a command prompt and run: "tree /F" to simulate a virus scan and type in some text about a trojan that appears at the bottom after the tree command finishes.

    They open up Event Viewer and say all the errors are signs of infection.

    They run a Netstat scan and claim the "foreign" IP's are remote nasties and that the port numbers are actually the number of times hackers have connected.

    Except one time a guy uploaded a batch script called "antivirus.bat" and executed it.

    Seen here: https://gist.github.com/anonymous/e97cbec040bad06c14c087744d793289

    And another time they uploaded a program that extracts usernames and passwords from browser caches.

  35. Demosthenes Locke

    Don't forget that you can slap the good ol' Jolly Roger Telephone Company into the call and let their robot talk to the nice support technician.

    http://www.jollyrogertelco.com/

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's Sport

    If they ring me and claim they're Microsoft, if I am not doing anything else or going out, then it's sport!

    I have my fun at their expense and while they are on the phone to me they can't be bothering anyone else.

    The best ones are when they are at the end of their tether and wind up swearing (happened last week)

    Will have to listen to the recommended examples to see if there are any good tips I can use. My wife knows when I get one of these calls and listens with amusement at my side of the call, and is interested to know how long I kept it going. I get chided if it's not long enough and she tells me "you're losing your touch"

    You' d think these people would know when they are being wound up - they all start off with a standard script but as soon as you go off script they are in trouble.

    We get some from "BT" too, but when I ask them where they are calling from they quote the Newgate Street headquarters building. I point out that they wouldn't be using a central London office to make outbound support calls - I don't know what it is now, but many years ago a wastepaper bin cost £70 a year in rent; it must be a lot more than that now.

    When BT have completed the upgrade to VOIP we can expect a plethora of "there are problems with your phone" variety

    We don't get too many or I would just hang up.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Careful

    I had one who said he would call me back all night.

    This, after I had just told him to go fornicate somewhere else.

    He did ring back 3 or 4 times.

    Had to leave the phone off the hook over night.

  38. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    I actually called one out and he spilled his feelings

    I always recommend wasting their time if possible. It demotivates them and makes them feel silly, as it's 20 minutes nearer the end of their day and 20 minutes during which they were getting no closer to a 'sale'.

    So I was stringing one along the other day and after about 10 minutes I got bored. It was around the time he told me to look in the Windows event log and 'look at all the errors - you see, they're all viruses'. I said to him that he ought to be ashamed, I know what he's up to and it's not an honest way to earn money. He admitted that he knew, and that he just wanted a quick way of making some money. He didn't like doing it but he admitted that he thought that the people he scammed were so stupid that they in some way deserved to be scammed!

    He then asked if I had any money and could just transfer it to him, as he's studying for his degree (in India) and needs to pay for tuition etc. He said that if he just had enough money, he'll stop [the scamming] in an instant, as he hates doing it. He said if I could just see my way to sending him some money, he'd give me some bank account details of people he's scammed! He sounded like he was 'working' from home. What fascinated me more than his sorrowful tale (I almost felt sorry for him) was it gave me a peek into the business model. It's not a call centre, it's just people working from home. Maybe they buy a kit, which includes pre-written scripts to follow, or maybe they have to give a cut to someone you wouldn't want to mess with: I suspect a bit of both, but mainly the former.

    Anyway, he thanked me for not swearing at him and that was it. About half an hour later, one of our customers called in a panic and said that he'd just had a call from BT saying that he had a virus that was being detected and could we check his broadband line because he realised it was 'probably' a scam but was nonetheless worried. No matter how much my colleague told him that it's scam, there's no truth in it, and we've just had one of these calls, he said that just to be on the safe side could we check his broadband line to make sure it's not got viruses or something. We went through the motions and told him we've checked and his broadband line is completely virus-free.

    So even after being told it was a scam, people can be SO frightened that they'll believe it was based on reality. This is the problem. No wonder the scam phone call industry is doing so well.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simplest answer to international scam calls

    is the ban calls from that country until they respect our laws, resulting in all the outsourced services being recalled home, it is the patriotic thing to do after all.

    Sadly this is never going to happen, when the money funding the scam companies calling the UK is in GBP

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is also a "You owe money to the IRS" variant of the scam. This gloriousness is what happened when they tried it on the IT guy.

    ReactOS is a good one to have kicking about as a VM. It sort of looks and behaves like Windows but really isn't. It confuses the hell out of them.

  41. philebbeer

    In the UK get a BT phone with 'Call Guardian'. Perhaps you don't need one but think of your elderly relatives. I must have been on a few list as I got 2 or 3 of these calls a day, this dropped to about 2 or 3 a week after I got CG. After 18 months or so.... well I can't remember the last scam call. CG is really great, can't recommend it enough.

  42. silks

    Hold Music

    Some cordless phones have hold music, great to tell "Windows Support" that I'm just putting you on hold then carry on with my day leaving them listening to Greensleeves...

    1. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

      Re: Hold Music

      Robotic speech synthesiser, the worst-sounding one you can find, reading out the poetry of William Topaz McGonnegall. Think Vogon poetry without the humour; the man was truly awful, though regarded as free entertainment in his day.

  43. This post has been deleted by its author

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Look, it's NOT my computer that's at fault! I told you guys half an hour ago that there is STILL no LINE light on the router, now pass me on to the line engineers and stop wasting my time!"

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love these scammers, mainly because it's the one occasion nowadays one can engage in off-the-wall racist abuse and get away with it.

  46. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
    Facepalm

    My users would keep these scammers busy for days.

    I can take the helpdesk 10 minutes to explain to them how to ctrl-alt-del

  47. Archivist

    Never had a call

    But then I've never signed up for anything Microsoft. Coincidence?

  48. Melina1222

    Less time, shorter revenge

    We 'Muricans get these Microsoft fake virus calls, and we enjoy them as much as anyone else.

    Generally I get bored in about 10 minutes, but you can waste these minutes of their time by running them through an idiot's list of questions. My favorite approach is to pretend to be an especially stupid Windows user, as this keeps them going as they assume that stupid folks are easier marks. Ask them what a virus is, and how did it get into my computer, and what's an internet, anyway?

    When you tire of the fun, end your call with:

    "Hang on. I left my laptop at work."

    "By the way ... do you know a good way to get blood out of carpeting?"

    "Oh hell. The nuclear bomb sirens are going off. My neighbors are all running down the street. What's happening where you are?" Begin crying. (It helps to have the siren pre-recorded so you can play it in the background.)

  49. Epobirs

    I recently noticed a distinct change in character of these calls. It may just be incompetence or it may be a new level of arrogance.

    In the past, it was nearly impossible to get the scammers to say the word Microsoft, as in "I've never heard of a 'Windows company'. Who is your actual employer or who are they contracted to for this purpose?" As I understand it, representing themselves as Microsoft or agents for Microsoft ups the ante on the sort of criminal charges that can applied. Recently though, I've gotten a few calls that follow the familiar script but actually claim to be Microsoft calling.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Return the favor

    I had one of these calls at work. I told the Indian sounding man that I would need to call him back. He gave me his call back number (it actually matched his caller-ID). I logged into my phone system and changed my outgoing caller-ID to his, then called him back and used his script on him. He got really confused why I was calling from his number and hung up. I called several times after that and he'd pick up the call and hang up on me, or let it ring on forever. I let it go for a couple of days, then started calling them again and got the same thing, pickup-hang up, ring on and on. Eventually a girl answered, and in broken English, told me to stop calling them. I told her I would stop when they do and hung up. I stopped anyway figuring I got my point across and it wasn't worth my time anymore.

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