back to article Microsoft warns on support scams

A survey from Microsoft reveals just how widespread the fake tech support call scam is becoming. The crooks cold-call people at home and claim to be calling from Microsoft or a well-known security firm and offering "free security checks". The software giant surveyed 7,000 computer users in the UK, Ireland, US and Canada and …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    "Redmond said 79 per cent of those tricked suffered financial loss – the average loss was $875 (£542). Losses ranged from just $82 (£51) in Ireland to a whopping $1,560 (£967) in Canada."

    That would be why they keep calling, even though I keep telling them to F*** off..

    Paris: because a lot of people have been shafted, but not in a good way..

  2. Wibble

    Idiot tax

    Darwin writ large?

    1. Chris007

      That's not fair on everybody

      For those people who are tech savvy then yes it's an idiot tax but for my 75 yr old mother in-law who received one of these calls it is not.

      The fact is that to non-technical people they sound *very* convincing (we had one on speaker phone a while ago and toyed with them). Using subtle and not so subtle scare tactics she was enticed into trying to visit a website which would have installed remote control software.

      Thankfully her BT line was faulty that day and she was unable to get onto the site but they did say they'd call again in a few days. When she put the phone down it dawned on her that she should have hung up earlier and she called her daughter (my wife) in floods of tears fearing her email / bank details etc had all been pilfered. I duly checked the machine and confirmed all ok.

      Amazingly they did call back and try again and she told them where to stick it.

      Fail icon is for you sir.

      1. Big-nosed Pengie

        Title goes here

        You let your 75 year old Mother-in-law use Windows?

        The fail is all yours, sir.

        1. Chris007

          Windows is easiest to "support"

          The rest of the family also help her out and they're all used to using windows - giving her Linux would not have been an option neither would buying a mac (too expensive)

  3. Ralthor


    "Microsoft said if someone claiming to be from Windows or Microsoft Tech Support calls you: "Do not purchase any software or services. Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the 'service'. If there is, make sure its us then give us your credit card."

    1. Blue eyed boy

      So is it a scam?

      What purports to be Microsoft's own tech support website showed something like this - before I could get any actual support I had to pay some (too many) dollars to sonebody. Perhaps it too was a fake

  4. PartTimeLegend

    I got one of these calls...

    I was so excited, I never get these kinds of scammers calling me.

    He had a thick Indian accent and I'd just got home from a business trip.

    He told me he was calling from " The International Internet Router Team". He told me it was showing that I had slow internet speeds.

    I played along with the dumb idiot and started with the "Oh, it has been slow" bit. Then after a few moments I asked where he was calling from again. He told me then "BT, TalkTalk or one of them".

    I was up for a laugh, and asked which one. He sounded confused and then hung up.

  5. Winkypop Silver badge

    These guys are morons!




    ....long pause.................................................................annoyingly long......................




    Yes hello Sir, I am be calling from [insert bogus company or MS reference here], your computer is having a problem.......


    1. noboard


      The best thing to do is keep them on the phone. I always keep them on the phone for a good 20 minutes or so and if everyone else did them same they'd go bust in no time. It also gets you put on a blacklist so you don't get the calls anymore, my phone has been silent for almost a year.

      Regards the calls, they are quite tricky. I had one confused when I said my event log had no errors or warnings in it and he kept asking me what I was looking at to check I was at a computer. I wasn't but he never worked that out.

      Anywho, take 20 minutes out of your life and keep them on the phone, it's the only way to stop them.

      1. Mark 65


        Sounds like the exact same call I received and I also thought about the international call angle and keeping them on the phone. Then I realized that scamming bastards like these would be making thousands of calls and no doubt have some way of getting them as cheap as chips.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Not the point

          yes, the *calls* are cheap. But the *time* of the droid trying to fleece you isn't.

          If it took them 5,000 hours of people-time to make $1 instead of 5 minutes, then the whole scam would simply evaporate.

      2. andypbw

        Ubuntu FTW

        I managed to keep mine on the line for nearly 10 minutes before having to admit that I was sat in front of Ubuntu 11.04. He didn't seem to have heard of it.....

        1. Big-nosed Pengie

          Title goes here

          One hour.

          Is that a record?

          "Are you seeing a Windows logo on the bottom left hand corner of your screen, sir?"

          "No. I can't see anything like that."

          "What are you seeing?"

          "I can see an orange circle."

          "Please be clicking on the orange circle, sir. You will be seeing a list of applications which is including 'my computer'".

          "No. The list is [reads list]"

          "That is being very strange sir. I'll will be asking my supervisor for help. Please be holding."

          Etc. These morons, including the "MSCE", never once twigged that I was using Linux. Eventually I got bored and told them where to shove it.

      3. Richard Pennington 1

        Keep them on the phone

        I have a cordless phone, so putting it down doesn't cut the connection. Putting it down next to a loudspeaker-load of 20th century "musique concrète" (classical music with no recognisable tune and not too easy on the ears) and leaving it for half an hour somehow gives scam-callers the right idea. Or put the phone down next to some noisy machinery. And go into another room for a while.

      4. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Actually

        Indeed, keep them on the phone, and if you've a while spare then there's childish fun to be had too:

        After 'failing' to get their LogMeInRescue (which gives permits administrative tasks as well as remote desktop control), they gave up and switched to ShowMyPC instead. This uses VNC over SSH and is therefore relatively safe, and also lets you restrict the connection to one specific windows.

        Suggestions for this include restricting them to an instance of MS Paint showing a screenshot of a Windows desktop, or to VLC playing something appropriate. I'm sure more creative types could come up with some far superior ideas.

        1. Anonymous Coward


          A CIA desktop ....

      5. AndyDent

        Keeping them on the phone doesn't work

        I was working at my mothers' farm one day when one of these regular callers rang and as I was working on something fairly undemanding, decided to spin them out and see what they did.

        Their spiel is scarily convincing for anyone non-technical - they wallk people through a number of commands including showing actual error events in the event viewer that don't take much spin to sound scary.

        I stopped it short of clicking on the web page link that was their GotoMyPC, and was doing that in a more secure environment than a PC browser.

        Wasting their time for over an hour and telling them I just wanted to see their URL so I could report them didn't do anything to prevent the sods from continuing to call her.

        Mentioning the word criminal fraud does make them hang up very quickly though ;-)

        This is in the South-west of Western Australia and I suspect they are targeting a lot of the older residents in that area.

        1. Roger Mew

          On phone

          These people ring from places like Africa etc. I enjoy chasing them and one went back to an internet cafe in Africa.

          I spoke to the owner and told him that we are fraud chasers and that his shop was being used for internet fraud. I gave him some details and he found the culprit, I could hear a VERY heated conversation. I said the best thing he could do was hand the police his details and let them contact ( a certain authority) to ascertain.

          Another was in the Yahoo offices in the US and no not Calif, another in a company in Austria.

          Its good fun, especially as nearly all the machines here in France have these problems as the operatives are so naive!!!

          Being on the phone costs nought we can be on the phone with Skype all day for nought extra.

  6. Ryan Clark


    Had loads of these calls in the last few months. Played a long with a few but getting very bored with them now. The "virus" on my machine was demonstrated by showing he knew what the CLISID for zfsendtotarget is .

    BT most unhelpful in investigating whether they came from a single number and getting them stopped (wanted me to buy a premium service)

  7. AdamW

    press start

    I couldnt find the start menu in KDE, the poor chap kept telling me where it was, he was suggesting i had to load IE and visit some page...

  8. Blue_Skunk

    I got called also

    I played along while people on a teamspeak server listened to me. I got past the first level of indian phishers and got put onto the second line of scammers that actually try to get money/remote access.

    A lot of my customers get these calls so i wanted to see what they said

    I played along for quite a while but then hung up.. he had the balls to call me back twice even after i told him i knew it was a scam.

    In the end he got really quite abusive and told me i was a bad computer engineer if i thought i wasn't infected and therefore needed help.

    my favourite quote from the angry indian was that i was 'not authorised to say it was a scam'

    He ended by telling me to 'go f@ck myself'... i think i got to him

    1. The Fuzzy Wotnot

      Brilliant stuff!

      "In the end he got really quite abusive and told me i was a bad computer engineer if i thought i wasn't infected and therefore needed help."

      Superb, made my lunchtime just a bit brighter!

      I think my reply would have been, "I'm not earning £2/hour cold-calling people to scam money from them, not a penny of which I will get instead going into the back account of some other rich bastard, and I need help?!"

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had one of these call me.

    I must have wasted about quarter of an hour of his time (on an international phone call) mixing all of the worst qualities of the many stupid users i've ever had the displeasure of encountering.

    It was great fun. I couldn't beleive how taken aback he was when he asked if I was on win7, vista or XP and after a while faffing around asking him how you found out I asked if "Windows 98" written up the side of the start bar was the version of windows I was running. Poor bloke didn't seem to be trained on 9x, he was adamant that I needed to let him RDC in immediately. On 98!

    I'm honestly not sure if he hung up because he figured out that I knew more than I was telling or he just got to the "I want to beat them senseless" state that a bad user can get you to after quarter of an hour of frustration. Not that he could ever remote into the virtual version of 98 running solely in my memory, but hey. I did think about claiming 95, but it's been so long that i'm not convinced I could have faked it convincingly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      International Call Costs

      Alas wasting their time is all you will achieve by making them use up time on the phone - they will not be paying any international call costs and will probably not even be paying ANY call costs. These people will be using hacked VoIP servers to route the calls so they do not trace back to them. Just look up google for voip hacker list and search through the first few results to see how many attacks are going on (there are even lists of where the attacks come from for the really curious).

      1. Jedit Silver badge

        Time is money

        If you take a scammer all the way through his spiel before you let him know you're wise to him, then you have reduced the number of people who can be scammed by one. For the expense of 10 or 15 minutes of your time, you have caused the scammer to lose anywhere from the £50 "premium service" scam fee up to the thousands that can be pillaged from someone's bank account. If all of us reading did it just three or four times, they would lose millions.

        So yes, I do consider wasting their time to be a profitable use of mine.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Scammer education really isn't what it used to be.

      Anyone else remember NetMeeting?

  10. David Bond

    Happening in Norway

    I had one of these calls last week, my wife answered and they told her they were from tech support for our computer, she said, you can talk to my husband, and passed it to me. Then the woman said Hello David (hadnt told her) and went on to say that she was from the support department for my PC, I asked so which PC is this, she just repeated it again. Then she changed to Microsoft and that there was a virus going around infecting computers and that they were calling everyone :) to check if your computer had it, I said, ok, wondering what the aim of the scam would be I let her carry on, so she asked if i was at my computer, I said I was and that it was on, I said yep, then she asked me to go to the event log, I asked her then, so what virus is this supposed to be? My wife then said, just tell her you work in IT, then, the woman hung up.

    The whole call was also in english, and were also calling from Angola/Guatemala (+127). They called me around 10 times in 1 hour, I was out for the first lot of calls.

  11. Bassey

    I thought I had the answer

    I'd been called by one of these and just hung up but thought it might be "cleverer" to tell them I didn't have a computer if they ever phoned back. Bad move. The bloke insisted that I DID have a computer and could I please log into it so that he could fix it for me. This went back and forth for some time ("but I don't have a computer so why would I have a slow internet connection" - "Oh but Sir our records certainly show that you have the internet so can you please start your computer so that I can help you to fix the slow connetion" etc) before I gave up and put the phone down.

    Fair play to "Jack" though. He was persistent.

  12. mark 63 Silver badge

    I feel left out!

    I feel left out! why havent I had any of these calls?

    Is it possible these crooks actually adhere to the no-cold-calls list?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Me neither ...

      ... although I know many other who have. None of them daft enough to have fallen for it though.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Play them at there own game

    I got one of those the other week,,

    played dumb GRIN after a half hour of no i dont use ie i use firefox

    no i dont see a start button

    He went off to get his supervisor who after giveing him a flea in the ear

    I told him I use Linux

    If all the computer savvy people take up a half hour of there time hopefully you can make it in UNeconomic for them

    A.C for obvious reasons

  14. nyelvmark

    What about caller ID?

    Do the scammers spoof this? Isn't that illegal?

    1. Znort666

      I believe...

      they do. My mother had one of these calls and luckily had the wherewithall to inform them that I worked in IT and had Admin control of all her PCs so would look at it for her. The number is actually 1 digit short of a UK number and when she tried to ring back, was unable to connect.

      Another friend had a call as well and actually aloowed them access, but again, luckily I had set up an Admin account and she only had Standard user access so couldn't install any of their software as she didn't have the password.

      I am waiting for them to call me, although everyone else in my house uses windows I have Ubuntu and would love to waste some of there time...

  15. aj06

    Phone Support Scams

    I have had 2 phone calls within the last 10 days purporting to be from Microsoft. When I questioned them as to why they were attempting to scam me, they both panicked and slammed their phones down.

    Both had distinct Indian accents!

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Anonymous Coward


    I've had 4 of these calls - all from people with thick Indian accents claiming to be from "The WIndows 7 support desk".

    The first two times I just told them straight that I didn't have windows and hung up. The third time I played along... When he asked me to click on the start button, I told him "I don't have a start button", which was true 'cos I have a Mac!

    The fourth time I just pretended to do what he told me. It involved going to a certain (non-MS) site and downloading some "helpful software". It also involved deleting certain files which I'm sure are pretty vital to Windows.

    What I was most interested in is:

    1, How the got my phone number in the first place!

    2, How they could possibly claim to know my phone number based upon only having my IP address...

    3, Why they thought I would have Windows.

    My flatmate has also had one of these calls from the "Windows 7 support desk". She has Windows on her laptop but not Windows 7!

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Possible answers

      1. They might have access to leaked phone number lists, or they may have a copy of a Directory Enquiries CD set from BT, or they might just make them up!

      2. They probably don't. It's just a line dangled to make them appear more plausible. Alternatively, they may have some leaked information from BT or your ISP, because it is certain that at a known time, those organisations know which IP address is allocated equipment on which phone line.

      3. Windows is ubiquitous. For home systems, chances are that at least 90% of homes with a computer have a Windows variant rather than a Mac, Linux or other system. And even those with Linux probably have Windows installed somewhere as a dual boot.. The Reg. readership are not typical. My house as all three (Win2000, WinXP, and Win7, OSX, and Linux), as well as an AIX box.

      I suppose that there will be an increasing number of houses that have broadband for just their TV, gaming console, iPad or Android Pad. I wonder how the ISP's will cope with supporting such customers? At the moment they all appear to be geared around having a Windows box around.

  18. ukgnome

    You say, I say

    Thats the game I play,

    You say I have slow internet speed and I say you have slow internet speed.

    They say I have a virus and I say Your computer is infected.

    They say I am calling from microsoft, and I say I am answering a microsoft phone.

    I try and keep this up for as long as I can, the loser is the one who laughs or profanes first.

  19. Mark Wilson


    I like trying different tactics with these guys and seeing what they come up with.

    One of my favourites is "how did you get my number?" the response was "throught the Internet protocol"

    1. John F***ing Stepp

      Phone number through IP address.

      Sometimes I get bored and google the IPs of hacking attempts at the server here; address and phone number (of a BOT-Zombie) are usually supplied.

      (and no, I don't call up some poor shnook at 3 am to tell him or her their computers infected. I just lock out that IP)

      In your case this assumes they actually have that IP address and are not just WAR dialing a block of numbers.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Title? We don' need no steenkin' title...

    I spent a few weeks at home between jobs a little whole back and seemed to receive an inordicante number of these calls. I've played pretty well all the games other contributors have described, I've asked if the callers mother is proud of what they do for a living, on a couple of occasions I've simply launched a tirade of the foulest, most racist abuse I could think of (no, it's not big, no it's not clever, no I'm not proud of it), but I'm a lot calmer about the whole thing now, and these days if there's a pause beyond a second or two before someone comes on the line I simply put the 'phone down and walk away.

    I'm sure there are very many fine people in India (in fact I know there are, I've worked with quite a few), that most of them wouldn't dream of getting involved with swindling and robbing innocent people, and that of the rest most regard themselves as basically honest, are just trying to make ends meet, keep some kind of roof over the kids head etc any way they can, and if it's at the expense of (relatively) wealthy residents of former colonial powers then that's just fair game (and hey, they might just have the beginnings of the kernel of some kind of arguable point there...), but when I speak to friends or relatives who've just been on the end of this or some other variety of 'phone scam over a dodgy VOIP connection from Bangalore there are times when I think that if anyone actually deserved to live next door to an unstable neighbour with nuclear weapons and a military/security establishment which seems to have an unhealthy relationship wth religious extremists it would be the people working in those call centres...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      An alternative game

      Act as if you're the callee on a phone sex chat line. They generally hang up when you ask for their credit card no before you'll finish them off.

    2. nyelvmark


      >>I think that if anyone actually deserved to live next door to an unstable neighbour with nuclear weapons and a military/security establishment which seems to have an unhealthy relationship wth religious extremists it would be the people working in those call centres...

      So, you think they're in Canada, then?

    3. Anonymous Coward

      This title contains only letters...

      I like the line "is your mother proud of what you do for a living?". Thanks; I shall add it to my normal response, which is to say, "What you are doing is scamming; are you proud of the fact that you cheat widows and orphans out of their hard-earned cash?" and slam down the phone.

      While I would like to spin them out for a while, my time is too precious to waste with these tossers.

  21. Tom 35

    I'm calling from Microsoft network support...

    me- Why are you telling me about your dick?

    them- What? Long silence followed by click.

  22. lawndart

    What do you mean, not called you?

    I get called far, far too often; frequently two in the evening, for at least the last eighteen months.

    I have tried blowing whistles, slamming big books shut, boiling the kettle and generally giving them a hard time but they still keep ringing.

    I have "used" various different OS in this time, just to keep them on their toes, up to and including confusing a Sinclair programmable calculator with a computer (yes, it still works although the 9v battery cover has long since gone walkabout).

    Regardless of the name they give me, if they sound Indian I call them Rani to wind them up.

    I have a test rig for fixing computers and this is nomally booted from CD for whichever OS I need and has an empty hard drive. One day I may let one of the callers amok on it and see how much fun I can have as they dig about in a sandbox.

    1. Znort666

      I like that idea...

      maybe I should set up my VIC20 if they call me and get them to talk me through the problem...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had a few...

    I've had a few of these, but as I got more annoyed about them, I started to waste the time of the guys on the other end, rather than just hanging up or bollocking them.

    The last one I let the guy go through his script, then he asked me to open IE, I said I couldn't becuase I dont' have IE, he then presumed that I would be able to open Safari, which suggests they are geared up for Mac too. I told him that I use linux, he said he'd put me through to the linux department, and accidentally cut me off... I haven't been called back since.

  24. James Boag

    Funny that

    The Scammers have the same accents the the Telco out source to, About time BT TalkTalk ect we ask why these guys have our numbers .

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Rape alarm or airhorn down the phone.

    Or rig up some dodgy/illegal device involving a power amp.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    I'd like to see them try this when

    I start up my IRIX, VMS, Solaris, RISC OS, Win3.x etc. machines.

  27. Southern


    I had thought these sorts of scams had died down somewhat but it's always interesting to hear how you guys deal with them.

    Sadly, I haven't dealt with one of these chaps yet, but my father (who is a Mac user through and through) has repeatedly told them he uses a Mac, after which point the caller usually gets confused about what to do and eventually hangs up. Perhaps their "solution" is only Windows based?

    I only seem to get scarily over-animated financial sales calls cajoling me into buying stock options. Fun times!

  28. Anonymous Coward

    In general: don't trust phonecalls!

    This maybe slightly besides the topic (not offtopic IMO) but this is the reason why you should never handle serious issues over the phone. Arguments over a allegedly unpaid bill? NEVER use the phone; it'll be your word against theirs, use mail or e-mail.

    Getting calls that $company has a new and fantastic deal for you? NEVER decide at that time and place; tell them to mail it to you so you can look into it (and compare). If they won't or "this is a one time offer only" its "no thanks" which is the right answer. 9 out of 10 times you're legally tricked into doing something which may sound profitable but will end up being (much) less profitable than you think or realize at that time.

    This is no different. People are better of telling these blokes to send all the details in an regular mail and then decide for themselves if action is required. NEVER do stuff like this nor make other important decisions over the phone.

    Even if this would go to court I bet you'll be stuck with "he said, we said". Its not worth it, in general.

    1. The Beer Monster

      Good advice

      If someone calls you claiming to be from your bank, ask for a reference number and drop the call. Call your bank. Tell them someone rang claiming to be them. If the call was genuine, you'll get through to the right people.

      If someone calls you claiming to be from your credit card company, ask for a reference number and drop the call. Call your credit card company. Tell them someone rang claiming to be them. If the call was genuine, you'll get through to the right people.


  29. Neil Charles

    Online survey?

    "The software giant surveyed 7,000 computer users in the UK, Ireland, US and Canada and found an average of 16 per cent of people had received such calls"

    In my experience, you get 10-15% false positives with online surveys when you ask a question that invites an affirmative response.

    "Have you ever received a tech support call from MS?". Oooh, I must have, I'm sure I remember one so better click yes. That coupled with people straight lining the survey (they're never ALL cleaned up) to get the points / reward on offer gives a pretty high error to that type of question.

    It's why marketers and PR people like online surveys so much. They're cheap and it's very easy to get a headline that says over 50% of people have done... xxxx or are concerned about... xxxxx

  30. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    I want one!

    I only get those scumbags on the phone about cheap/non-existent stocks. I wish I'd got one of these guys, sounds like fun, well for the first couple of calls.

    The only time I've had fun was when some stock scammer called me and I simply answered YES in a very strong Scandinavian accent, to everything they said. Just before they hung up they said, "Sorry, is there someone in charge, someone who looks after you as you appear to be mentally deficient. Can I speak to your carer?" I tried not to laugh and simply answered YES once more and they hung up!

  31. Anonymous Coward


    Lemon drizzle cake, lemon drizzle cake, have you any nuts?

  32. blindjustis
    Big Brother

    ISPs selling the call list?

    When they phoned me, the thing that disturbed me most is that they knew my home address and my IP address too.

    I'm beginning to wonder if they are buying call lists from ISPs....

    1. Jedit Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      I don't think so

      If they have your telephone number then they can get your home address easily, of course, and I'm sure there's a way to query a telephone number to get the active IP on that line.

      Can anyone provide an exemplar of someone being called by these scammers who does not have any kind of internet connection?

    2. Roger Mew


      Funny you should say that, I know that here in France if you are stupid enough to put the ISP's disc in your computer then you give for example France Telecom the "opportunity" to scan your computer. Dont believe it? OK when I complained about the problems with the internet the engineer turned up up with my FT infor, my email address entry password etc. I have and never will use an ISP offered email system I also use a proprietry modem, not FT's, and go thru OpenDNS.

      I discovered that FT spent a lot of time trying to hack into my system. How did I know, suddenly my routing went from local routing straight to Rennes and then to the UK. What is at Rennes, oh yes the IT people. My daughter wh0 lives next door did not have it. Then I started getting attemped flood attacks, where form, oh yes FT Rennes. They know I know, I sent them an e "offereing" a little targetted virus, it all stopped. Coincidence, huh, so you think it came from where?

  33. Kebablog
    Thumb Up

    Glad i'm.....

    .....not the only one that likes to keep them on the phone. I often play dumb with them, answering their questions with stupid replies.

    When asked what computer I had, I paused and said it was silver and black. Wonder what they'll do in the post PC device era :p

  34. NogginTheNog

    Had one the other day

    The first for some time (had a couple a year or two ago). I let him go through his stuff for a while as I had an idea to try and get some info that I might be able to pass on to the police or something, but bottled it when it got to Teamviewing in to my PC. I shut it down, and he then passed me to his 'manager' who then tried to persuade me to continue. Interestingly when I told him he was a liar and a thief, he calmly explained he wasn't and offered to direct my to their website and show me their credentials and what-not.

    So I'm gonna build an XP vm, and next time I'll fire that up and let them go through the motions, website and all, and get as much as I can out of the thieving bastards...

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Hack the Gibson!

    Anyone thought of loading up a few virtual workstations and letting them bounce in whilst you find out where they are coming in from and trying to hack them back? Lulz! Quick we need you! :)

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I went along with this...

    I had a spare freshly-installed VirtualBox Windows XP installation which I fired up during the initial stages of the call and then gave it to them to let them do their worst in. (This works because you initiate the remote control connection from your end via a browser, and no initial inbound connection is required.)

    I got the the usual ruse of getting me to open up my event log to show me all the "errors" that would "make my computer crash".

    I was then passed from the front-door guy to a back-office guy who proceeded with the remote control access to my virtual machine.

    He installed a piece of freeware cleanup software and ran it, but wanted £70 for having done so.

    I asked the guy if he felt guilty about scamming people and extracting money from them. The reply, which made me feel sorry for him, was that he had no choice and had to put food on the table for his family. I asked him if he'd consider using his skills to do something a bit more worthwhile - he asked me to pray for him before we then agreed to terminate the call.

    No malware appeared to be present, so it seemed to be a one-time scam, rather than a keylogger or botnet installation. Mind you, the virtual image was deleted immediately afterwards, just in case!

  37. Nick Gibbins

    There's a lot of it about

    I had occasion to work from home recently (lots of exam papers to mark, fewer students disturbing me than if I marked them in my office) and received three such calls in a four day period. Now, my wife kept her surname when we married, and the phone line is in her name, so being addressed as "Mr <her_name>" is normally a good indication that I'm about to be scammed.

    I doff my hat to those people who say theyve managed to keep the scammers on the line for as long as twenty minutes or half an hour; my best time was eleven minutes (strategy: calm, concerned and clueless) before I gave in and pointed out that a) I have a PhD in computer science, b) there's no way I'm going to install a random piece of software, and c) I know when someone is trying to scam me. They got quite abusive last time, but the effect of being called a 'fucking motherfucker' in a thick Indian accent is more comical than alarming.

    Perhaps I could get a better score if I gave them free rein of a suitably sandboxed honeypot computer?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's not that hard.

      17m is my record thus far. I'm prevented from improving my record by the fact they don't call me anymore.

      Look, have you ever had to support someone over the phone with no remote access? Pretend to be that kind of user. 30 seconds of before saying you can't find the start bar, etc (oh wow, i've never seen that before! I just have shortcuts on the desktop!) etc etc etc.

      Get indignant "I'm not supid!" if they give you foolproof step by step instructions and force them to do things the slowest way possible.

      Anybody used to dealing with (l)users should be able to burn at least 5 minutes just GETTING to the event log in a way that convinces the scammer that your not being evasive, just utterly helpless. Misunderstand any instruction in any feasible way but don't get them frustrated enough to hang up.

      When you get to the software bit, give him a 404 error at least once, and tell him he that's misspelt the URL he gave you. Then, in true user fashion gush that your trying to download it but your virus scanner is blocking it which is silly because it's obviously not really a virus and he's a nice man from IT and all you need is some help turning (pick random virus scanner your familiar with) off. Say it's asking for the administrator password and is it ok to put it in? Ask if the administrator password is "makesomethingup" which is used for everything else? Check with the scammer at this point that it is safe to reuse that password for everything including banking, isn't it?

      I've never actually done one while sitting at a computer; if you are get the URL that they give you and submit it to all of the anti phising lines. Also, download but don't run the file and submit it to a couple of AV companies.

      Claim you've run the program. If they put you on the spot and ask you what's come up on the screen claim either the application has crashed or the PC has, etc.

      Stringing them out shouldn't be hard for anybody who's ever taken a helldesk call. Just mix and match the worst attributes of the worst callers that you can manage on the spur of the moment.

  38. Zippy the Pinhead

    I wish they would call me!

    I would have to reply back with a Russian accent and Thank them for calling USA Prime Credit, My name is Peggy.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Pay fees?

    What, like regularly paying out for new versions that are just big fixes and cosmetic changes?

    Yes, indeed... I certainly have heard of the Microsoft scammers!

  40. Andrew Waite

    Has been around for a while

    I received a call similar to this last year, if they get a non-technical person on the phone I'm not surprised that they get results; the scam is well put together and there's plenty of opportunity for them to place the victim in dummy mode.

    My grandfather also got the same call, he believed them but thankfully said 'thanks, I'll tell my grandson' and hung-up :)

    Covered my experiences:

  41. Anonymous Coward


    What's that?

    A virus on my computer? And you need my password?

    ...Care to be more specific; which one of my six computers are you talking about?

    ...The Windows one? I see...

    ...but one's a Mac and th rest are using Ubuntu!

    Problem solved.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    Pretend to be the cops

    This recording of someone doing exactly that is pretty good:

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Beat them at their own game.

    Found out their number, call them up at like three in the morning and tell them they have a virus on their computer.

  44. Bob Wheeler

    Jolly Wizz Game

    I wonder if the following approach might work well.

    Them: "Hello this is the X corp support team"

    Me: "Hi. This the MI5 Anti-Terrorism support Team. Thanks for returning my call so promtly, we are having problems with our 'phone traceing' software intergrating with the US Air Force Predator drone aircraft. It seems that when we trace a incoming phone call, which is done auotmatically by the way, the system passes the GPS location to the nearest Predator drone and instigates an air strike....."

    What do you think?

  45. vincent himpe

    I get calls through Skype !

    i have had 3 calls in the last 2 months through Skype.. Fortunately i use a real hardware Skype phone (cisco) and do not have the skype software installed on any of my computers.

    So its fun if they ask if i am on a computer i answer no i am on a phone...

    Pretty interesting how they can call me if they are not on my list. And they;re probably violating skype's rules as well.

  46. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: My mother had one of these

      Just keep an eye on the @lulzsec twitter stream and when they post their "support" number for the lulz hacking, give them a call with the details...

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Christopher Webb

    Rules 1 and 2!

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