Cold Calling Computer Technicians: Don’t Fall For A Scam Like This [Scam Alert!]

intro1   Cold Calling Computer Technicians: Dont Fall For A Scam Like This [Scam Alert!]You’ve probably heard the term “don’t scam a scammer” but I’ve always been fond of “don’t scam a tech writer” myself. I’m not saying we’re infallible, but if your scam involves the Internet, a Windows PC and a cold calling technician, it won’t take long for the penny to drop.

I’m basing this article on my experience with a would-be scammer who called my parents house last week. This isn’t the first time Mr Windows Repair Guy has so helpfully graced us with his detailed instructions, and this time I was determined to find out exactly what the deal was.

Tell your friends, tell your relatives – Microsoft does not call to fix your PC.

The Call

When the phone rang, the guy on the other end claimed to be from “Windows Technical Support”. Many people would probably notice that something is awry at this point, as Microsoft isn’t known for cold calling to tell you there’s a problem with your computer. Straight away I knew it was the good old “you’ve got viruses, and we can fix ‘em” scam, so instead of the “where’s the Start button on my Linux desktop?” routine I had fun with last time, I thought I’d play along.

I was informed that Microsoft had detected that I had viruses on my computer, and that if I didn’t follow his advice to remove them, my computer could “crash unexpectedly at any time” (tell me something I don’t know).

1management   Cold Calling Computer Technicians: Dont Fall For A Scam Like This [Scam Alert!]

So I sat down at my parents’ new Windows 7 machine and asked him what sort of viruses I had. He told me to click on Start, right-click on Computer and choose Manage. Then I was told to click Event Viewer, Custom Views then Administrative Events.

This is where the scam gets somewhat believable. This screen displays a log of messages from various services and programs running on your PC. At first glance, there are a lot of red crosses and warning triangles, which could probably look quite serious to an average user.

2administrativeevents   Cold Calling Computer Technicians: Dont Fall For A Scam Like This [Scam Alert!]

Apparently, these were my viruses!

The Fix

I was then asked if I could delete any of these new-found viruses with a simple right-click and Delete. As we all know by now – these aren’t viruses. Additionally, you can’t remove the log with the right-click context menu, so I guess they’re just here to stay?

3myvirus   Cold Calling Computer Technicians: Dont Fall For A Scam Like This [Scam Alert!]

Of course the fix was only round the corner. Once I’d informed my new best friend that I couldn’t remove them, he told me to open Internet Explorer (!) and assured me there was software available to help victims like me.

The website I was told to visit was AMMYY.com (which we are not linking to), but the software didn’t seem to match up. This website claims to provide a remote desktop solution, not the malware dressed up as security software I was expecting.

4canuhasdelete   Cold Calling Computer Technicians: Dont Fall For A Scam Like This [Scam Alert!]

At this point I had been on the phone for a good 15 minutes, with much of the conversation lost in translation as I struggled to understand the heavy Indian accent. I had words, informed him that I knew exactly what was going on and would be reporting the incident to BT (the telephone provider) as well as shaming him in any way possible and bid him adieu.

ammyy   Cold Calling Computer Technicians: Dont Fall For A Scam Like This [Scam Alert!]

Didn’t stop him calling back immediately though did it?

The Cost

There are a plethora of reasons you shouldn’t trust a cold caller, but even more so when it comes to your PC, your personal information and suspicious software. The costs associated with someone gaining remote access to your computer could be devastating. Sensitive information relating to bank accounts, passwords for paid services and documents that could be used to forge an identity could be stolen.

5ohnoeitsascam   Cold Calling Computer Technicians: Dont Fall For A Scam Like This [Scam Alert!]

Goods could be ordered via services that save your billing information and any sites that remember logins will be easily accessible. In addition to theft, safeguards like anti-virus programs might be disabled and further malicious software like keyloggers and trojans could be installed.

There is unfortunately very little that can be done to combat these scams. I phoned BT and was told that the numbers from this type of call are virtually untraceable, but calls came from “somewhere in Asia” and were a persistent problem. If the perpetrators are using VoIP services like Skype, the calls are not easy to trace, and it’s not impossible to use a ringback service to decipher the number.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article has provided some brief insight into this kind of computer support scam, which is prevalent all over the world. Unless you fancy becoming part of the big bad botnet, you’d better never trust a caller like this. Variations are common – sometimes it’s bogus anti-virus software that requires payment, or similar – so remain vigilant.

I’m not sure whether AMMYY.com are a legitimate company or not, but Panda’s Firefox plugin doesn’t rate the website and nor does a quick Google search which brings up all sorts of “scam” notices. I’m going to recommend that nobody uses an AMMYY.com product, purely on the basis that there are lots of quality proven alternatives that aren’t linked to dishonest individuals who want your money, data and bandwidth.

Have you had any phone calls like this? Do you know anyone who has? Consider sharing this article, and spreading the word. Comments and discussion are welcome below this article.

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

32 Comments -

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Tim, I’m digging the intro image. :P

0 votes

Tim Brookes

Glad you approve ;)

0 votes

Shina Memud

Mr Tim the innocent person,

Must the image be a black man?

0 votes

Jeffery Fabish

Does it really matter the race? He wrote a very in-depth article trying to keep you safe and you have to find something to complain about, and more so it’s about the race of a guy on a fucking picture? Just read the article, learn something and shut the hell up.

0 votes

Tim Brookes

Hi, 

As a few others have already noted, the post image is a character from a British TV show called Fonejacker. The video below might clear it up a bit. No racist connotations intended :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgHQDhoAc6s

0 votes

Ric Weide

When ever you get calls from someone like Microsoft Google, etc.  Demand that you speak to someone from the United States. They are required to grant your request. This will short circuit any scams, and help get the call centers back to the U S.!

0 votes

Tim Brookes

Handy tip, thanks for your input.

0 votes

Carol Hussey

We have experienced this type of call and couldn’t believe how persistent they were even when we told them we knew it was a scam. We got as many as 4 or 5 calls in one evening. They also try the “I’ll refer you to my manager so that you know it is legitimate” – of course all of this on very heavily accented English. It’s also impossible to reach Microsoft to try to verify anything. Thanks for more info.

0 votes

Tutu

Must te image be a white man then?

0 votes

Jinxykatt

Shina, the person in the image is from a tv show called fonejacker.

A show where a comedian calls cold calls people for the purpose of amusement. That pic is the Nigerian scammer. See the connection??

0 votes

RJC

I have actually used the Ammyy Admin program to remote control/diagnose problems with family’s computer.  It hasn’t made either of our computers blow up and worked pretty well for what it was supposed to do.  It could be the scammer was just using it because it’s a simple remote desktop program.  :shrug:

0 votes

Noone

Or could be you’ve opened yourself & your family up to a world of pain. To be on the safe side may I suggest teamviewer &/or logmein both very well respected remote desktop programs.

OR MAYBE EVEN THE INBUILT REMOTE DESKTOP THAT COMES WITH WINDOWS!!!

Just a thought.

0 votes

Tim Brookes

I wasn’t sure about this. It is actually a crying shame if this company is legitimate yet has had it’s entire reputation muddied by these scammers. A search on Google for “AMMYY [dot] com” does reveal a lot of “scam” results, hence my advice just to use something else we all trust instead.

Even the basic Windows Remote Desktop client works fairly well.

0 votes

Mike

As for the story – that’s a good one. I’m not sure whether I would play along or threaten him for “hacking into my system”.

I’m no expert on this type of research but “Ammyy LLC” doesn’t seem to be registered with the State of Washington (location according to their contact details)http://www.sos.wa.gov/corps/corps_search.aspx

Don’t want to say you cannot trust them but with alternatives like TeamViewer or Mikigo I don’t see a reason to take chances.

0 votes

Tim Brookes

Yep, great advice. There are tons of free and cheap alternatives if you find that you need more advanced software. Playing along with a scam is quite fun, I’d recommend it just for their reaction alone (and to see whether they have the gall to call you back). Plus you can warn all your friends too!

0 votes

Suhel

pheww… scary article

1 votes

James Bruce

Just one minor point Tim – from what I’ve read, the software they get you to install is not actually malware, it is just remote control software. At that point, the dirty scammer will log in to your pc, do some right clicking on property boxes and delete a few random files, and at some point in the process install the actual malware. 

I had an idea though – how about running some kind of wireshark capture in a virtual machine, and tracing the IP they connect from, they doing a quick search for their location and ISP, then you could continue the conversation like so:

“I see youre connecting from Calcutta and your ISP is Crap Services Ltd. I have some friends there, hold on a moment”

“Sir, I , how do you know that? I…”

“Hey man, I need you to tell me the customer location for the IP address xx.xxx.xxx.x . Thanks man, that’s perfect, can you get the boys to go round their and show him why scamming people is a bad idea? Fantastic” 

0 votes

Tim Brookes

Hey James!

As I wasn’t running a VM, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my dad’s PC in order to find out if it was malware or just bog standard remote desktop stuff. If I ever get a call like this again I’ll boot up a VM and go the whole hog, it’ll probably make an interesting blog post or something. I agree it’s likely that you hand over the keys and watch the guy disable your antivirus, delete some harmless files and install “additional security software” out of the kindness of their heart – but Google is full of “AMMYY scam” results. This is a shame if it’s a genuine company, as they’ve got some bad press from these calls!

That’s a fairly in-depth plan you’ve got there but I’ll look into it. Sounds like you know how to find a guy ;)

Tim

0 votes

Shawn Dillon

A friend of mine ran into the same deal. Fortunately he is very computer savvy and fired up a virtual machine and captured most of it as a screen recording.

Check out his blog post.

http://www.geospecialling.com/index.php/2011/05/a-new-breed-of-scam-quickresolve-net/

0 votes

Paco_vj

Just to try and clarify, AMMY ADMIN is a remote desktop software similar to Team Viewer, ShowMyPC, etc. I use ti on a regular basis to connect to my family and friends and is definitively not a Malware, Spyware or Scam software. Unfortunately this guys form the Scam company are using it to get control of the systems and giving a bad name and reputation to the software, BUT THEY ARE NOT RELATED, or not as far as i know off. In all the time i have used the app i have never had a issue with it and it works really great.

0 votes

Khai

I got one of these fake support calls today. knowing it was a scam I decided to have some fun…

Hello?

hello this is the computer support department

what can I do for you?

your computer is sending out important information

it is!?

yes, your computer is sending out important information

can you tell me what?

it’s just sending out important information!

oh my god no

yes, your computer is sending out important information

oh my god. have you got the pictures of me , the goat and the lubrication?

 

…he hung up.

0 votes

Tim Brookes

This is funny, nice one!

0 votes

Shirley Hardy

Hi Tim,
I’m glad someone finally wrote something about this nasty business. I’ve had many phone calls from the same “supposed Windows Technical Support” people. I live in Australia and being used to Indian people on the phone, I’d almost guarantee by the Windows Technical Support people’s accents that they are 100% Indian, meaning they actually live in India. Anyway, I am very possessive over my computer, and I certainly will not let anyone access my computer over the Internet unless I am dealing with my Internet server which is Bigpond. The Windows Technical Support people hounded me constantly and eventually I told the guy I didn’t have a computer. The phone calls stopped after that. The thing that alerted me to it being a possible scam was this…Windows is an operating system not an actual manufacturer. Please bear with me. It’s like a car’s engine vs an entire car. The actual company is the car’s manufacturer not the people who made the car’s engine. The exact same thing applies with a computer – I think. I thought why would an operating system’s manufacturer (which is probably Microsoft anyway) claim to suddenly be “Windows”? Doesn’t make sense, does it, especially knowing Microsoft makes the operating system in the first place. These Windows Technical Support people are not experts of computers either, as my brother found out who fell for the scam. And they end up by also adding virus programmes to your computer via their computer. But what’s worse is they scam you out of money for a bit of software that you cannot get rid of from your computer, and it eventually makes your computer crash big time. AVOID THEM AT ALL COST AND NEVER GIVE THEM THE OPPORTUNITY TO ACCESS YOUR COMPUTER. Lie if you have to, to make them leave you alone. I don’t condone lieing but telling them you don’t have a computer seems to work and they stop calling after that.

0 votes

Fart

i like how there’s an ad to mac keeper, a well known piece of shitty malware, on the same page as this article. way to go makeuseof!

0 votes

Aibek

We work with major ad providers and rely on them to do the ad filtering for us. Could you please send me a screenshot fo the add as it appears for you and we’ll look into get it removed.

Aibek

0 votes

Itzher

Thanks Tim – the same thing is happening to me right now – from a company called ‘showmypc’ – politely told them i didn’t need their help and they keep trying to call me,
have put phone down on them twice.

0 votes

Joshua Todd Cowper

I set up a Virtual Machine and have fun. I always end up having them hang up on me, after speaking to the ‘Senior Managing Technician’.

0 votes

John

not sure how many poor buggers have had these bastards take their hard earned grocery money but we have had 7 calls in 2 months! guessing they need a better database. I fthere was a way to identify them I’m sure I could fill a plane load of volenteers to pay asia a visit. Good one you and spread it around as it’s rife hear in New Zealand at the moment.

0 votes

Jeremy

My call used showmypc.com, and assured me that they were calling from onlinespecialist.com – both appear to be legitimate.

0 votes

Tim Brookes

That’s a shame – different scammers seem to use different tactics, all the while muddying the name of decent companies who provide a legitimate service. There’s no real end in sight for this kind of scam either as the scammers are so hard to trace and can literally set up from anywhere in the world.

0 votes

Matt

I just had the same thing except they asked me to go to the showmypc website. Like the idiots didn’t think i’d be googling them before i even thought about going to the website and here i am. Seriously i went downstairs, put the phone down. They called again, i didn’t answer (mainly because i was having a piss at the time) then they called back once more at which point my exact words were “Stop talking ***, i know this is a scam. DO NOT CALL AGAIN!”

Phone down…. Back to NFS: The Run.