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

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computer support scamYou’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).

computer support scam

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.

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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?

computer scams

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.

computer scams

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.

computer virus scam

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.

computer support scam

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.

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Comments (41)
  • Anonymous

    I watched a program about theses scams the other night targeting the elderly, pleased i did as had phone call today from foreign women. She said my computer was giving warning out, told her I know this is a scam! She told me to get off the line! And hung up!

  • LDG

    I was asked to type in http://www.fff.re/4lah. I refused and hung up and goggled this website and I found this post. But if I heard correctly, the scammer knew my name and he asked what I used my computer for such as: banking, shopping, business etc.

  • Nin

    Literally just got a call like this, but already weirded out because he said he was connected to our server but didn’t know the amount of computers we had in the house (hint: more than one). Made him waste his time but after we got to the red and yellow list, I told him I was too busy to try whatever his solution was going to be and he kinda pissily said “If that is what you choose” and hung up. Huh.

  • Y C

    I’ve just literally got off the phone to them and did a google search and found this thread. The phone is ringing again as I type. I am calling my phone provider to block the number.
    The website I got told to go on was “showmypc .c om” which clearly is not a part of Microsoft.
    Having told the guy I had antivirus software, he told me that my antivirus was rubbish and I was stupid to buy antivirus.
    Annnywayy ended the last phone call quite heavily after the Indian man down the other end dared to claim I was an “illiterate female” which as a feminist I did not take lightly as he found out shortly after the remark.

    • Tim Brookes

      That’s horrible, glad you are tech savvy enough to realise that this is a scam!

      I wouldn’t worry about what someone who scams people for a living thinks about you. Call your phone provider and see if they can block the number if they keep ringing, though do be aware that many of these scammers use internet telephony to hide their tracks and make it virtually impossible to actually block or trace the calls.

  • Ray

    Been there, still there. The same scam has rung my phone 4 times and counting. I have told them the first time that I knew it was a scam. The second time I played with them for about an hour. I was acting like a total computer illiterate and I had that middle eastern man soooooo mad that he hung up on me! Now I just tell them that I only own apple products.

    • Tim Brookes

      Haha Ray, I’m rather fond of your technique of wasting their time to the point where they get annoyed and hang up on you. That’s a victory right there.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.