They will ruin your day, and if they manage to con you, they could ruin your life with identity theft. It’s the “Windows tech support” scammers, the perpetrators of a scam that implies you have a virus on your computer that only they can fix — for a fee. Once you agree to their remote access software, you and your data are at their mercy…
Now, we’ve recently explained how you should handle a tech support scam phone call. The sensible thing to do is to just hang up – without even talking – before telling everyone you know that these people are working on a massive con.
But you want to fight back. You might think that it’s a good idea to let others know what they’re letting themselves in for if they embrace the scammers, perhaps by recording and sharing a call from a Windows tech support scammer.
The thing is, this might not be a good idea.
How It Might Go in Your Head
The idea is intriguing, but it probably isn’t something you should get involved with unless you’re absolutely clear about the outcome, and the preparation.
Here’s an example call:
Now, the recording above was made on the spur of the moment, half-way through a conversation, and recorded on my Android smartphone. It’s not bad, but it could have been better. So why wasn’t it?
You Probably Won’t Be Prepared
Put simply, I wasn’t prepared. You probably won’t be, either.
Let’s be clear: there’s only one way to catch the scammers in the act, and that’s to record the call. But to record them, you’ll need to ensure that you are prepared. Recording a call on a landline isn’t the easiest thing, but it is possible.
However, the privacy concerns with recording calls should not be overlooked. Different countries and territories have different rules; for instance, in the UK, it’s legal to record a call without telling the other person if the call is for personal use. In the USA, however, it depends on your state; this Wikipedia article provides further detail.
Scam Calls on Your Mobile
Want to share scam calls received on your smartphone? Again, you might want to record calls, and if you’re using Android you have a few good options available. As a general rule, however, you shouldn’t expect any of them to “just work” — often these apps will only work on a small group of phones.
(Interestingly, it seems that there is some difference in how the telephony systems of phones from different manufacturers work, with the result that with some apps, calls can be easily recorded, and other times cannot.)
For iPhone, look at Yallo’s Call Recorder, which will record incoming calls for free. Credit is required for recording outgoing calls.
You’ll Need to Keep the Scammers Talking
The scammer is on the phone. You’re determined to record the call, and use it later. But in order to do this, you’re going to have to put yourself in the firing line, and expose yourself to the scam. This means engaging with the scammers, and keeping them talking.
Do you really want to do this?
It’s entirely possible, for example, that you’ll be quite comfortable feigning ignorance, seeming grateful for the call, perhaps mentioning that your PC has been running slow. You might try their patience by “struggling” to find the website to download their remote app.
Getting a decent recording, however, means a bit more than this. You’ll have to keep them talking, while simultaneously keeping personal information to yourself. If you are going down this route, please play safe. You don’t really want to let the scammer onto your PC for real, so one option is to invite them into a virtual machine session. This is done by running a version of Windows in a VM and using that session to download the scammer’s remote software.
Why You Shouldn’t Share the Tech Support Scam Call
With the recording complete, you’ll want to share it. Perhaps you’ve plans to share it on YouTube, (yes, audio can be uploaded to YouTube) if you didn’t webcast it live in Google Hangouts, or use Periscope to share it live to the Internet, as it happens.
Now, it would be great if you ended up with with something like this…
…but the fact is, you won’t. You’re putting yourself at risk recording the call, not only from the scammer, but from the authorities, too. Wasting the scammer’s time might seem like a good idea; it may feel public spirited, but really, there’s no need. A trip to YouTube reveals dozens of similar calls, recorded, uploaded and shared. You don’t need to add to this number.
You just need to hang up.
Have you recorded a Windows tech support scam call and put it online? Share your findings in the comments!