Thursday, May 7, 2015

"Hello, I'm Calling From Microsoft and I'm Here to Rob You."

I got that call today.

It showed up as "Private Number" on my caller ID, but I picked it up anyway.

It was a guy with an Indian accent calling from "Microsoft Windows in California" and informing me that my computer was doing bad things and that he was here to help me fix them. In case you've never gotten one of these calls, the scam is to get you to boot up your computer, go into the system files folder (your scammer will guide you there), and ask you if you have certain files showing up in the folder listing. You will have those files, because they are perfectly normal system files, but lots of people don't know that and your scammer is counting on your ignorance. He'll then have you type some commands that will give him control over your computer, and he'll install some malware on your computer so he can read your passwords and logon IDs, which he'll find very handy when he wants to go online to empty your bank account. Here's what Microsoft - the real Microsoft - says about these scams.

I decided to play along. Fortunately for my new friend, I don't have a police whistle or an air horn, because otherwise he'd be visiting a doctor to treat his newly-ruptured eardrum, so I decided I would just tell him I needed to boot up the computer and it would take a few minutes, and then resume what I was doing until he got bored and hung up. My object was to see how long I could string him along (hey, I'm retired; I have lots of time for this kind of stuff).

He said that was fine, and I should take my time, and he would wait for me.

I put the phone down and resumed looking at my Twitter feed, and after a couple of minutes, picked up the phone again and asked if he was still there. He was, and I told him the computer was still booting. He was very nice about it, said he understood, these things can sometimes take a while, and he'd be happy to wait.

Then I got a brilliant idea.

I took the cordless phone I was using and went and got another cordless phone from another room. And I fired that phone up.

Then I placed the two phones right next to each other, speaker-end to earpiece-end. If you've ever done that, you know the result is a frightful high-pitched whine.

I held the phones like that for about 30 seconds, then hung up.

A minute or two later, the phone rings again. It was my Microsoft buddy. I have to give him credit, he's a persistent fuck.

"Did you hang up?" he asked me.

"Yes, there was a terrible static coming from your end and I couldn't hear anything. It seems to be better now."

So we resumed our "reboot" session (my computer is on 24/7) and after a couple of seconds, I mated the phones again. Here's the video, in case you want to try it yourself someday (you might want to turn down your computer's volume a bit...).


I have to admit, I took a guilty gleeful pleasure hearing him say "Hello?" repeatedly.

After about a minute, I moved the phones apart and spoke loudly into the phone: "Hello, can you hear me?"

"Yes, is there something wrong with your phone?"

"My phone works just fine, I've been speaking with people all day long" (that was a lie on my part) "and I haven't had any trouble at all. The trouble is obviously with your phone. You need to have your phone lines looked at. Meanwhile, I thank you for your help; there's a computer shop right near my house; I'll bring it in for them to look at. Bye!"

I've been trying to feel bad about what I did, but I'm just not getting there.

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