Thursday, April 10, 2014

Computer Scamming

She was insistent.  She was persistent.  She was annoying.  I couldn't hang up.

She was calling from Windows Technical Support.  She'd noticed that I had been accessing sites which were dangerous and she was calling to fix the problem.  She didn't ask me for a password.  She gave me an American name through a thick but understandable accent.  And always, she insisted.

Go to Control Panel and after several more prompts she knew exactly what the code looked like on my screen.  CMI....that is very bad  and that's where it got dicey.  She gave me a string of letters and numbers to type into a box on my monitor.  That would allow her colleague to gain access to my machine remotely.  He would then fix the problem

Alarm bells began to go off in my frazzled head.

We screen our calls with Caller ID.  If it's an unknown number or a blocked number or a series of unrecognizable digits or the name of an institution to which we have donated in the past we exit the screen and let the machine deal with it.  I rarely check that machine these days; if you want me you know how to find me if I want you to have that level of access.

Access..... she kept demanding access.

I began to wonder why I had picked up the phone in the first place.  It rang.  I grabbed.  I didn't check the number.

You called me.... I'm not letting you into my machine.  

How can this be a problem, Ma'am?  Did I not read you the code just now?

That one had me stumped.  When I am stumped, and the issue has anything at all to do with the inner workings of my computers, I call Brother.  He worked in IT, he understands IT, he rebuilds IT, he explains IT, and he even knows what IT means.  He's also very willing to help his less-than-competent-in-these-matters sister when she runs into trouble.

I think I'm going to call my brother who knows about these things.  If he says it's okay, I'll call you back and we can proceed.  Do you have a number at which you can be reached?

I didn't have much hope for that; none of these call center techs have ever been able to give out a number.  She didn't even try.  She went back on the offensive.

This is very important, you understand? Yes, there was a question in her voice.  As if I were too stupid to pay attention.  That was when I began to suspect a scam.

Perhaps you could call me back tomorrow at this same time?  I will hve talked to my consultant and then we can proceed.

She was not amused.  She pressed on.  I enjoyed myself for a minute or two, pressing back, then I hung up and emailed Brother.  He was back to me in a flash : DO NOTHING!!!!

There followed a history of these scams, wonderment at the code she'd found on my computer (apparently of no particular purpose in virus detecting but some random combinations which are easy to bring up), praise for my ability to see through it, and a list of sites to visit and download and run to scan the computer for any malicious software my typing that line of code in the search box might have allowed inside.

Secunia.... Trend Micro.... AVG..... he said they would take as long as it does to clean your car.

I wonder if he's seen my car lately.

Days later, I've run them all, heard that Intrepid Cat, his daughter, had the same issue, and laughed at her response.  She is a contractor in a federal department in Washington, DC.  The same scam was run by her, but, being her father's child, she was quicker to catch on than I was.  After playing with her interlocutor for a while, she asaked if he knew that he'd called a federal employee and that he was engaging in a federal crime...tampering with our government's computerization or something because she never got too far into the spiel before they hung up.

That's what I should've done.  Hung up.


  1. My husband, the computer guru, is dealing with numerous people who have gotten scammed this way. A few have actually allowed the person to take control of the computer and then had to pay to get it back. All elderly people. My husband came home yesterday knashing his teeth over the latest one, a man who really should have known better than to think that Microsoft would be calling him. Terry will try to redo the computer and get rid of the malware that has been installed, but he keeps saying, "why do people fall for this?"

    1. Had he been on my end of the phone he would understand. It was the most sophisticated patter....


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