A Windows’ support scam ringleader has been convicted for masterminding a familiar scam in promising to fix non-existent problems on Windows PCs. Sadly its just the tip of the iceberg; one down, but quite a few more to go. I’ve had a number of these calls over the past year or so, the latest two being within the last fortnight. Here’s how I deal with them.
The opening gambit is that the automatic problem reporting system on my PC has indicated that some malware/virus etc. will cause something bad to happen very soon, but fortunately they can help me resolve the problem immediately. At this point, I play the total innocent and express great concern that my PC may be compromised, but to ensure that I fully understand what’s going on, I ask countless stupid questions along the lines of ‘how do you know about this’, ‘what sort of problem is it’, ‘what will it do to my PC’, all interspersed with expressions of wonderment at modern technology. I also like to clear up a few points about their business relationship with Microsoft, because you just can’t be too careful these days with all of these awful stories of computer scams. The line quality is usually poor (Asia’s a long way away, and the English accents aren’t always very clear), so I usually ask for each answer or explanation to be repeated a few times, and then repeat the answer back to them, just to make sure that I fully understand what they have said. Of course, they are very anxious to gallop on with their script, but since I’m being so receptive, they are prepared to exercise a bit of patience. Sometimes it is necessary to reassure them that I really do want to get this problem resolved. So ensuring that I fully what’s going on can take up quite a good deal of time before we get to the crunch when they want to guide me through the process of fixing the problem. The dialogue goes something like this:
Are you at your PC?
Is it switched on?
No; do you want me to switch it on?
OK, this may take a few minutes – these machines are a bit slow starting up aren’t they?
Let me know when it has started.
A little while later:
I’m ready. What do I have to do?
Hold down the Control Key (bottom left hand corner of the keyboard).
Yes. I’m doing that.
Now press the Windows Key.
Which one is that?
It’s next to the Control Key.
Oh, I can’t see that; what does it look like?
It has the Windows logo on it.
No, I don’t think I’ve got one of those. You don’t normally get one of those on a Mac, do you?
The call typically concludes at this point, usually by the guy slamming the phone down, but the most recent one did unleash an impressive array of profanities before hanging up. My personal record for call duration is just under 30mins.