On Friday I experienced first-hand the methods by which scammers are attempting to dupe Australians into paying for software to remotely “fix” computers that just ain’t broke.
The call came through to my home office via VoIP, and while I was in no way fooled by the scam, I could well imagine the less computer literate making a horrible mistake – hence my duty to report the experience.
The caller claimed to be from the “computer maintenance department” of a company called “Online PC Manager” (the web site for which can be found here).
According to the caller, I was registered in “Windows Operating Services” (excuse me?) and was being called because of bad data “installed on all Windows computers”.
In a weird twist of logic he asked me if I had a computer, and whether it ran Windows. These people aren’t trained particularly well. But the script does get a little more clever once you buy (or pretend to buy) their story.
The offer of remote support starts with asking the victim to press the Windows button and ‘R’ – which brings up the ‘run’ dialogue.
The victim is then asked to type in ‘inf’, which takes you to a Windows Explorer window listing files used to install the Windows Operating System.
These, the scammer said, are the files slowing down my system, downloaded from “watching videos on the internet”.
He was offering to connect me to a “technician” to fix the problem before I stopped his sales pitch.
Other users have reported being asked to type “prefetch” into the run dialogue and being given a pin number to use in a LogMeIn session to give the ‘technician’ access to the computer.
I didn’t quite let him get that far, as I thought it best to come clean with him, tell him I knew what was going on, and see if I could induce him to tell me who he was working for - it sounded like a crowded call centre in the sub-continent to me. (And mate, if you happen to be reading this, my offer still stands!)
I have included some of the transcript from our conversation on the following page.
But more importantly, what you need to be telling your less tech-savvy friends and relatives is that companies like Microsoft and LogMeIn don’t randomly call home users offering remote support.
Unsolicited "support" calls are most likely a scam,aimed at convincing you to buy security software you don’t need, and maybe even stealing information from your PC.
iTnews journalist Liz Tay gave her mother some great advice on how to deal with these guys. String them along, and just when they think they have a sale, ask if the Windows button is supposed to look like an apple.
What are your tips for dealing with remote support scammers? Comment below.
Scammer: “I am calling with regards to your computer, Sir.”
BW: “My computer?”
Scammer: “Do you have a computer, sir?”
BW: “Yes. Isn’t that what you are calling about?”
Scammer: “Sir, we have information about bad data installed on all Windows computers, sir. We are calling every Windows user.”
BW: “How do you know I use Windows?”
Scammer: “Do you have a computer, sir?”
BW: “I think we established that I do.”
Scammer: “Is it a Windows computer, sir?”
Scammer: “We are calling you, sir, because you are registered [indecipherable].”
BW: “Sorry, how did you know I use Windows? Where am I registered?”
Scammer: “Because you are registered in Windows Operating Services.”
BW: “What company are you calling from?”
Scammer: “I am calling from Computer Maintenance Department.”
BW: “What company do you call from?”
Scammer: “From Online PC Manager, sir. You can see us on the internet. Do you have an internet browser?”
Scammer: “Go to www.onlinepcmanager.com ”
BW: “And where is this company based.”
Scammer: “South Erina, Melbourne, Sir.”
BW: “What do you propose to do about this problem with my computer”?
Scammer: “Are you in front of your computer right now?”
BW: “Yes. And it’s a Windows computer!”
Scammer: “See the Windows key on the bottom-left of your keyboard? Press that key and the letter R.”
Scammer: “What do you see?”
BW: “I see ‘Run’.”
Scammer: “Yes, now is there any text in the box?”
Scammer: “Delete that text and type “inf”.
Scammer: “Press enter.”
Scammer: “What can you see?”
BW: “A file window.”
Scammer: “You see these files? These are harmful files downloaded when you are browsing the internet.”
BW: “Oh, really?”
Scammer: “Yes. When you go on the internet and watch movies and all.”
BW: “I see.”
Scammer: “If you don’t do anything about it, the computer will work very, very slow sir.”
BW: “What do you propose we do about it?”
Scammer: “I’ll go ahead and connect you to a technician and they will help you out.”
BW: “Before you do that. Can I tell you something? I know exactly what this is about. I know that you are being paid to sit in a call centre, somewhere that is not in Melbourne, to make these calls...."