This morning my phone rang, it was an unknown number but I answered it because I thought it might have been the same person who had just sent me a text regarding a tech query.
The caller identified himself as working for Windows Support Services or some such company and immediately I thought, right how shall I work this one. I’ve had this call before, as have friends of mine. The ruse is that they call and say that your computer has suffered an error and has sent Microsoft a message which has then been sent to Windows Support to follow up and that is why they’re calling. They ask you to go onto your web browser, type in bing.com and search for their name. Naturally it appears in the search results but as it’s Microsoft’s search engine they use this to claim that they work for Microsoft, saying “look, you can find us on Microsoft’s website.”
You click on their site and immediately download and install a remote access client. With this client running the caller then remotely disables your antivirus. This is when they start asking for cash, in order to allow them to keep your PC running healthily. I have removed this client from various PCs, it’s not difficult but if you were a novice you’d never know that it was malware.
I had decided that when I next got one of these calls I was going to play dumb and go through the whole spiel, pretending to type in the web address, pretending to look at their website, pretending to allow him to connect. Pretending that I couldn’t understand why whatever they were trying to achieve wasn’t working. Then I was going to say “does it matter that this is an Apple computer not a Windows one?” Click, beeeep.
As it happened I was a little busy with my genuine tech query so in the end I let him go through the script, which has changed now and no longer talks about errors being sent to Microsoft but now says that you may have picked up viruses and spyware inadvertently but as a registered Windows user they have been asked to check your computer for problems.
“That’s strange though,” I said. “I don’t use Windows.”
“You don’t have Windows?”
“No, I use a Mac.” (I don’t, I have a Windows 7 laptop, Windows 7 netbook and Windows 8 desktop, FYI).
“You don’t have any Windows computers?”
“Nope. And I want to know who gave you my details, this is very serious, I’m going to look into this. And you should know, I’m an IT manager.”
“A local company, that’s irrelevant.”
“Well, I can’t tell you who provided the details…” blah blah blah. “Thank you for your time, have a good day.” Click, beeeeep.
On an online forum another person called by the original scam called them out on the “Microsoft gave us your details” part, as I had done on the previous call – he told them that Microsoft never gives out customers details to third parties, and he should know, being a manager at Microsoft UK. Click, beeeeeep.