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Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Call from Windows Service Center – A Scam

 

I don’t usually write about scams, but had a fun phone call this morning and thought I would just put out a warning for the 1 or 2 readers out there who may fall victim to such a scam.

I got a phone call from an unknown-name, unknown number. Well, actually my wife answered the call, and when I overheard the conversation I quickly asked for the phone before she hung up – I knew immediately what the call was about and I wanted to have some fun.

The caller starts off by identifying himself as working for Microsoft, and that the reason he is calling is that he wants to protect my computer from viruses. You see, apparently my computer has been sending him error messages, kind of an SOS message, and his job is to respond to these messages and help fix the problem. Its awfully nice of Microsoft to be looking out for me like this without having to even ask.

He asks me a bunch of questions, and asks me to click on things, and explore areas of my computer. I pretend to do what he is asking and make up some answers (meanwhile i have actually walked out to my backyard and am soaking up some sun). He asks me what version of windows I am using, I, not wanting to tell him anything about me that he doesn’t already know, that If he is with Microsoft, and my computer has been sending him errors, he should know this. He rambles on about IP’s or some other garbage, then moves on. I interrupt him, telling him someone is at the door and I put him on hold. I go for a pee, get a glass of water, and chat with my wife for a moment. I come back to the call and give him some long winded story about a vacuum salesman at my door and how I don’t need a vacuum as I have all hardwood floors etc etc. We eventually get back to this great customer service from “Microsoft.”

I am now back at my computer and he eventually he tells me to go to AMMYY.com (I didn’t want to get trapped, so I took a look at Google’s cached version of the page later). (UPDATE: AMMYY is a legit company. Please see note about them at the bottom of this post). He wants me to install some remote access software – that sounds like a great idea, I am sure I can trust this stranger. He asks me to click on the download button, so I pretend to do that, and he asks me what options I have. I tell him I have two options:

1.) Install Software & Get Scammed
2.) Hang up

He then goes on to explain how this is not a scam, so I replied with EXACTLY how his scam works and he still denied it! I then ranted on how he should get a real job at McDonalds or something (but in a much more ‘colorful’ way). He said, thank you sir, started to go on again about how it was not a scam, and that is when I hung up. I have things to do you know.

So here is how this scam generally works:

  • They call stating they are from Microsoft, IBM, Google, or some other big name
  • They tell you that your computer has been sending them error messages informing them you have a virus. They may use words like “Service ID, Service Code”, etc.
  • They get you to instal remote access software
  • They then install a Trojan on your machine right before your very eyes!
  • Next they tell you that it will only cost $X (I have heard anywhere from $20 to $200 per year) for their worry free service
  • Now if you continue to pay them every year, you will have no problems life will go on as normal (except they may be recording every keystroke you take)
  • The minute you stop, they release the Trojan and the poop hits the fan as your computer does things you don’t want it to do
  • You contact them and start paying again, and they make the problem they created go away
  • This cycle continues until well after you are dead (or pay a real computer tech to fix the problem)

So now you have been warned. If someone calls you claiming to be from anywhere and wants you to do anything, don’t do it, hang up and report it to your local police. I called the local RCMP and they informed me they have been getting hundreds of calls, but it sounds like most are just reporting it, not actually calls from people who have fallen victim.

UPDATE: FEBRUARY 14, 2013

Note about AMMYY.com

I was not sure if this remote access software was legit, or if it created by the scammers. But it appears now that AMMYY is an entirely legitimate company and is in fact a victim of these “call centre” scammers. AMMYY put up an official warning on their website warning people NOT to install their software if asked by someone they do not personally know. You can read their warning here: <a href=”http://www.ammyy.com/en/admin_mu.html” target=”_blank”>AMMYY Warning</a>

Thanks to Daniel who pointed this out in his comment earlier today.


63 Responses to “Call from Windows Service Center – A Scam”

  1. Frank

    They’re still at it.

    Overseas this time (Europe/Belgium). Couldnt be bothered to give that Indian accented person anymore than five seconds. Caller ID was from Brussels area, kinda wonder how they do that, I suspect Skype call out or something like that ?

  2. Patricia Wetterman

    Just got a call from these people…Phone number given is in Brooklyn, NY. 347-480-2300. Had some fun, got tired of his games, called the number on my cell phone and let the two men from the same company yell at each other…than hung up.

  3. Tisa

    I have been reviving such prank calls in my mobile since past 6 months .don’t know from where they got my number.Today it was probably 5th one and the heights when he said he is receiving error messages when I had formatted my laptop 2 days bk.I warned them not to call else i will intimate to the cop..Even after formatting my laptop 2 days bk he is saying he is getting some mallacious error messages in his web service center. Don’t know how to talk even.just crap person with crap mind.The number was 4256689652 ( Kirkland,WA).Be aware.don’t allow them to know anything about ur laptop.

  4. Tom

    I toyed with one of these guys who called himself Adam. I made him repeat himself a lot of times. I offered him a credit card number to pay for the service, and then told him to take the numbers from the CC and apply each to the letters on the numbers on his phone(ie 2 is A,B,C – 3 is D,E,F etc). It spelled out for him where he could go. I then asked him if his parents were proud of him and his career choice.

  5. mary fouliard

    This JUST happened to me. I refused to give any info and kept asking for a number to call them back on (while I quickly did a search on windows service center and saw all of the warnings), they kept getting their next “supervisor”. After the third supervisor told me he couldn’t give me a number, I asked how he got this number. He said that when I bought the computer I registered it with this address and phone number. BUSTED! I bought this last year, and have moved three times since then. I told him I wasn’t giving him any information and told him to never call here again or I would hunt them down and turn them in to the police. Now I wish I had kept them going and gotten on my cell phone and called the cops, maybe they would have put a trace on the call.

  6. Bob

    I’ve gotten calls from these people (always a different caller ID) about 7 or 8 times now. They keep explaining to me that my computer is sending out Windows errors and they are from Microsoft to help.

    When I tell them I am deeply concerned that my Mac is sending them Windows errors, it’s delightful to hear them flounder around, usually falling back on the “Internet Server” thing – which, when I explain is obviously a problem with my internet provider, not my Mac, would they like the number of my provider? they really tie themselves up in pretzels.

  7. Sam

    I just got a call from caller ID us cellular 207-598-4867 saying they were windows service center saying my computer was sending them messages of unwanted malware. He wanted me to turn on my computer. His call back number is 1-952-467-6389. I hung up.

  8. Toby

    Are these people legit?

  9. roger

    they must be getting used to being told where to go, my reply to Mary this morning, of ”you are full of ‘shhh you know what’ ” was very quickly followed by same to you and she hung up I don’t mind except it is such a waste of time, I would ignore the out of area calls or withheld number calls if it wasn’t for relations overseas so I’m afraid they usually get told to go forth and multiply.

  10. Flo

    Just got a call from Ryan Harrison 214-272-0277, Name Unavailable id, represented himself as Windows Target Center. He said that my computer had been hacked several times. I said I would call him back, but he said he would call back in 10 minutes….10 minutes later another long distance number “name unavailable” id again, so probably him calling back. Didn’t answer and didn’t call, but called my Support Buddy, paid for service, to speak to a technician and let them check my computer for any problems. They did and no hacking was detected. I hate these scams and wish someone would shut them down. Thanks for writing this article. Very entertaining and informative.

  11. renee

    well i just got my phone call from Adam. call came in from 205-280-0212. Isn’t that Alabama? He had a thick mid eastern accent. I just kept putting him off and told him to call me back because i knew I needed to look this up. It sounded like a scam from the minute I picked up the phone. Thank God I googled this mess before giving them any information. Where do they get all the Microsoft licensing information? I asked him why he was getting the error messages instead of me and he gave me some bs about it running in the background. folks are a trip. Scary part is he knew my name, phone number and address!
    Well if anyone gets a call of this nature just ignore it, Keep the caller on long enough to record the phone number and try to get a name…eventhough it will probably be fake. My next step is to report it to the authorities and see where they take it.

  12. Julia

    I have been receiving these calls for months now. I actually took the time today, to speak to the guy. I was curious as to how he KNEW my computer was having issues. He claims that he works for Windows Service Center and as you stated, they monitor computers through Microsoft, and mine was “sending errors.” I immediately asked how much this service would cost, as I Googled “Windows Service Center” and found another victim who stated they were ripped off $80. The man could not give me a price, as it would depend on the issue/problem, that they would have to diagnose before they could quote a price.

    I then proceeded to ask, “why can’t you give me a price if you already know what the problem is, isn’t this why you’re calling, because you know my computer has a problem?” He rambled on with some excuse, as I came across this page. Needless to say, I didn’t proceed, but I have asked them numerous times to stop calling, yet they prevail!

  13. Tom

    Just got on of these calls. You could hear all the cross talk in the back ground, all heavily accented as was the caller. He started his spiel about my computer sending him messages. I simply told him he was full of @@@@ and hug up. I worked in the industry for 40 years and knew this was a scam from the minute I answered the phone. There was no caller ID at all.

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