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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.


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