Thursday, January 15, 2015

Beware! These really are scam calls!

Beware!  These really are scam calls!

This has been mentioned before but a recent incident causes me to remind you all and explain a little about this scam.

I'm referring to the call you get claiming to be from 'Microsoft', 'Windows' or, in this case, 'BT' (that was a new one on me).  It starts off by them saying that your computer has been reported as having errors or a virus or something and it's causing problems on the internet.  And don't think because you've got a Mac that you're safe!  They've got scripts to handle these as well!

They then go through a number of things which 'proves' they are right.

One thing they may get you to do is run a command window and type in 'assoc' (you can try this yourself; it's quite safe.  To open a command window see this article).  This show a list of stuff that you won't understand near the bottom shows


They'll say that this code, 888DCA.etc., is unique to your machine and this 'proves' that it's you that's got the problem.  TWADDLE!  EVERY windows machine will show that same information!

They may then get you to run eventvwr and get you to see all sorts of warning and error messages which 'proves' that your machine has got problems.  TWADDLE!  This is perfectly normal and all machines show these.  They aren't errors in that way.

Having now convinced you that your machine has got problems they then get you to let them connect to your computer.  DON'T DO IT!

Once connected to your machine they can do anything they like and their main focus is to baffle you and convince you that only they can fix your computer, for which there will be a small charge.  Often they'll say this is because the Windows warranty has run out but you can renew this for a further charge and then you'll be covered for life.

There's no such thing!

Having got all your credit card details and left you a few hundred pounds lighter they MAY return your computer to a workable state because it's quite likely that they've done things to your computer!  

In my recent case they'd corrupted the registry (this is the area which holds all the important details 
such as how to load windows, how to run programs, where everything is, etc) and turned off the registry backup so the next time the computer was rebooted, the backup was deleted and now there was no way back other than to go back to factory settings and reinstall everything again.  Fortunately the user's data was still OK, but they could have messed about with that as well!
If you start to become suspicious and say you're going to contact someone else, they may well tell you that they've 'locked' your computer so you won't be able to use it and various other threats.  These really are bad guys!

What you've experienced is the equivalent of someone phoning out of the blue, saying there's a problem with your credit card and asking you for all details; number, expiry and PIN, and you giving it to them!

So what can you do about it?

If you get one of these calls just say you don't have a computer.  If they were genuine, they would persevere but these guys will just hang up.

If they DO persevere, you can hang up - but they quite likely will call back several times - they really want your money!

If you fancy stringing them along for a bit, that's fine but DO NOT let them connect to your computer.  In fact NEVER let anyone you don't personally know connect to your computer.  There may be exceptions to this when maybe you've contacted your internet provider and they're trying to sort out a problem, but even then I'd be reluctant.

If they do connect to your computer and you later think better of it, immediately turn off your router (i.e. disconnect the internet) and call someone reliable for help.  If they've obviously set something running, by all means terminate it but don't turn off your computer, don't touch it further, don't do anything!  The situation may be recoverable but rebooting the computer may change things.

You'll also want to cancel your credit card (assuming they got that far).

Remember, NO LEGITIMATE ORGANISATION WILL CALL YOU BECAUSE YOU'VE GOT A COMPUTER PROBLEM!  Not Microsoft, not BT, and there's no organisation called 'Windows'!

One thing you should perhaps be aware of is that when your computer connects to the internet it broadcasts some basic technical information about your computer (browser version, IP address, screen size, etc).  It DOES NOT send out your phone number or your name or your address!