Monday, 7 January 2013

'I am a qualified Microsoft engineer ...'

Prepare for an amusing rant!

This morning our house has been subject to a number of unwanted 'phone calls. Some have been silent calls (the 'phone rings but no one answers when you pick it up ... and then the line goes dead), some have been recorded messages ('You have failed to claim regarding your PPI ...'), and the last was from 'a qualified Microsoft engineer'.

The latter got a full broadside from me ... but was either too stupid or too anxious to dupe me that he just did not take the hint!

The conversation went something like this ...

'Hello, whose calling?'

A heavily-accented voice answers.

'My name is James and I am calling on behalf of Microsoft. Your computer has sent them an error message and this problem needs to be resolved.'

'Where did you get my 'phone number?'

'It was given to us by Microsoft.'

'How did they get it? My computer would not have sent that information.'

'Microsoft use GPS to locate your computer and it tells them where you are and your 'phone number.'

'Excuse me, but that is not true.'

'Please sir, are you sitting in front of your computer? If you are patient and do as I ask we can sort this problem.'

'No. I am not at my computer ... and until you answer my question I am going to continue to ask it. Where did you get my 'phone number?'

'Please sit at you computer and follow my instructions so that I can fix the problem.'

'I have no intention of allowing you to have access to my APPLE computer until you answer my questions. Where did you get my 'phone number?'

(The bit about the Apple computer is a lie ... but I just wanted to see if the caller was bright enough to realise that I had worked out his scam.)

'It was given to us by Microsoft. We are fully qualified Microsoft engineers here working for Microsoft.'

'You 'phone call is unsolicited AND as I am signed up with the Telephone Preferencing Service I think that you and your company are in breach of its regulations and may be reported and even fined for making this call!'

'I am a qualified Microsoft engineer ...'

'Who does not know that Apple computers do not use a Microsoft operating system! AT WHAT POINT IN THIS CONVERSATION ARE YOU GOING TO REALISE THAT YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE MADE THIS CALL!'

Silence for five seconds.

'Sorry to have bothered you.'

I do wish that there was something that I could do about this scam, the whole purpose of which is entice people to hand control of their computers over to third parties, who can then use them for all sorts of nefarious activities. I know I have complained about this scam before, but it seems to be on the increase again in the post-Christmas period.

34 comments:

  1. Not much you can do. Keep them taking for as long as possible if you have the time to waste, and put the willies up them by then telling them that you have spent the time talking to them tracing their call and have reported it to your local fraud squad.

    Never let on that you know what you're talking about - they quickly put the phone down if they realise that.

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  2. Go get them Bob! I daily consider whether or not to jettison my land line. I seem to only get solicitations on it. My cell phone also gets a disturbing number of solicitations and robo calls. But I actually receive real calls on it.

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  3. Given the callers' level of knowledge I reckon he actually is a genuine Microsoft engineer - they're not too bright, most of them, y'know.

    But his motives, well..

    Vigilance, old chap, vigilance.

    Regards

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  4. I get these. I did once ask them for their name and contact details so that they could be reported. Basically, I said 'If Microsoft gave you my details, they are in breach of Data Protection, if they did not, you are guilty of attempted fraud, whichever it needs to be reported.' Strangely, the line went dead.

    Sometimes I just play along, eventually pointing out that I do infact know what I'm talking about having worked with computers for 37 years....

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  5. Wow! How annoying!

    Another fun game to play is to demand the solicitor's home phone number, and tell them you will call them back at YOUR convenience. Of course, they will never do it, but you can have fun with it, and at least get a little satisfaction out of driving THEM crazy.

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  6. How about this email: "I am the king of Betastan and I would like to send you 20 million. You need only cash the cheque, however you must send me 10k earnest money to prove you are worthy enough."

    Imagine, me getting an email from a king! Thanks however for passing on the telephone scam information. The only thing worse than a scammer is dealing with an actual and legitimate tech rep. I wonder if there is a way to send the junk email to the tech reps.

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  7. Next time they call me I might say in response 'My name is also James and I too am a qualified Microsoft engineer'.

    Then again it is so much easier to say 'Clear off, you are nothing but a shower of crooks!'.

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  8. Francis Lee,

    In retrospect, it was very funny!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. Kaptain Kobold,

    Next time I intend to waste as much of their time as possible ... before letting on that I know what they are up to.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  10. Sean,

    He annoyed me ... and therefore got both barrels!

    The landline is useful because it comes for 'free' as part of a larger package. When that package is no longer viable I will give srious thought to getting rid of it.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  11. Arthur,

    You may well be right ... in which case I have done my caller a great disservice ... but somehow I don't think that he was what he claimed to be!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  12. Xaltotun of Python,

    That sounds like a good ploy to use next time ... but only after I have wasted as much of their time as I can!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  13. WarRaptor,

    I somehow think that the line might have gone dead a lot quicker if I had followed your advice ... although 'phoning them up at a time that was inconvenient to them might have been a sweet revenge!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  14. CoastConFan,

    I love those good old Nigerian Fraud emails; I must do because I get at least three each day (along with other emails asking me if I want a bigger one that lasts longer ... and if I want to meet a sexy Russian woman!).

    I have written earlier blog entries about my 'interaction' with technical representatives and help-lines from various organisations ... none of which have been what you could describe as having been easy.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  15. Jim Duncan,

    Nice one! I might try that ploy next time; just repeating back everything that they say will drive them nuts!

    I almost want them to 'phone so that I can p**s them off!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  16. Bob I agree with your sentiment on this. I will confess that we almost always check caller id and rarely answer unlisted or odd numbers.,

    No need to keep him talking though, just say "just a minute please" and lay the phone down. Just go back periodically to see if he has hung up yet, if not apologize and repeat.


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  17. edit - rewrite - something went off with the post above.

    I have had a couple of these fraudsters call up to tell me my Windows computer is spewing viruses. One was stupid enough to call me back after I told him I run Linux. In a moment of weakness, I may have shouted extremely loudly into the handset taking to heart the old dictum: "If they don't understand English, shout louder!". Not my finest display of stoicism but satisfying.

    What bothers me are calls from charities. Although they are exempt from the national do not call list, they don't seem to understand that calling someone who has put themselves on the list may not be the best approach to gather funds.

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  18. After a variety of rants, torrents of abuse, threats etc., I now just tell them I'll just get whoever it is they want to speak to (or tell them I'm just going to switch the computer on so I'll pick the call up on the extension) and leave the phone hanging until I remember to put it back on the hook. Costs them money and saves my time.

    People I know and any 'official' dealings I have are dealt with on my mobile. The landline was just a freebie from Virgin so rarely if ever gets used.

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  19. Ross Mac,

    Unfortunately for some reason my telephone will not display 'caller ID', otherwise I would just leave it to ring. With my father's health in the state that it is, I have to answer the 'phone in case it is an emergency. This is also the reason why I cannot just leave it off the hook so that nuisance callers waste their time and money.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  20. Pat G,

    You can only take stoicism so far … and then shouting makes a lot of sense!

    As far as I know charities are not exempt for the ‘cold calling’ regulations, and would be liable for the same sort of fines as a commercial company. They are even trying to limit the activities of ‘chuggers’ (representative of charities who try to stop you in the street … CHarity mUGGERS) in some areas.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  21. Crazy Joe,

    I would love to be able to waste the caller’s time and money by just leaving them hanging on, but the landline is the first line of communication that I have with my father’s care home and I cannot leave it ‘busy’, just in case they need to reach me.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  22. Although these calls are annoying and the scams quite laughable I do worry about vulnerable people receiving them. My mum is 83 and although she's quite computer literate I can see how she could get duped by a call like that. The very fact that these scams keep going suggests that they are actually quite successful which is worrying...

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  23. Stryker,

    It only needs them to get one 'hit' per day for the fraud to pay for itself ... and then they can either mis-use the computer they have 'taken over' or plunder it for things like personal details, banks details, log-ins etc.

    Even 'computer savvy' people have been taken in by these fraudsters, and one reason why I mention it every so often is to raise people's awareness.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  24. In Canada, the political parties and charities wangled an exemption. Of course companies in the US have used the Canadian list as a source of numbers.

    My wife kept her maiden name so when I get calls asking if they are speaking to Mr. F, I will respond that he has passed away and would they please stop calling.

    Don't apologize for keeping the awareness up. Over the last couple of months I have seen some fishing emails that were really well put together.

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  25. I've had similar experiences.
    The thing I can't understand is why someone with a thick Indian sub-continent accent thinks he sounds more credible if he calls himself 'John Robinson' or some similar traditional English name?

    Next time, perhaps I shall pretend to be my butler, keep them waiting while I am brought to the phone, and then reply in an outrageous fake German or Pakistani voice, and pretend to mishear or
    misunderstand everything they say, so they are forced to repeat it.

    Regards,
    Arthur

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  26. Arthur1815,

    I used to work with an Indian-born chap who spoke accentless English ... except when on the 'phone to Indian-based helplines. When I asked him why he put on the Indian accent when talking to other Indians he said that they could not understand him if he spoke normally but did when he spoke 'Indian' English.

    I like the idea of putting on a fake accent ... especially if combined with lots of mishearing and misunderstandings! I could also pretend to be deaf or hard of hearing ... or just plain stupid (although I would not need to try too hard in the latter case).

    All the best,

    Bob

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  27. "I like the idea of putting on a fake accent ."

    I went one better with one caller, and deployed my entire knowledge of O-Level French in one call. I reasoned that the person at the other end knew less French than I, and it was fun listening to them trying to deal with someone who didn't appear to speak or understand much English :)

    Of course it helps when our phone displays 'Overseas' when they call - 99% of the time it's junk or a scam.

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  28. Kaptain Kobold,

    Sounds like a great hoot ... although my French is so execrable that I doubt if I could have used that language.

    I have passed myself off as an English-speaking South African on the telephone, but not as any other nationality.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  29. Seems to be a world-wide phenomenon. I've had similar communications on-line. The problem there is that having a microsoft machine, and getting updates anyway from time to time, it isn't easy to determine whether or not what you are looking at is genuine or a scam.

    But what really gets up my nose is that Microsoft itself, along with other legit companies, are in my view guilty of sharp practices concerning computer users. For some reason Microsoft doesn't seem to think I should be the owner of the machine I bought and the operating systems and software to make the thing go and do what I want it to do.

    Not only that, I get shed-loads of advertising interrupting what I want to do or read, and I'm the one paying for this crud. I don't want the advertising, I see no good reason why I should be coerced - yes, coerced - into accepting other people's data collecting software on my machine - again, paid for by me for the benefit of Bastard Corporation. Coerced? Sure, if your access to this or that service is conditional upon your accepting this shite.

    I would like someone to develop a tracer software that locates and identifies spyware, malware, crudware and shiteware; traces their origins, and generate a goddam bill for the use of my time, my bally machine, its CPU time and memory plus space on my hard drive, my power useage (prorata, of course) the cost of this fecking tracer software and all.

    And of course send the bloody debt collecting agency if they won't stump up. 'There's no such thing as a free lunch,' the economists tell us. Yeah, right. How do they suppose the Fat Cats got so bloody bloated?!

    Please excuse my rant. There are times when I think maybe the sooner capitalism falls on its arse - as Professor Emmanuel Wallerstein predicted 15-20 years back - the better.

    (snarl, hiss, grump...)
    Ion

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  30. Pat G,

    For some reason – best known to itself – Blogger thought that your latest comment was spam!

    As far as I know there are no exemptions in the UK ... unless you have 'forgotten' to tick or cross the box on forms that stop organisations from contacting you.

    My wife also kept her maiden name, which means that anyone asking for Mrs Cordery gets told that no such person exists. It usually confuses them.

    You are right about the level of sophistication that some fraudsters are now employing, and one has to be very wary all the time about what can often look very convincing.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  31. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

    Wow! Some rant … and very much from the heart, and no mistake!

    The monopoly/stranglehold that Microsoft has is pernicious in many ways, and like a bunch of drug users we computer users have become ‘addicted’ or ‘dependent’ upon them … unless, of course, we have gone over to the ‘dark side’ and use Apple Mac products (I jest, by the way; I suspect that Apple Mac would have been just as bad had they become the main supplier of operating systems and applications for most personal computers). The problem is that I cannot see the situation changing much for the better in the future … unless, of course, the fabric of society totally collapses.

    I would like my computer operating system to ASK me if I want updates and not to sneak them in without permission … although trying to stop them is supposed to be easy … according to Microsoft! Life can be a bit schizophrenic when the gamekeeper is also the poacher.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  32. I suppose you could have said .. "It is nice to meet a nefarious cyber criminal,if you would be so good as to stay on the line for another two minutes while I engage the telephone tracking software to locate your position and deploy a Cruise missile but if that doesn't work I have my old football whistle handy ... click ... hello?"

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  33. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

    I shall try to remember all that the next time someone 'phones up.

    All the best,

    Bob

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