Wednesday, 4 May 2011

PC Maintenance Department

I've just had one of those unsolicited calls from a bunch of crooks trying to convince me there is a virus infection on my PC. They were calling from an Indian sub-continent call centre over a very poor quality VOIP line. Their scam is to induce you to visit a webpage to check out your PC using their software. Typically your PC will become "Hijacked" until you pay some form on ransom to them to cure the problem they loaded on to your PC such as file encryption of all of your data & programs. Effectively your machine becomes unusable until you pay them. Even then there is no guarantee that your PC is left in a clean state.
Their pattern of operation is obvious:

  1. A junior member of their team calls by phone and describes themselves as the PC maintenance group. They then feed you the line that your PC has reported faults and virus's to them. They'll suggest your machine is running slowly and erratically.
  2. Next step is to get you to run a standard Microsoft tool already on the PC so you'll see routine status messages which occur (normally hidden) on every PC displayed on your screen.
  3. The next step is to persuade you to visit their website to have it scan your PC to fix the "problem". If you do that you will cause a trojan program to load on to your PC and to commence it's evil work of corruption.
  4. Then they'll tell you that you have to pay a "fee" to repair your PC.

I must tell you I hate these criminal parasites. I take every action possible to keep them talking on the phone (at their cost and time) while they try to persuade me to follow their instructions. I play the dumb user who makes loads of mistakes when entering their instructions. I don't tell them that I'm pretending my PC is running the old MSDOS 5 operating system which pre-dates Microsoft Windows. The result is that none of the PC commands they they tell me to use will ever work.  This time I had them talking for 45 minutes, with a chain of six of their "experts" before they gave up. 

Unfortunately they didn't call on a phone where I can record the conversation, but here's a typical extract from the conversation (remember I think I have a back and white character based display of MSDOS 5 whereas they think I have a standard Microsoft windows screen say - Vista.):

  • criminals: "...Do you see the start button on your PC desk top?"
  • Alaric: "No, I don't have a button on my desktop. It is just a standard office desk. There's the phone in one corner, a cup of tea in the other corner and my PC keyboard in front of me."
  • criminals: "Just click the Start Button and type..."
  • Alaric:"but I just told you I have no buttons on my desk top, it is just a desk. Ok I've pressed the button on the front of my PC and it turned itself off. Is that what you wanted me to do...?"

This went on for 45 minutes with them getting increasingly angry because I couldn't follow simple instructions. Eventually they gave up saying they'd call me back in a few minutes. Hopefully the time I spent on the phone reduced their ability to pester other people and cause real damage to those unsuspecting souls. Sadly with the British Telecom phone system it is nigh impossible to trace these criminals calling from overseas.

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