2016: These scammers are still alive and doing well! See these reports from Singapore on the National Crime Prevention Council webpage, “Software Upgrade Scam“.
Scammers from Indian call centres have been active since 2008 and hit the UK in a big way last year. They are still active there, with current news reports indicate they are also active in Canada, Malta and Gibraltar (see links at end of this post). They have expanded to Singapore and Australia to cheat you of your money via credit card payment for non-existent or introduced problems. See this report of the 2010 UK campaign in The Guardian: “Virus phone scam being run from call centres in India,” by Charles Arthur. The Guardian, 18 Jul 2010.
Compliant individuals are led to download and install bogus anti-virus software from scammers websites or run a scan which installs a background application. These probably work like the myriad of flashing pop-up adverts which try to convince you a virus has been detected on your PC and to buy anti-virus software. The Guardian article confirms this:
“The computer owner is directed to a website and told to download a program that hands over remote control of the computer, and the caller “installs” various “fixes” for the problem. And then it’s time to pay a fee: £185 for a “subscription” to the “preventative service”.
The only catch: there was never anything wrong with the computer, the caller is not working for Microsoft or the internet service provider, and the owner has given a complete stranger access to every piece of data on their machine.”
Well, scammers have been trying to convince my friend Jennifer that something is wrong with her pc. Since she is a mac user, they’ve failed by the first line but she leads them on a little instead of hanging up. Her third encounter went like this:
Phone rings at 5pm.
— beg —
Indian man (again) looking for Mister.
Man: “Hello, I am Alan, calling from Microsoft Windows. We detected a problem with your computer.”
Me: “Oh good to hear from you Alan. I spoke to your colleague David yesterday.”
Man “STUNNED: erhm, David? No David mam.”
Me: “Yes, he called me yesterday. He said he is from Microsoft Technical Team. Where is he? Can you ask him on the phone?”
Man: “There’s no David mam. I am calling from Marina *** (no such address) in Singapore.”
Me: “But where’s David?”
Man: “No David mam. You can call our number. You will know.”
Me: “Ok, what’s your number?”
Man: “You can call us at 619 274 8514.”
Me: “Why so many numbers? Aren’t you in Singapore?”
Man: “This is a global number mam.”
Me: “Ok, I’ll call you. Wait for my call.”
— Hung up —
I am hoping that Alan will wait for my call and stop calling me for at least 1 month.
This was the third call she received. During the second call, she said she could hear “another voice in the background repeating the same line.” She told them then that what they were doing were a hoax, a scam, totally illegal and they could be jailed. They hung up quickly.
The rest of us are wondering why she gets so many calls. Phone number from which database, or are they just flipping the phone book?
Another friend Laurence, now Down Under, is more than happy to receive such calls. The conversation of his second call went like this, he says:
A “man from PC Support” told me that my Windows PC was acting up and needed immediate action to rectify it.
I said okay, to get the ball rolling. He perked up, probably hoping to ask for my credit card details next before offering ‘tech support’. But then I said,
“I spoke to your manager a week ago. He arranged for two colleagues to take my PC back to the office. What is the status of that case?”
The “man from PC support” said, “Oh, that is impossible.”
I insisted, “No for sure I spoke to them, Amitabh Bachchan, his manager, and his colleagues Sanjay Dutt and Hrithik Roshan are supposed to fix my PC!”
Stunned, he hung up.
For the uninitiated, the three names mentioned are Indian actors.
In case you needed to know, Microsoft says, “We do not send unsolicited email messages or make unsolicited phone calls to request personal or financial information or fix your computer.”
These scammers have been active since 2008 and Microsoft had been accused of being slow about taking responsible action. Finally in September, this year,
“Microsoft has finally ejected an Indian company which was one of its “Gold” partners from the scheme after deciding it was taking part in a “fake virus” telephone support scam.
But Microsoft has been criticised for slow action, after one IT consultant said he had been trying to bring the activities of Comantra, based in Kolkata, to its attention for more than six months, and says that the US software giant has been warned about similar companies’ actions for at least 18 months.”
Read “Microsoft drops partner accused of cold-call scam,” by Charles Arthur. The Guardian, 22 Sep 2011.
A British IT consultant who complained to Microsoft says in that article,
“”These scammers don’t have any scruples … they target vulnerable people by calling during the day, when you’ll get retired people or carers who won’t know what this is about, and who will be taken in if they’re told the call is from ‘Microsoft’ or ‘Windows’.”
I am now wondering how well these guys are doing with unsuspecting Singaporean PC users. Not everyone is a savvy about these things. In August, The Straits Times reported that “1 phone scam reported every other day in Singapore” and these kidnap, lottery and impersonation scams made off with $2.6 million in 6 months!
So spread the word, it’s the best defense against these clowns and if you’re up to it, waste their time imaginatively and keep them on the line. I’ll pick up my phone more hopefully this holiday.
- “The ‘Microsoft phone scam’ simply won’t hang up,” by Patrick Steen. Which Conversation (UK), 4 November 2011 [link].
- “Watch out, there’s a PC scam about,” by Scott D’Arcy. The Wiltshire (UK), 14 Dec 2011 [link].
- “Police warning over ongoing internet scam.” The Southern Reporter (UK), 19 December 2011 [link].
- “RGP warn of ‘Microsoft phonecall scam.” Gibraltar Chronicle, 16 Dec 2011 [link].
- “Delete those suspicious e-mails or hang up phone,” by Claudia Calleja. The Times of Malta, 19 Dec 2011 [link].
- Police warn of computer scam.” Brant News (Canada), 20 Dec 2011 [link].
- “Scammers targeting local residents,” by Scott Howard. MyKawartha.com (Canada), 21 Dec 2011 [link].
- “1 phone scam reported every other day in Singapore,” by Tham Yuen-C & Kimberly Spykerman. The Straits Times, 23 Aug 2011. [link (subscription required)]