Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Scam - Part I

My friend is no dummy. It's just that the timing of this scam couldn't have been better - for the scammers, that is. Couldn't have been worse for my friend.

His 6 year old Windows XP machine is probably loaded with spyware. I say that because it takes about 15-20 minutes to boot. Sometimes even longer. There were multiple hangs and freezes, and each one accompanied by the notice that asked if this error should be reported. He always said yes, figuring that it would keep the Microsoft folks employed.

Re-imaging a windows machine is no job for a novice, and paying someone else to do it was out of the question. The computer just wasn't worth the $200 that it would no doubt cost. I showed him how to put it into Hibernate mode instead of shutting it down, and that helped him tolerate this slow machine a while longer. In retrospect, that turned out not to be such a favor.

One evening he received a phone call from a very pleasant sounding woman who identified herself as an employee of Microsoft. She claimed to have been noticing an abnormal number of error messages (I think she called them error codes), and she was offering to fix them. How? Just allow her access to his computer and she'd take care of it.

Now, you and I know better, right? Microsoft doesn't employ people to call the homes of users, even if they DID somehow know your phone number, and volunteer to fix your computer. But, she even gave him a phone number and suggested that they hang up and he could call her back after he confirmed everything.  But, after all, there WERE a lot of error codes coming from his computer. Still... it smelled fishy. But yet, she was SO helpful over the phone. You can almost see the little angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, can't you?

Long story short, he DID allow this woman to have complete control of his machine. She said it would take quite a while, so he left it on and went to bed. Somewhere around 2:30AM he heard it reboot. That sick feeling in his stomach hadn't left. He just wasn't sure about this, but it was too late now. By the time I found out about it the next day it had been over 12 hours since she took control of his machine.

In the interest of reading comfort I'm going to stop this post here. I'll continue with Part II to let you know what he's gone through since then. In the meantime, PLEASE tell ALL your friends about this scam. It's SO easy for it to work, because if you've got a windows computer in the house, chances are it's running poorly and throwing errors. It's the perfect scam.
Creative Commons: Flickr: Ivers

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