An unwanted favour from India

I just received a call, not for the first time, from a call centre located in India. The caller knew my name and used it as if to demonstrate that this was not a cold call. Normally I hang up on this kind of call, but this time I decided to let them roll… This kind of scam is nothing new but it seems to be on the rise and the potential for profit must be great. I want to do my bit for raising awareness with this blog post

Image courtesy of alexkerhead's Flickr photostream


The helpful caller identified himself as working for a company called My PC Care and explained that he was a Microsoft Certified Professional. According to this bogus technician there are some pretty nasty files “more dangerous than viruses” doing the rounds, these files were so dangerous, he explained, that some 40% of Microsoft Windows users had “lost their computers”. As a result they were calling “all users of Microsoft Windows” (an ambitious task) to repair the damage before all was lost.
I played along with them and expressed concern that my computer might also fall victim, so the helpful technician began taking me through some entirely bogus “troubleshooting”. In brief I was asked to open the windows Event Viewer.  The scammer encouraged me first to look in the Application Log where he was sure I would find several Errors and Warnings. Lo and behold, he was correct. To be honest in all the years I have been involved in IT I have yet to see a Windows PC without errors and warnings in the Event Viewer, but of course these scammers are relying on the unfamiliarity of their victims and hope to scare them and at the same time gain credibility.
The engineer was very insistent that I should not click on or open any of these Error messages because “they are the malicious infections” warning in doom-laden tones that after about two weeks this would “crash my hard drive”. I was then asked to repeat this charade looking through various other Event Viewer logs, each time the dire predictions of impending disaster got worse.
My ever helpful technician-scammer guy suggested that now would be a good time to transfer me to his supervisor so that they could clean up these dangerous files once and for all and I agreed, anxious of course that my computer might be on the edge of silicon Armageddon. Unfortunately my fun was coming to an end, the supervisor wanted me to use the (entirely legitimate and very helpful) service  to permit their technicians remote access to my computer, at which point they would have been free to do whatever they liked. Of course I had to decline and hang up at that point.
So what is the point of this kind of scam you might ask? Well once you have granted remote access to your computer to a complete stranger, really they are free to do whatever they want install malicious software to steal information, look through modify or copy your personal files or in this case simply pretend to fix some non-existent problem charge you for the pleasure and then sell you a subscription to their services.
The scam seems to have started out in countries where English is a first language, but emboldened by their successes and perhaps hungry for more money it seems the scammers are constantly on the lookout for new targets, expect to see this showing up on a telephone near you soon.
Should you ever receive a call from anyone claiming to know that your PC is infected, or that you are having performance problems, just hang up; it’s a lot less painful than playing along. Remember also, just as a rule of thumb, never confirm anything, even your name, to anyone over the telephone until they have satisfied you of their integrity first.

14 thoughts on “An unwanted favour from India

  1. Rebecca Curtis

    Got call from Indian guy, claiming he was from Microsoft and there was a serious virus on my computer and that he had called to help me. After fumbling with my ipad to install the recording app, I informed him that I would be recording the call.

    He said that would be okay and wanted me to go to Start, Computer, right click.
    After that he hung up. He called from a local 781 number, which I gave to the police and Braintree patch online newspaper.

    Well, another guy with an Indian accent had the gumption to call back again at 4 p.m. This time I did not inform him I was recording…

    He wanted me to run “inf unwanted”.

    I googled this and found your website:

    Thanks so much for your comments! I told him to get lost — You saved me a lot of headaches!

    ARRGH — as if those of us around Boston, don’t have enough on our minds these days!

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  3. Karen

    Got my 2nd call. First time a month ago I hung up, this time went along up to the point where they would have been able to access my computer. Checked and there are a lot of complaints out there about them. I should have told them I don’t have a computer.

  4. asms

    Have had two callers in the last week.
    The first one said they were calling from Technical Support for Windows Operating System.
    I said – oh, are you from Microsoft – and they hungup.
    The second time (today) they said they were from Windows support. This time I decided to play with them (I had some spare time).
    First they wanted me to run “inf unwanted”. I played dumb so they had to go step b step on how to run something. See the control key on your keyboard, well near that is one that looks like a flag – hold that down and press “r”. I did as I was told and when they asked how many files there were I told them (1204) and all of a sudden it was “oh my god, that’s a lot. They are going to crash your computer!”
    Then they went to event viewer and tried to tell me how bad all the errors were. WHile we were there I hit clear log and told them “oh no, something just made all the files disappear – could that be a virus?” They replied with “we’ll have to put you through to a supervisor and they can connect to your computer.”
    I decided at that point I’d wasted enough of my time (and 15 minutes of theirs) and said “ok, I’m going to report you now can I get your details” and they hung up on me – boo hiss!

  5. Melrose

    I rec’d a call supposedly from Microsoft tech asking me if I was having my computer freeze up on me, which it was. I never heard of MS randomly making cold calls. What he wanted me to do was to change my cookie acceptance page back to default, which meant accepting third party cookies. While I had hin on the phone I had him help me fix a couple of other problems I had, which he did and it helped. I had him on the phone for a good 45 minutes and he was very helpful. I wasn’t happy about changing to my third party, so I changed that back right away. I hate having third party webpages popping up; they are so annoying and after some thought I just figured it was a scam to track my activity on line.

  6. Ric Taylor

    This scam is certainly getting around. I live in South Australia, and I have been called three times by these people. They also asked for me by name, and informed me that my computer was being monitored and found to be infected by “an extremely dangerous virus”. I too was directed to the Event Viewer and “shown” all the ‘error messages’ that were the cause of all my problems. Having never seen the Event Viewer before, I have to say that the ‘Technician’ sounded pretty convincing as he explained the risks I was facing if I didn’t get this problem fixed. I began to smell a rat when he suggested that he could fix everything from where he was, but that it would cost me a service fee as well as an ongoing monthly monitoring fee that I could pay by credit card. Needless to say I declined the ‘service’. Two weeks later I got a call from the first caller’s “supervisor” advising me the my computer was at risk of “imminent catastrophic failure” if I didn’t have it fixed. My answer to him was that I was not interested in his fix which caused him to become quite aggressive. I reported this incident to our State Scam Watch Authority, and they informed me that there had been a number of reports made regarding these types of calls. About thee weeks ago I received another call from these people, but before they could start up with their scare tactics again, I told them that I had reported them to the authorities as scammers and promptly hung up. I have not heard from them again, but I wouldn’t mind betting that there are a few folk out there who have been stung.

  7. Carol

    I received a phone call this week from someone who was difficult to understand. I told him I was busy and didn’t have time to go to my computer and to give me his phone number to call back. He said no he would call me back and asked for a time to call back. I insisted on his phone number and he hung up on me.

  8. K Noble

    My strategy (assuming I have some time to kill)has been to keep stringing them along as long as I possibly can. The dumber you act, the more they seem to drool. I figure that by burning up their time, I’m protecting someone else who might fall for this, plus I’m pissing off the scammers. If we all do this, it would make it pretty unprofitable for them.

  9. Bill Smith

    I had exactly the same experience with them word for word. I went with them up to the point where I was to click on the button to allow their technician into my computer’s knickers. But security training prevailed.

  10. Neha Mistry

    Well done Rik.. am going to share this with my contacts, I had a similiar experience but the caller started off asking which version of XP/Vista am i using,
    Surely Microsoft doesnt require to call their customer base ? Thanks to my training at trend, i did not fall for it :)

    you guys rock !! cheers

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