Just received a call from Windows saying they have been receiving a number of error messages from my computer which means it has been downloading files to clog up the hard drive and is infected.
Now I know my computer is ancient, and IS giving me a number of errors, so I listened but asked how she would be able to assure me this was an authentic call. She neatly side stepped that question and went on to say these files are downloaded and my hard drive is 95% infected. How does she know this without logging on to my computer - the warning bells began to ring.
I know many people who are not computer savvy and at this point I know they would be inclined to believe what they were hearing. I had done a complete, full and painfully slow scan over the weekend so I knew my computer was ok. I told her that I had done this scan and it did not detect anything. She told me that virus protection, firewalls and other security would not detect these files and if I logged on she would show me exactly where they were and what she was talking about. At this point I know this is most likely a scam because, without authenticating her call, she was asking for access to my computer to show me something. This would enable her WITH permission to download anything under the guise of removing malicious files. The proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing.
I asked what the point of security and firewalls were if they did not protect me and she said these files write straight onto the hard drive and my system is about to crash at any minute. I asked her to name some of these files so I could look for them and see if this was the case and she said 'they don't have names'.
This was the final red flag for me because I said that every file, even viruses have names, I would be happy to check if any of them were present when she told me what they were. At this point she said she was phoning from Windows because I am a customer and only trying to help, if I don't think my computer has a problem then that is my issue and she hung up.
Annoyed now because I was busy enough without having to check all this out but I phoned Microsoft who on hearing I had received a phone call proceeded to tell me most of what was said and confirmed they had not phoned me and it was a scam.
Why blog this and not just an angry Facebook or Twitter post? For longevity, because I have friends and family that would be convinced and possibly caught out because they don't know enough to ask some technical questions. She was very believable, even after a bit of questioning, so anyone who is scared of technology in any way or doesn't fully understand their computers could be fooled. I am by no means an expert, I do have a little technical knowledge and am sharing this from a lay persons point of view.
I was unaware that this scam is out there, here are some basic questions to ask to authenticate the caller.
IP address of my computer? If it was authentic she would have error reports logged against my IP address.
Phone details, company name so you can call back - if genuine they would have no hesitation in assuring you and giving you this information.
What course of action should YOU take? I asked what remedial action she was suggesting I take, at which point she asked for access to my computer without telling me what needed to be done.
Any questions you can think of to continue to call which in my case eventually ensured she left without succeeding and I was sure it was a scam. Record the call if possible, or gain information to report it but do not allow anyone access unless you are absolutely sure they are authentic, even under threat of your computer crashing and losing everything because she was playing on fear to get me to place my computer and all my personal information in her control.
The real people will understand your hesitation and help you to correct any problems but Microsoft, Windows etc will not phone you unsolicited to tell you there is a problem and offer to remedy it in that way.
If I help even one other person to avoid these predatory, scamming scum I will be ecstatic, merely raising awareness is important. Please take care!