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Security Crime United Kingdom Windows IT

The Unstoppable 'Tech Support' Scam 312

Posted by timothy
from the all-your-base-are-c-o-d dept.
Barence writes "A pernicious new type of scam is targeting British computer owners, reports PC Pro. The con is both fiendishly clever and ridiculously simple. The fraudster cold-calls the customer and tells them that Microsoft has detected a virus on their PC, then invites them to download a piece of remote-assistance software. No doubt reassured by the lines of indecipherable code flitting across their screen, the caller assures the customer they can make the virus vanish – but first, of course, they want payment. £185 to be precise. The spoof site behind the scam is approved by McAfee's Site Advisor and bears Microsoft logos, something which both companies have failed to act upon. Meanwhile, an assortment of British regulators have said there is nothing they can do to stop it."
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The Unstoppable 'Tech Support' Scam

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  • Scum (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lobiusmoop (305328) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:08AM (#32812302) Homepage

    God, there are some real scumbags in the world.

    • Re:Scum (Score:5, Funny)

      by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:19AM (#32812522) Journal

      Yeah. What morally responsible individual would ruin the good name of Microsoft?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Yeah. What morally responsible individual would ruin the good name of Microsoft?

        I'm not sure, but I think you just called Microsoft's development staff "morally irresponsible." That's not very nice. ;)

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by sakdoctor (1087155)

        Whilst I am going to have to flog myself for XKCD linking...

        WE RUN LINUX! [xkcd.com]

      • And through exploitation of that charming, authoritative British accent, no less! I mean, who wouldn't believe someone who called you up sounding like Simon Cowell or Tony Blair?

    • Re:Scum (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:21AM (#32812556)

      God, there are some real scumbags in the world.

      And a lot of fools.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DittoBox (978894)

        I pity the ignorant. I do not pity the willfully ignorant, but I pity the ignorant.

        Although with some common sense one could tell this is a scam, your very presence here means your use and understanding of technology far exceeds that of the median average, in nearly any western country. You needn't be an ass about that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        The story below that recently appeared [notalwaysright.com] on Not Always Right [notalwaysright.com] seems appropriate:

        (A customer is wondering why her anti-virus is asking her to purchase the program.)
        Me: "What is the name of your anti-virus?"
        Customer: "It is [name of a well-known fake anti-virus program]."
        Me: "Ma'am, that is a fake anti-virus. Do not purchase that program because it will not protect your computer."
        Customer: "No! Why do you want me to disable my anti-virus? I will not get rid of it! It's keeping my computer safe! I alread

    • Re:Scum (Score:5, Insightful)

      by causality (777677) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:28AM (#32812672)

      God, there are some real scumbags in the world.

      Yes, but they are non-violent and require the cooperation of their "victims". Thus, they are like ticks, leeches, mosquitoes, flies, and worms: they are unpleasant and downright nasty but they serve a purpose. They provide a limiting function. They disincentivize ignorance and stupidity by making it more painful, just like those natural pests disincentivize improper sanitation. By becoming knowledgable and savvy, the "victim" can have total control over whether he/she is successfully targeted.

      Really now, all it would take is a small amount of healthy skepticism. Let's assume the scammer is so good that there are no other "tells". A user would only need to say to the scammer "Microsoft found a virus on my PC did they? Let me get back to you" and then call Microsoft. As unpleasant as calling Microsoft would be, it beats giving money to a scammer. It's the same well-known principle used for dealing with suspicious communications from banks. If you don't know if that e-mail is really from your bank because you don't have the technical skill to determine that, then you ignore it and call your bank at their published phone number. Then it doesn't matter if it's the most clever phishing e-mail in the world.

      It doesn't exactly require a genius to understand these things. It just requires that one not leap blindly into what they do not understand while expecting a good result. That's general advice for life, not just computing. I personally believe that almost everyone is capable of understanding these simple concepts, they just can't be bothered to think. Perhaps they need a little incentive. Perhaps by providing one the scammers are serving a purpose, even though I fully agree with you that they are scumbags. That's why I'd liken them to a carrion-eater or a parasite.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        They disincentivize ignorance and stupidity by making it more painful, just like those natural pests disincentivize improper sanitation./quote?

        Yet the only reason why we care to disincentivize ignorance and stupidity is because those scammers exist. Your logic is viciously circular. They need to exist to protect people from themselves?

        • Re:Scum (Score:5, Interesting)

          by causality (777677) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:43AM (#32812856)

          They disincentivize ignorance and stupidity by making it more painful, just like those natural pests disincentivize improper sanitation./quote?

          Yet the only reason why we care to disincentivize ignorance and stupidity is because those scammers exist. Your logic is viciously circular. They need to exist to protect people from themselves?

          I'm glad you raised this point. It's a good one, to be sure.

          Being wise and savvy and seeking understanding is the natural state of human beings. The widespread ignorance and stupidity is what I might call "unnaturally natural". The proof is that by not viewing ignorance and gullibility as problems in need of correction, people leave themselves vulnerable to this type of scam. The scammers do not create this vulnerability. They merely capitalize on it. They see that something is out of order and that this creates room for them to operate. Otherwise their dubious "enterprise" would never get off the ground.

          The ignorance and stupidity is a disease state. The scammers are the disease that can thrive in the environment of that disease state. They are symptoms, not the actual problem. It's absurdity itself to say that the only reason to eschew ignorance and stupidity is because these scammers exist. Have you no concept of how much better our world would be if ignorance and stupidity were not such powerful forces in shaping it?

          The personal shortcomings that scammers exploit go far, far beyond computing. They also play important roles in politics, the economy, interpersonal relationships, you name it. It just so happens that computing provides a convenient entry point for that ignorance and stupidity to come under attack since it is generally encouraged in other realms like politics.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            This is what the government-run schools are supposed to eliminate: Ignorance. But instead they ended-up glorified babysitting zones.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by causality (777677)
              They are far worse than that [cantrip.org] and it is definitely by careful design [johntaylorgatto.com].

              In fact I'd say that the public schools bear more responsibility than anyone else for the widespread ignorance and gullibility that these scammers feed on. A truly tough-minded population familiar with critical thinking, logic, and argumentation would not so easily fall for these scams. They also wouldn't support anything our politicians of today are pushing for. So you see that'd be really inconvenient for our increasingly centralize
              • Re:Scum (Score:4, Insightful)

                by the_humeister (922869) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:33PM (#32813674)

                I don't know where these people are going to school. I went to a public school in the USA, went to a decent university, grad school, and now job that actually utilizes critical thinking skills. I, and my high school friends, didn't turn out to be the fools that you would assume that we would be by going through public schools at each step. It's more likely that being ignorant is the easy way out and that's what people would rather choose instead.

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by causality (777677)

                  I don't know where these people are going to school. I went to a public school in the USA, went to a decent university, grad school, and now job that actually utilizes critical thinking skills. I, and my high school friends, didn't turn out to be the fools that you would assume that we would be by going through public schools at each step. It's more likely that being ignorant is the easy way out and that's what people would rather choose instead.

                  I'm grateful that you and some others are raising such good points in this discussion. I usually enjoy participating in Slashdot but not usually this much. For that I am glad, for this is truly stimulating.

                  What I would point out here is a particular disconnect. My high school also taught some critical thinking skills, though in narrow and very specific applications. By that I mean, they were utilized only at the request of some kind of authority figure. There always had to be a "gun to the head" in

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by drinkypoo (153816)

              The government-run schools in the USA are designed to be indoctrination stations and they function brilliantly. They produce a steady stream of soldiers and criminals in addition to undesirables like journalists and human rights lawyers. Meanwhile, those who know utilize private tutors, home schooling, and/or private schooling so that their children receive an education in using their minds.

            • This is what the government-run schools are supposed to eliminate: Ignorance. But instead they ended-up glorified babysitting zones.

              In a more ideal world, the government should the be convicted of fraud and told to keep their hands out of educating our youth.

              An educated public, in the minds of those running governments, are a very dangerous thing, unless they are "educated the right way"....

      • "Stupidity" is correct. Isn't 185 pounds equal to $350?

        Even if I was a complete luddite, before I spent that kind of money I'd either (a) buy a brand new computer for the same price or (b) Do nothing and live with the virus. But I guess "a fool and his money are soon parted" still applies even today.

        • by asdf7890 (1518587)

          "Stupidity" is correct. Isn't 185 pounds equal to $350?

          More like $280 at current exchange rates according to Google, though that may need to be adjusted to account for cost-of-living factors to be properly representative of the equivalent cost. Not an amount to be unconcerned about in any case though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by grumbel (592662)

        Yes, but they are non-violent and require the cooperation of their "victims".

        So does robbing somebody with an unloaded gun.

        • by cyber0ne (640846)

          So does robbing somebody with an unloaded gun.

          The threat of violence is much closer to "violent" than "non-violent." If one believes that the person asking for (or demanding, in your example) money has a firearm, compliance with their demands would probably be the wise choice. I would, however, characterize a willingness to give money to anybody who calls me on the phone as an unwise choice.

        • by Culture20 (968837)

          Yes, but they are non-violent and require the cooperation of their "victims".

          So does robbing somebody with an unloaded gun.

          Only if you tell the victim that your gun isn't loaded up front. Then you're relying on their own mind to imagine a scenario where your gun really is loaded, but you're lying for some reason. That way, the threat of violence is entirely imagined on their part.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        So, what you're saying is that we need scammers to scam people to protect them scammers?

        I gotta better idea. Why don't we just start telling everyone that they can rid their PCs of viruses and malware if they scrub it in the bathtub with the power on?

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          I gotta better idea. Why don't we just start telling everyone that they can rid their PCs of viruses and malware if they scrub it in the bathtub with the power on?

          Truth is one, paths are many.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by dcollins (135727)

        "Yes, but they are non-violent and require the cooperation of their 'victims'... They provide a limiting function. They disincentivize ignorance and stupidity by making it more painful, just like those natural pests disincentivize improper sanitation. By becoming knowledgable and savvy, the 'victim' can have total control over whether he/she is successfully targeted."

        You're a fucking sociopath. Have a little empathy or fuck off.

        • by lgw (121541)

          Wow, a pro-union teacher believes that saying "critical thinking is a basic survival skill" is sociopathic. I'm shocked - shocked I tell you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sorak (246725)

        Doesn't that seem like circular logic to you? Con artists are good because they teach us not to trust con artists?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mcgrew (92797) *

          It's worse than that; his logic is deeply flawed. Con artists teach us not to trust ANYONE, and that is not a good thing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        Your attitude is just plain wrong.

        Yes, but they are non-violent

        There are worse things than violence. I'd rather be punched in the face than ripped off for thousands of dollars. There is no difference between an armed robbery and an unarmed robbery; stealing is stealing whether you use a gun or a computer.

        require the cooperation of their "victims".

        Trickery is not co-operation. I've met some damned smooth fraudsters in my time. And the fraudsters make one suspicious of the honest as well as the scum; I caused

  • Meanwhile, an assortment of British regulators have said there is nothing they can do to stop it.

    Well, yeah. You can't fix stupid. You can't fix gullible.

    "A fool and his money are soon parted."

    This does provide yet another argument against the camp which thinks that understanding the tools they use is not important.

    • Re:Can't Do Much (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:15AM (#32812442) Journal

      Perhaps they could get the people who have been scammed to report the telephone number and work with the teleco's to find out where the scammers are hiding?

      This worked in my city when Scammers would steal wallets and purses and then call later claiming to be the police, and to meet them in "unmarked white police vans".

      It's true, you can't fix stupid - but the smarter ones can... you know... at least provide useful information aiding in the capture.

      • by xaxa (988988)

        Probably Skype (or something similar) as the article suggests.

        The phone number is on the scam website: http://www.thenerdsupport.com/ [thenerdsupport.com] (+44 20 3318 8706 if you feel like messing about with them, that's a normal landline so shouldn't cost much/anything to call from outside the UK).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      This does provide yet another argument against the camp which thinks that understanding the tools they use is not important.

      The message I get from all this is that computers really aren't ready for prime time. They're more like automobiles from the first decade of the 1900s.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        How so?

        People still don't understand cars and if ANYTHING goes wrong with them, they don't know why.
        Consider, also, that a computer's software is custom to each person as they add in more software packages and settings.
        That's roughly akin to someone buying a car and having custom parts put on without knowing much of what they do. They still have no clue when something goes wrong.

        How many people can do much more maintenance on their car than fixing a flat tire? That's not much different than someone knowing

      • Re:Can't Do Much (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Richard_at_work (517087) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .ecirpdrahcir.> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:33AM (#32812740)
        So you think an automobile scam along similar lines today wouldn't work? Get the list of automobile type ownership from the licensing authority (most sell this information, or its easily available elsewhere), cold call the owner and inform them that a voluntary safety notice has been issued on their vehicle, would they like priority booking for just $99 over the phone...

        Uninformed people are still uninformed, regardless of how long the technologies been around.
        • by lgw (121541)

          The "you warrentee has expired" robocalling scam of 2009 was one of the largest and most successful in recent times. This is certainly not a computer-specific problem.

        • Re:Can't Do Much (Score:4, Interesting)

          by asdf7890 (1518587) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:32PM (#32813666)

          Such scams are at least tried. I've had two calls to my house in the last year telling me that my car's warranty is due to expire and if I want to continue it I have to renew before the expiry date or it will cost more then twice as much to renew after that date. Would I like to renew now by card over the phone? I do not own a car and have never owned a car.

          On both occasions I asked played concerned for a moment and asked "which of the cars?" at which point they hung up - obviously anyone asking any questions just makes them run as they don't have any real data other than name and phone number. Once you ask a questions about something they should know if they were who they hope the intended victim thinks they are their "cover" is blown, but they only need a few people who are not cynical/careful enough to check details in order for the operation to be profitable and said victim is no wiser until they try claim on the warranty by which time the scammers have long gone and covered their tracks.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Are you implying that there are no dishonest garage-men who charge $700 for replacing a $35 part? And that there are no car enthusiasts who spend their free time tinkering?

      • You still have to get a license to drive one, so automobiles don't seem to be ready for prime time either. ;)

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by kaoshin (110328)
        The message I get from all this is that computers really aren't ready for prime time. They're more like automobiles from the first decade of the 1900s.

        The message I get is that users really aren't ready for prime time. They're more like prehistoric monkeys.
  • You can only do so much to save the end-user from themselves.

  • Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:11AM (#32812376) Homepage

    How dumb do you have to be to fall for this one? The kind of people falling for these must be same ones who fall for the "suspicious activity in your bank account" scam.

    Nothing to see here, move along.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by IshmaelDS (981095) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:24AM (#32812618)
      You would be surprised how many there are. I work as a network admin and I have dealt with some .... interesting?.... people. One emailed me to tell me their email wasn't working. Yes I know we have all read it in a comic but it's true. I had one of the CFO's I did some work for fill in and almost send a scam bank email form. He at the last second called me to see if I thought it was legit. sigh. I have had people call me up in a panic cause the system was "doing something illegal and they didn't want to get in trouble" (illegal exception errors). I could go on and on. This doesn't surprise me at all. A lot of people when it comes to anything to do with a computer are struck dumb immeditatly and stop using whatever intelligence they have.
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Spad (470073) <slashdot@spad.YEATSco.uk minus poet> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:53AM (#32813012) Homepage

        A lot of it is psychological; users convince themselves that computers are too complicated for them to understand, so they are.

        We had an app at work that ran on a Windows CE-based palmtop that nurses used to record patient notes on their visits and then synced back to a server when they got back to base. The users never had any problems with this at all. Then, when the palmtops were up for replacement, they swapped them out for notebooks running XP with exactly the same app (newer version, same UI) and sync process and suddenly none of the users were able to cope any more.

        Despite the fact that the processes were identical, they saw the notebooks as "proper" computers as opposed to the palmtops that were just electronic notepads in their minds and they convinced themselves that as a proper computer it was too complex for them to understand. So much of the trouble with technology is users creating barriers in their own minds and it's largely of "our" own making for trying to convince users throughout the 90s that computers were easy to use and would do everything for them, when we all know that isn't true.

        • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

          by tibit (1762298) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:14PM (#32813330)

          I'm out of mod points, but the above is very insightful. I can relate seeing, on many occasions, where a dead simple UI, no more complex than say that of an ATM, becomes utterly confounding just because it's being presented with a PC in sight. In one case: as long as the PC was hidden, and the UI was accessed via a touchscreen --- everything was fine. As soon as mouse, keyboard and the PC case became visible, people would say that "something broke" and that I should bring it back to the "way it was before". This was a big eye opener when it comes to usability: users are not rational. Not at all.

          • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

            by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.v ... m ['rbo' in gap]> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @01:43PM (#32814850) Homepage

            It's the big secret of people who are 'knowledgeable' about computer.

            50% of the time when 'help' someone do something, like send email...we don't know anything any more than they do. we're just reading the damn screen and doing what the logical thing would be, and we're not scared of doing the wrong thing. I mean, people ask me to help them send an attachment using a webmail system I'd never seen before:
            Why don't you click on the 'Attach file' link there and select the file? Okay, where'd you save the file? Okay, select it, and then type something in the body, and press send. There you go. Yes, that's me, a computer genius, reading the screen like that and having the ability to use common dialog boxes.(1)

            And another 25% of the time we're solving problems by applying basic computer knowledge. Like, very basic. Like 'able to learn in 10 hours' basic. Stuff like 'The World Wide Web works by your computer talking to another computer through even more computers.' and 'Video files tend to about 10 times as big as mp3s per minute.' and 'Wireless signals are often encrypted'.

            And another 20% of the time it's stuff we've either run into before, and thus know what to do, or we fricking google it. Lacking the basic computer knowledge above just turns that 25% into this also. (I'm often like this on a Mac.)

            There is almost no 'skill' involved at all. Half of it is just a willingness to say 'Okay, this looks right, let's try that'.

            Only about 5% of the stuff people who are 'knowledgeable' about computers do for others as 'tech support', mainly stuff like buying/building computers, and programming, and other 'creative' stuff where you aren't fixing something that's broken, actually require any skill.

            I mean, I have a younger brother who doesn't have any formal computer training outside of high school and an Office class for his associate degree. He's an auto mechanic.

            But he grew up with a nerd and a half-nerd, so he knows how to operate his computer, and any questions from him are things like 'Should I go with AGP or should I pay more for PCI-E?' and 'This game is giving some sort of Direct X error on startup, and all I can find are suggestions to reinstall it and Direct X...which I've done. Ideas?'. This is because he learned 'the secret' to solve computer problems: Do the obvious thing, and if you don't know what that is, google what's wrong. And backup your computer so if it blows up, you can just reinstall.

            1) Yes, yes, we've all fallen prey to the stupid inability to see things right in front of us, and someone else points it out instantly, but I'm not talking about that here.

        • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @02:11PM (#32815340) Journal

          A lot of it is psychological; users convince themselves that computers are too complicated for them to understand, so they are.

          Where does this perception come from? Nothing is too complicated to understand if you work at it. I think people are just lazy and don't want to work at understanding the world around them.

      • by Amouth (879122)

        i have 2 resident people who e-mail me constantly to tell me the e-mail is down.. (they send it from gmail)

        in reality? they didn't bother connecting the VPN - instead they just closed the popup asking for their password..

        i hear from one of them at least every 2 weeks..

      • One emailed me to tell me their email wasn't working. Yes I know we have all read it in a comic but it's true.

        I believe you. I actually had one of those. Someone emailed me, saying, "My email is not working." I replied saying something like, "Seems to be working. Is it only when you send email to specific people?"

        I got an email back saying something like, "Nope. Still not working. I cannot send or receive email at all, with anyone. I think the mail server is down."

        Sometimes you just hope your being trolled, since the alternative is too sad.

      • by eihab (823648)

        You would be surprised how many there are. I work as a network admin and I have dealt with some .... interesting?.... people.

        I worked for a web hosting company before where one of our clients was having supposed issues with their mailing list, they said some users were not receiving messages sent to the list.

        I checked out the mailing list code (it was an in-house solution) and then looked through the mail servers' log files and found nothing in there that supports their claims. So, I decided to email the mailing list to get to the bottom of this. I introduced myself and asked everyone to reply to me if they received the message b

    • by hkmwbz (531650)
      Look, not everyone is as up to date on the latest technology or scamming methods. I think it's quite silly to demand everyone to be as tech savvy as yourself. "But they shouldn't be scammed anyway," you might retort, to which I respond that it's human nature. People just don't have the capacity to think thoroughly about everything and inform themselves fully about every single thing they do.
    • by blair1q (305137)

      How dumb do you have to be to be beaten to a pulp and have your emptied wallet thrown down onto your face?

      A crime is a crime.

  • Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kieran (20691) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:11AM (#32812380)

    The only thing you need to stop this unstoppable scam is for people to be unwilling to shell out a significant sum of money to some c**t who calls them up out of the blue.

    I mean, £185, when you didn't know there was anything wrong with your computer in the first place? You'd need to have more money than brains to shell out for that.

    • by hibiki_r (649814)

      Ah, but by the time you make the download of the remote assistance code, are you sure their computer is in a good state? A guy calls you on the phone and, before asking for any money, manages to make you install a malware dropper. It's just a different vector than the warez/video codec downloaders that do the same thing, and install a fake anti-virus on your computer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by blueg3 (192743)

      Part of the scam is that they get you to download the remote-control software before they tell you they'll charge you. At that point, they can hold your computer hostage.

    • I mean, £185, when you didn't know there was anything wrong with your computer in the first place? You'd need to have more money than brains to shell out for that.

      The first thing that came across my mind is that £185 is probably more than the vast majority of the computers these people are using. I know it's certainly more than what my computers are worth. If somebody tried to charge me that much to fix my (5-year-old) computer, I'd say "No thanks" and buy a new computer.

    • Re:Duh (Score:4, Funny)

      by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:35AM (#32812760)

      Well, I've been doing the more brains than money thing for quite a while and I'd like to try it the other way around just to see what all the hype is about. There are so many of those people out there I figure they must be on to something.

    • Re:Duh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Richard_at_work (517087) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .ecirpdrahcir.> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:38AM (#32812796)

      The only thing you need to stop this unstoppable scam is for people to be unwilling to shell out a significant sum of money to some c**t who calls them up out of the blue.

      I mean, £185, when you didn't know there was anything wrong with your computer in the first place? You'd need to have more money than brains to shell out for that.

      Its no different to being told by a cold calling builder that your roof is sagging and needs several thousands of pounds of repairs done to make it safe. House owner coughs up, builder potters around in the attic for a day and legs it. One house owner that is a lot of money down for no reason other than fraud.

      Unfortunately, these seem to be being reported in the news all too often today :(

  • by thewils (463314) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:14AM (#32812432) Journal

    It's like the one where some dubious company persuades you to install some new version of their operating system claiming that it's super fast and totally secure, etc. etc. and then after six months your machine crawls to a halt unless you give them more money for the next version which is faster, more secure, etc. etc.

    Oh wait...

  • And ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spiked_Three (626260) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:14AM (#32812436)
    What is the difference between this and the tech support offered by most companies?
  • Creative energy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by osullish (586626) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `hsilluso'> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:15AM (#32812446)
    Its funny how much creativity goes into these scams - they're more elaborate than any morally acceptable way of making money! I'm sure that creative energy could be used in a more positive way. However its probably the case that these scams feel easier than positive work.
    • Re:Creative energy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by aicrules (819392) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:24AM (#32812630)
      the problem with morally acceptable of making money is that they often morally tie you to the person paying you in some way. And therefor to keep morally on the up and up, you continue to have to make morally right decisions and actions. Scams, however, it's just a matter of how far you can string a person before you move on to the next one. And you seldom have to worry about silly things like reporting taxes and employing people, though some scams do get that large that they employee people who unwittingly (sure, right) participate. Still easier than providing a useful service that works to make customers happy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kenrblan (1388237)
      Generating $280US or £185 in a matter of minutes without much technical skill is a pretty good payout. Not many jobs pay that well outside of the CEO class. These guys could easily be making $8000/day. At that rate they could make over $2Milllion in US dollars in a year just treating it like an 8 hour per day, 5 days per week job. I have to put more creativity and effort into my job and don't get anywhere near that kind of payback.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PRMan (959735)
        But then they go to prison and make nothing for the next 5-10 years.
    • by hedwards (940851)
      What scares me is that this doesn't look any less legitimate than a lot of the corporate policies out there. Charging people for tech support on a product you've already charged them for. Rearranging the order in which checks are cleared to maximize the number of them that bounce. Using unclear language in insurance documents hoping to not have to pay out the promised sums of money.
  • I get calls once or twice per month that start out like this. I usually just yell "NOOOOO" like I'm dying into the phone and promptly hang up. It's good for a chuckle.

    But seriously, warn all your normie friends about this. My parents were surprised such a thing would be a scam, and my mom's sister even got popped for $90 by these people. Of course, after I told her about it and she tried to call them back, the number was "no longer in service".

    Education about the scam is the only way to avoid it.

    • by ledow (319597)

      Education about SCAMS is the only way to avoid it. Otherwise the next scam that's slightly different in nature has you falling for it too.

      Companies do not contact you for things like this. Banks do not phone you up and, if they do, you say "Fine, I'll contact customer services in my own good time and resolve the issue" - that way *YOU* phone the bank and thus are sure that it is the bank that you have phoned, and that there is a REAL outstanding problem.

      How did Microsoft get the phone number? How dare th

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by blennidae (650683)
      If you have never heard of Tom Mabe and his response to telemarketers, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkdoogjic4I [youtube.com]
  • by Kenoli (934612) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:24AM (#32812612)

    ... and tells them that Microsoft has detected a virus on their PC

    Believing that Microsoft knows or cares if your machine has a virus is flat out ignorant. Being okay with the idea that Microsoft could monitor you is even worse.
    Never mind shelling out hundreds to an stranger for doing nothing -- how many people are really so dense?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by BVis (267028)

      Lots and lots of people. People shop at Walmart, for crying out loud.

  • by nomorecwrd (1193329) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:24AM (#32812626)
    Sounds exactly like a telephone scam now happening here in Chile.

    They call old people telling them that their grandson is involved in some sort of a car accident, and need money for bail or pay the affected part for the damages, anyway they tell them that if they don't get the money his/her beloved grandson will be in jail for a long time

    Then, they ask for the address to send a messenger to pick up the payment, in terms of cash, LCD TV, Blu-ray, etc.

    And people fell for it... even the ones without a grandson :-)
  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:36AM (#32812782) Homepage Journal

    The spoof site behind the scam is approved by McAfee's Site Advisor and bears Microsoft logos, something which both companies have failed to act upon

    Spammers have been doing the same thing for years. The "Canadian Pharmacy" sites always claim to be "verified by visa", "hacker safe", "bbb approved", etc... Any half-wit knows how to copy the logos from some other web page and use them to make your page look more legit than it really is.

    • by ais523 (1172701)
      It always amused me that the "hacker safe" logos (do those still exist?) had an anti-right-click script on them, as if it was somehow going to protect them from hackers. (Admittedly, the typical level of Internet scammer probably couldn't get past an anti-right-click script, but there are bound to be some out there with the minimum technological knowledge necessary to defeat one.)
  • by Itninja (937614)
    ...this is Geek Squad then? I do a bit of sidework now and then and many of my jobs are undoing what GS did...
  • Run text (Score:2, Interesting)

    by clownface (633478)

    My mother-in-law had a call like this last year - they told her to type "temp spyware" and "prefetch unwanted" into the Run box on her PC to prove it was infected..

  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:15PM (#32813338) Homepage

    The actual site mentioned is thenerdsupport.com [thenerdsupport.com]

    I ran them through our SiteTruth system. Here's what comes out. [sitetruth.com] "Rating: "Site ownership unknown or questionable. No Location. ... This certificate identifies the domain only, not the actual business. No street address found on the site."

    Compare the SiteTruth results for Geek Squad. [sitetruth.com] Street addresses found, found in the US business directory, found in Open Directory.

    It's not that hard to sort out the phony business sites from the real ones. You have to check business databases, not just the Web, for business legitimacy. If you just look at the web, you get bogus results like this: McAfee SiteAdvisor [siteadvisor.com]: "We tested this site and didn't find any significant problems." The site itself doesn't try to attack the user, so McAfee says it's good to go.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @12:19PM (#32813428)

    Actually, they kept calling me for weeks, every couple of days. Here's what actually happens.

    It's a Bangladesh call centre.

    They call up and say that a problem on my computer has been reported to them. Of course, I know this is not true. But one time, I went along with it to find out what they were up to.

    They actually talk you through getting the windows event log up on the screen - and make you count the "error" entries. Of course there are error entries.

    So, they say, that proves you have a problem. My parents, for example, would be completely convinced at this point.

    Then they make you go to a web site, and download a remote control application. At that point I hung up. There is no way I'm giving control of my PC over to some whackjob on the phone.

    They kept calling for about two weeks, every couple of days. We're on the do not call list - which in the UK means its illegal for them to call us. And they call asking for "Mr Bruce" after I answer - my wife's name and mine are different, and the phone is in her name.

    The last time they called I asked to speak to their "manager" and I told them to look out the window because the police are coming to get them. What else am I going to do? Then they finally stopped calling.

  • "... something which both companies have failed to act upon."

    If this was in the US, McAfee and MS would lose their respective trademarks for failure to enforce them. What's the law in the UK like in this area?

  • So how did the "company" explain the phone call in the first place? I highly doubt when people have to register for Windows XP activation they actually leave their phone number. And if so, how does a 3rd party get said phone number?

  • Yes we can stop it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Simonetta (207550) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @01:55PM (#32815022)

    Meanwhile, an assortment of British regulators have said there is nothing they can do to stop it.

        Yes, there is something that we can do to stop this kind of activity. Find the people who are doing it and kill them. That usually stops it.

        We don't need the people who are doing this. They don't contribute anything. They won't be missed by anybody. And if it means that their kids will be growing up without a daddy, well, then kill the kids too. They're only children, and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Save the future generations grief.

        While it sounds extreme and tongue-in-cheek, it's not. I realize that it feels horrible to order and facilitate the extra-judicial execution of financial criminals. But it is a feeling that decreases with each new asshole that we stuff into the wood chipper. It's good for the computer community. It gives faith to the general people that we can police our own industry. We 'take out the trash'. Gangsters do this kind of thing all the time. Plus there are too many people in the world already. These jerks won't be missed.

  • We're so smart (Score:3, Informative)

    by AnAdventurer (1548515) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @02:30PM (#32815706)
    I don't give out information over the phone. PERIOD. Even companies I pay, if I forget to mail out a check and they ask I make a payment over the phone, I ask them if a bill has been emailed of USPS'ed. If they say yes, I say thank you, I will pay it when I get it. If they ask me to "verify" my account details, I ask them to go first. Like asking for the 3rd set of numbers on my card in question or my first 3 SS numbers. They always tell me they have to verify my identity first and I simply tell them that they called me. Then I point out that I have no way to verify who they say they are, the response is almost always "but we are Bank of America, why would I say I am if I am not, I really am!". Rarely do they understand my point: They called me and are asking for money over the phone.
  • by aug24 (38229) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @03:34AM (#32823060) Homepage

    ...when I and several other people submitted it to slashdot, complete with links to the PC Pro story that ran in February IIRC.

    Thanks for the public service announcement Timothy.

    If only it had been put out when it was first starting, hundreds of other people might have been warned.

    Grrrrr.
    Justin.

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