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TechCentral Scams Call Center Scammers 251

Posted by timothy
from the my-personal-record-is-about-20-minutes dept.
An anonymous reader writes "At TechCentral, we get on average called at least once a week — sometimes far more often — by a friendly sounding Indian national warning us that our Windows computer is infected with a virus. The call, which originates from a call centre, follows exactly the same script every time. Usually we shrug them off and put the phone down, but this week we thought we'd humour them to find out how they operate. As this week's call came in, the first thing the "operator" at the other end of the line tried to establish was who was owner of the Windows computer in the household. I'd taken the call. It was time to have some fun. I told the scammer that I was the PC owner. He proceeded to introduce himself as "John Connor." I laughed quietly as I imagined Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator hunting down this scamster in the streets of Calcutta. Perhaps he should have come up with a more convincing name."
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TechCentral Scams Call Center Scammers

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  • by Infiniti2000 (1720222) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:39PM (#47757719)
    It's not harmless stringing them along like that. What you're really doing is giving them invaluable experience and training in responding to people who might simply be on the cusp of getting taken.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:46PM (#47757811)

      I rather like telling them to hold on while I go into the other room so I can hear them better, then setting the phone down with the line still open and going back to whatever I was doing before they called.

    • by WaffleMonster (969671) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @01:25PM (#47758275)

      It's not harmless stringing them along like that. What you're really doing is giving them invaluable experience and training in responding to people who might simply be on the cusp of getting taken.

      Acting like an idiot who types slow and has a LOT of questions is not only amusing but wastes time cutting into profits and capacity to contact new victims. As a bonus the experience may help advance your acting career. Ultimately on the job training arguments don't appear to me to carry sufficient heft to outweigh competing arguments. When you hang up and they talk to an honest to god sucker this also counts as on-the-job training.

      Remember kids your computer is off, you have to walk slowly down creeking stairs into the basement to turn it on.. and once there it is very old... it takes *FOREVER* to boot. Be sure to express your displeasure with the performance of your computer.

      • by Reemi (142518) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @03:47PM (#47759723)

        Did this and amazingly they stayed online with me for 30 minutes.

        Then I said: But wait, I think we have the wrong computer. Let me boot the other one.

        Whole call lasted 40 minutes.

      • by cusco (717999)

        When I pretty much start the call by telling them that I have 18 years of desktop, server and network administration you would think that should scare them off, but no. They have a script to follow, and they'll follow it to the end of the Earth and over the edge. Most of the guys that I get tell me they work for Microsoft, and having worked on campus (and in fact having done security for a lot of those buildings) I find it amusing to take them on a mental tour of the Redmond campus. Eventually they drag

    • by mabu (178417) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @06:36PM (#47760995)

      I got a call two days ago from these people. I strung them along until they gave me a web address to go to in order to download some software and run it on my computer. Then while they were expecting me to do that, I ran a WHOIS on the host and IP, found out who was hosting them (it turned out to be an American company) and I contacted their abuse team and reported the site as being fradulent. 24 hours later, their web site was shut down.

      It also helps when you contact their abuse department, that you tell them you work for an antivirus company and you're going to add the IP address of the site to your blacklist. In many cases, there are hundreds if not thousands of web sites operating from the same IP. They will take quick action rather than have one bad customer cause 900 other customer sites to not be accessible.

  • by Peter Simpson (112887) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:41PM (#47757739)
    I kept the guy online, playing dumb, for about 15 minutes, until he finally gave up and told me to call Microsoft.

    At which point, I asked him if I should tell them I was running Linux.

    His reaction was priceless...and unprintable!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:53PM (#47757885)

      Did the same thing. When I told him I was running Linux, he said "Sir, you have been wasting my time!" to which I replied "You called me." Then he hung up. Priceless.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @01:01PM (#47757975)

        My high score was 50 minutes. I kept pretending my computer was rebooting on it's own and took a long time to boot up. When I finally caved and told him I run Linux, he STILL tried to sell me because I could gift his product to my parents because 'older people are not so good with computers'.

        Time permitting, I always take the call and keep them on as long as possible.

        • by Oligonicella (659917) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @02:38PM (#47759075)

          Sir or madam, I truly admire your tenacity - and your sense of the sublime. I'm a little more direct and short. As I've said here before, when I get such a call I immediately start talking in a soft and quaky voice. Like that of an eighty year old. This makes them listen closer and hopefully turn up their volume. I lead them on for a couple of minutes so they're focused and calm and then scream at the top of my lungs like I'm being murdered with an axe. Reactions range from screaming themselves, cursing me out and once trying to find out if I was OK at which point I laughed and *then* they cussed me. All quite cathartic.

          Moral: If you work for sleazoids you're a sleazoid, don't expect civility.

      • by Technician (215283) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @02:15PM (#47758811)

        On my first one, this is how it ended as I went to the website and downloaded the application and offered him the options of "Save" or "Cancel". This confused him for quite a while. He asked me to "Open" it , so I opened it in Package Manager and found the Exe contained another file inside the container. So I extracted that. Finaly we got to the non Windows issue and he hung up. This took almost 40 minutes due to trying to get remote access working.

        These guys are getting smarter in regards to people being on to them.

        The latest call was much shorter as they expalined my PC was uploading to some server. I reacted supprised and inquired as to the server my machine was logging into so I could check my router log. He immediately queried me on why I was skeptical. I explained that I wasn't, but needed to follow up on the breech with the network team to find the target server that was collecting our information. He again accused me of being skeptical and as I again said I wasn't, but needed security to follow up on the breech and check the network gateway logs, he simply hung up on me. They don't want to deal with anyone that understands computers.

        That call never got to the event viewer or remote access. Was fun to have him hang up on me wihout even saying goodby.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nedlohs (1335013)

      What could possibly be unprintable on slashdot?

      """
      Fuck, shit, cock, ass, titties, boner, bitch, muff, pussy, cunt, butthole, Barbara Streisand!!
      """

    • by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @02:11PM (#47758759)

      Last century, I worked for a magazine sales company that did telephone soliciting. We loved it when people slammed down the phone because it meant no wasted time. The worst was when someone wanted to chat. One time a kid answered the phone and I asked for the dad. She said, "He's out in the garage under the car" and ran off to fetch him. It was a dillemma what to do next. Hang up? wait?. Another time the person on the other end kept repeating only the word yes during my sales pitch and then 5 minutes in switched to "can you please speak chinese". Even when I said "goodbye".

      These days, I tell them I'm really glad they called and I need to move to the phone by the computer so I can purchase what they are selling. Then I set the phone down and go about what I was doing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      guy pranks a scammer using a soundboard

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNsMW4n3z9Y

  • by blueshift_1 (3692407) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:42PM (#47757747)
    All the best scams make you feel as though they are helping you... Also, there are greater quantities of users who lack the standard knowledge to be able to see through these. That's the problem with making computing so main stream... it dilutes the depth of knowledge of the system.
    • by AudioEfex (637163) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @01:20PM (#47758211)

      True, but the gap of "standard knowledge" isn't as bad as it used to be. At least it's getting better. If any message has gotten through, it's been not to give out information to an unknown phone caller. I'm sure it must work sometimes or they wouldn't be doing it, but since email spam has been largely eliminated from most end-user experiences, it seems going back to the phone scams is a bit too late because folks are going to click on an email link much more readily than give out any info to an unknown phone caller these days.

      I have a friend in her 50's who's parents are in their late 70's, and they just got one of these calls last week. To give you an idea of their technical proficiency, they still use AOL mail (and Facebook is too difficult for them to use). The caller wanted their windows installation ID. They kept them on the phone for like 20 minutes - while they used their other phone to call Microsoft, LOL. The scammer gave up when they realized what was going on, and they never gave them any personal info. So, even they knew something was "wrong" and didn't fall for it. That's just one anecdotal example, granted, but again these are the very folks that they are trying to get who have wised up and are especially vigilant about phone callers in particular (organizations like AARP are actually really good at educating folks about not falling for scams).

      The funny (sad?) part was the parents understood exactly what happened during the attempted scam (bad guy trying to get their computer info), but what they didn't understand was why Microsoft didn't seem very interested in "getting 'em" after the fact - they wanted to fill out a report about the scam, etc., and MS basically said "you did the right thing, thanks, /click" - they just didn't understand why MS wasn't going to investigate further, call the phone company to get records, etc. That was the only difficult thing for them to understand and had to be explained to them, LOL. So even though they may not totally get the larger view of the picture, they knew not to give out any information which was the important part.

  • weekly (Score:4, Funny)

    by Spaham (634471) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:43PM (#47757759)

    Is this the weekly article about people who decide to "take the call" and "investigate" and "make fun of the scammers" ?
    We've seen this MANY times...

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:43PM (#47757767)

    I was taking my boys out bowling last summer when I got a call from my father telling me that "Windows" had called him and told him his computer was infected with a virus. I immediately told him it was a scam and to just hang up. At first, he didn't want to "just in case they were telling the truth", but he eventually hung up on them. They had gotten him to go to a website but not run a program. I told him that even opening a website could infect him and to treat his computer as if it was infected. Later, when I examined the website and his computer, I concluded that the website was a simple page that linked to remote access tools. These were perfectly valid tools (e.g. TeamViewer) from the company's own servers, but obviously being used for nefarious purposes. Running these tools themselves wouldn't have been a problem - except for the scammer on the other end of the connection. The fact that he stopped short of running their tool saved him.

    The same scammers (or others running the same scam) called him back a few times since. My dad might not be the most computer savvy, but he does learn. He's not going to fall for the same thing twice and now that he knows it's a scam he berates the person for a few seconds before hanging up on them.

    • What they hell do they do? Drop a key logger onto the machine?! Scary stuff. I can see the elderly getting hit by this.

      And this is why I recommend Apple products. If you run the newer OSX, programs can't run unless it's blessed by Apple (signed). You can over-ride the default behavior, but that's something you rarely do if ever (well, unless you're a developer or toy with someone's pet project app).

      • The scammers wanted my father to run a remote access tool. My assumption at the time was that they were then going to load some trojan or something to take control of the PC (likely silently to harvest as much data as possible). Going by the TechCentral article, they have you enter Paypal and/or Credit card information on a page (while watching what you are typing) to pay them a "PC cleaning fee." If you don't pay them, they start rooting through your PC for valuable documents and/or delete any documents

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        You should re-read what you wrote. You are suggesting that Apple products are better because the scammers would need to get their victim to click on dangerous stuff instead of clicking on dangerous stuff like they would on a Windows machine.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      My mother fell for the scam. Didn't lose anything but did get the remote service tool installed. She explained that since they called her it seemed legitimate.
      Later she was put in contact with some web site that did identify theft clean up, and I tried to discourage her but she said her friend had used it (turns out it was semi-legitimate as it had some downrating from the better business bureau for pushing unneeded services).

  • Unimpressed (Score:5, Funny)

    by namgge (777284) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:47PM (#47757815)
    The author is overselling himself. You haven't scammed a scammer until you've got them to send a bag man from Nigeria to a remote Scottish Island to collect your investment in cash.
  • by DaMattster (977781) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:49PM (#47757837)
    I had one of these fookers once and decided to have a little bit of fun. I played myself off as an absolutely dumb user with very, very short term memory and kept asking the representative to repeat himself. I strung them along for 30 minutes before finally revealing that I was using Linux. I got yelled at and then they slammed the phone down. I hate these pond scum predators.
  • you aren't getting contacted by a Nigerian 411 scammer with some dead relative or something or other and trying to deposit a magical sum of money in your account.
    • you aren't getting contacted by a Nigerian 419 scammer with some dead relative or something or other and trying to deposit a magical sum of money in your account.

      FTFY.

    • you aren't getting contacted by a Nigerian 411 scammer with some dead relative or something or other and trying to deposit a magical sum of money in your account.

      And then he offers to look up phone numbers for you! [wikipedia.org] Perhaps you meant 419. [wikipedia.org]

  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:53PM (#47757901)
    I work in a repair shop. I see this every single day, and it is accelerating. Many are cold calls, but a surprising number are found in google searches. I had one today where someone was looking for outlook help as they could not access their email.

    In my experience, most do 'semi' legitimate work, using normal tools for disinfection and optimization. These tools are things like hitman, MBAM, ccleaner, etc. Unfortunately, the techs do not seem very skilled, sometines causing damage, and more importantly they lie in a very convincing confidence game to get payment info and perform service. While I have yet to see anyone have extra fraudulent charges placed on them, the initial bill is fradulent given that the work never needed to be performed.

    Also, if these "services" are so unethical as to lie to get you to pay, it is a small step to later using that payment information or selling it to third parties.

    The worst one I saw is from a personal friend who called one of these services for assistance, paid 300 dollars for 3 years of remote assistance. One onthe to the day later, another company cold called him (he thought it was the first company). He allowed them remote access, and then when they wanted payment and he realized it was not the first company he asked them to disconnect. He was emotional and turned off his surge protector when they became pressuring and refused to disconnect. He left the room failing to realize it was a laptop and still on. The 'tech' then proceeded to delete most of the recently dated files in his user profile. These were very important files, and I was only able to recover about 85% with file recovery tools.

    Unfortunately all these companies need to operate is a phone number and a simple VOIP system..maybe a quick templated website and domain. They can be set up in a very quick time, and exist outside of any willing jurisdiction to fight them. Education is the ONLY way at this time.

  • My Grandma (Score:5, Funny)

    by master_kaos (1027308) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:55PM (#47757921)

    Best way to annoy these guys is get them to call my grandma. She has 15 year old computer with 64MB ram that somehow runs xp. It literally takes 10 minutes to boot the pc. She also barely knows how to turn on the monitor. These guys were talking to my grandma for about 50 minutes when finally she said "maybe you should talk to my grandson he is in IT support", they promptly hung up after that.
    She asked me if it was legit I said no, never ever listen to what these guys say because they will try to scam you and get your money. Unfortunetly sometimes she has a bad memory and 2 years later she fell to the exact same scam. I got her to call her credit card company to halt/cancel any payments, and I told her to buy a new pc because there was no way in hell I was reformatting a 64MB xp box. It took me over 2 hours just to backup documents.

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:55PM (#47757925)
    A frustrating friend of mine who periodically calls me for computer help but will argue with any help I offer got nailed by one of these guys. Except that he argued with them the whole time and wouldn't follow their instructions. The only thing that ended up being changed was that he deleted his browser icon from his desktop.
  • by MHz-Man (1066086) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:58PM (#47757953)
    A co-worker of mine told me that he called Netgear tech support for some help setting up a wireless router and his call got routed to these guys, or people almost exactly like them. From the description of the call, it looks/sounds like the exact same script/ploy. They asked him to run some command and said that the results of that command indicated that he had vulnerabilities on his machine. They'd need to remote in to install some stuff. He didn't fall for that last part, thankfully!

    It's absolutely insane that a call to a well-known company's tech support line is getting sent to a scam like this. Yay outsourcing!
    • by bobbied (2522392) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @02:27PM (#47758965)

      Almost the same thing happened to my Mother in law. She got diverted from HP's tech support to some third party who proceeded to help her printer to work. I think it was an HP CSR that gave her an alternate number to call, but they went though the song and dance, talked her into paying big bucks to load and configure her printer drivers and loaded their "support" software package.

      Took me 2 weeks to get the credit card charges reversed and I had to totally reload the laptop from scratch to undo all the stuff they did to her machine.

      I don't know if HP actually sent her to this company or if the CSR did that on their own, but this is a growing problem. If it was the CSR, I hope they got fired and quick. If it was HP, well they get what they deserve... Personally I don't use HP for anything, but I won't go into that story here...

  • by HornyBastard (666805) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @12:59PM (#47757959)
    I usually get 1 of these calls per month.
    I like to see how long it takes before they swear at me and hang up.
    One time i started the conversation with "I like pie", and spent the next 20 minutes telling this guy about all the pies i have eaten in my life.

    My favorite of all time was a lady with a very attractive voice. Every time she told me to do something, i made up a bullshit error message. She was sounding very confused when she finally asked me what version of windows i was using and i told her windows 19.
    She tried to explain to me that the latest version of windows was windows 7, but about halfway through my story about how i wanted a very fast computer, so i built a time machine to go buy a new computer in the future, she started using some very colorful language, including a few words that i have never heard before, and i can swear in 17 languages.

    Every time i get bored, i watch the phone and hope for another call from them.
  • by Carcass666 (539381) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @01:07PM (#47758049)

    Here is a 419 (Nigerian scam) back-and-forth [cracked.com]. It is quite a bit funnier...

  • This scam can have serious repercussions

    Yes and thats why no one should do it. aside from dicking around with foreign scammers you're also making a very bold assumption that theyre not part of an organized criminal syndicate capable of learning from this mistake, gathering more information about you, and directly targeting you or your family members for not only clowning around with them, but publishing an article on the hubris of your interation. Antispam researchers are absolutely familiar with everything from death threats to kilos of drugs

  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @01:22PM (#47758241) Homepage

    The trouble is how to hit back at them. Normally the most that you can do is to waste their time & phone bill -- but your time is more precious than that. I wanted to try to get some of them to stop scamming and, to a limited extent, succeeded.

    I had a phone call from one of these crooks claiming to be from Microsoft security center trying to tell me about a problem on my MS Windows machine (I run 100% Linux). After a few seconds I interrupted him and asked him if he was a religious man. He was puzzled and, after a couple of prompts, said 'yes'.

    I told him that I was worried about his eternal soul ending up burning in the fires of hell because he was trying to steal money from people while he was alive. I asked if it was really worth it spending billions of years burning in hell for the sake of making some money in the few short years that he is alive. None of us is alive for many years compared to the billions of years in heaven or hell after we die.

    I asked him to think about it before he went to sleep tonight. Where did he want to spend eternity ? Should he be doing the job that he is doing ? Is it worth it ? How will he be judged by God ? He was by now sounding a very different man from the one who started the 'phone call a few minutes earlier. Thanked me for being concerned about him. The call continued for another minute or so, me laying the eternity bit on very thick. Him getting quieter, before quietly thanking me again before the call ended.

    I don't know what long term effect this will have on him, but hopefully he will decide that he ought to get another job. I did this a few times, some just laughed, then I got bored with the game.

  • What happens if they end calling the cops, FBI, power plants, ECT Will they be tracked down?

  • He proceeded to introduce himself as "John Connor." I laughed quietly

    It's part of the scam. Disarming misdirection. For a while, part of you was favorably disposed toward the scammer and you were thinking about the ridiculous name instead of screaming in your head "This is a SCAM!".

  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @01:35PM (#47758381)
    http://itslenny.com/ [itslenny.com]

    .
    • Just added lenny to my sip phone address book. If you use IPPI, the full address won't work as it won't take the two dots in the address. Remove the first sip. from the address and it works great.

  • I know two elderly people, both bilked out of $300. I see dozens of stories in this thread about how so many of us have been called and how you like to string them along and frustrate them. I've been called at least a dozen times. We need something other than just frustration to battle them. How can we prepare tools and tactics to respond and try to stop this?

    • I have attempted to report them to my state's Attorney General but she is too busy being a political hack to do anything about them. It would be nice if our government actually decided to investigate and stop interstate and international wire fraud but that doesn't seem to be a high priority for them. Maybe more people need to start reporting them. Also wasting their time and reporting them aren't mutually exclusive although wasting their time seems to produce better results.
  • It should read "TechCentral almost got scammed by call center scammers". He had to pull the plug on the wireless router to disconnect the scammer.
  • I wonder if banks have some sort of honeypot credit card numbers, which one could give to a known scammer to help catch them in the act. I clearly have no idea what I'm talking about, but there ought to be some way to turn the tables on the scammers here. (And yes, I've heard about the elaborate ways people have trolled 419 scammers, I'm thinking of something a little less time-consuming.)

  • These scammers also have web pages that offer "AOL technical support," "PC technical support," and so on, with 800 numbers prominently listed. So if an un-aware person (like my Aunt . . . ) hunts for help via Google they'll often end up getting in touch with these jerks.

    I have a couple of variant responses worked out:

    "So, in India, do they use the term 'con artist' or 'confidence trickster'?"

    "So, does your mother know what you do for a living? Did she teach you to be a crook or did you go bad on your own?"

    "

  • I'm not surprised that these scams work. People will readily give their bank and credit card details to random strangers in the street, with clipboards, and wearing colourful vests with logos on, who claim to be collecting subscriptions for charities. How do you find out if they're legit?

  • by swb (14022) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @02:24PM (#47758931)

    I took a call from one of these guys.

    I happened to have a VM I use for testing up and running and I snapshotted it and figured I'd follow along with him just to see what he wanted done. This VM is on its own VLAN and behind its own firewall and public IP, but I kind of got cold feet about creds that could be on the machine or connectivity to my production LAN so I stopped before anything got installed (and I reverted to the snapshot, too).

    Anyway, after I quit playing along I started to gently question who he said he was and the guy became really abusive and threatening, like he was going to save up for a plane ticket to fly to the US and beat me up or something if I didn't keep going. I was really kind of surprised at how far he took it.

    At that point I figured dishing it out was fine, so I went full-on nasty with him and again I was surprised at his willingness to keep it up, especially considering I was pretty harsh.

  • by robstout (2873439) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @02:28PM (#47758971)
    The best revenge I heard was someone spinning up a VM of Windows 7, and having 2 folders on it: Personal, and Finances. The Finance folder was full of infected files, while Personal had some very nasty porn. Then he let the scammers get access to the VM, and watched them donwload the files.
  • Windows is on its way out, and soon everyone will be using a Mobile OS -- the scammers will IM you and claim they need to connect to your tablet or phone to remove malware.

    Or have I just come up with the next great thing(tm)?

  • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc&carpanet,net> on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @02:32PM (#47759015) Homepage

    A while back I tried to turn the tables on a scammer who royally pissed me off.

    I posted an ad looking for a roomate and I got interest from someone claiming to be relocating from spain with moving costs paid by her company. Sounded good to me....after a quick exchange I took down my ad and a day later got the bad news "I will be sending a money order, can you cash it and forward on the difference too...."

    I immediately recognized the scam and put my ad back up, but I was mad.

    So I said "Sure sounds good".... the money order came, I said "never got it, when is it coming?"....got another one.... then I decided to have fun with it.... I sent a url for some pictures on my webserver and asked questions that would requiore looking at them to answer...about the room of course.... soon as I had an IP, I looked it up and told "her"

    "I have seen better fakes, you wont fool me" I told "her" and that I knew she was somewhere outside Lagos Nigeria. Suddenly she admitted to being a he, and had a new tune.... he was trying to recruit me. Too easy.

    Pretty quickly it shaped up what he wanted...someone with a US addrss to remail packages. I would get a package of papers to send out, all I had to do was put them in envelopes, slap postage on, and that would be $500 for me, each time.

    So I figured....no way I am helping this scammer who tried to scam me, but, lets see if I can scam him out of $500 by getting him to pay up front. He mentioned counterfit bills, so I was like yes, cool, I will take counterfit bills, then I can report you directly to the Secret Service oooh fun.....

    in the end we could never work out a deal that sounded good to him and I was willing to burn him on so, it never happened. Oh well.....

  • Sometimes I ask them which specific machine they have in mind, as there are several. That usually addles them fairly well. Alternately, I tell them all our machines run Linux.
  • I never get these calls, so I miss out on the fun. Just as well - I am pretty busy, so I don't have a lot of time for hijinks..

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