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TechCentral Scams Call Center Scammers 251

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

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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 camperdave ( 969942 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @01:15PM (#47758119) Journal

    What could possibly be unprintable on slashdot?

    There are a couple of choice ones that are unprintable, but we can't actually tell you because, well, they're unprintable.

  • Re:Fail (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @01:17PM (#47758155) Homepage

    They also fail to realize that many of the people that work in these calls centers believe they are working valid jobs to some degree or another.

    No, that's not true.

    The people who work in the call centers are the same pool of talent, and in many cases may be doing both.

    But they know they're scamming when they're doing it.

    The problem is that they often don't know they're scamming when they're offering real support, because they're unqualified to know that in many cases.

    I've seen documentaries about the people doing these things, and they absolutely know they're scamming people. And the reality is, they simply don't care.

    Nobody could possibly NOT know that they're just ripping people off.

    The important thing to remember is to make sure your parents and friends who aren't from a tech background understand that this is a real thing, and that they're being lied to. Because way too many people fall for it when the nice friendly person calls to say they're gonna fix your problem.

  • Re:Is he a senior? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 26, 2014 @01:17PM (#47758171)

    Most of these numbers likely come from scam sites claiming to offer free/cheap medical services. Once you've entered your information, they sell it to everyone interested.

  • 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.

  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <> 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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 TheCarp ( 96830 ) < minus pi> 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?" 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 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.....

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas