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Microsoft IT Technology

'Microsoft' Scam Callers Arrested After Years of Terrorising the Technically Challenged (gizmodo.co.uk) 185

An anonymous reader shares a report: Those shameless scammers that cold-call people pretending to be from Microsoft and demanding money after walking users through supposed problems with their computers? They're going down, it seems, with four people arrested in the UK for enabling the rip-off. City of London Police and Microsoft, the real Microsoft, have been working together for two years to trace the operators of the scheme, with the four people -- two from Woking and two from South Shields -- arrested on suspicion of fraud. Although the calls were found to originate from India, the investigators found that the scam was allegedly being run out of the UK, with the poor overseas callers working from scripts and, presumably, not really aware they're doing anything hugely wrong.
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'Microsoft' Scam Callers Arrested After Years of Terrorising the Technically Challenged

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  • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @04:22PM (#54714993)

    Queue the

    "There's hundreds more working in Redmond"


    • Re:Queue (Score:4, Funny)

      by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @04:47PM (#54715175) Homepage Journal

      Please do the needful of knowing *queue* and *cue*, then revert if you have one doubt.

      • One could argue that 'queue' can be interpreted sanely here, but homophones can be a bit tricky when trying to fire off some quick /. snark.
        • Re:Queue (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @05:07PM (#54715341) Homepage Journal

          You could argue that the moon is made of cheese, but you'd be wrong about that too.

          • Compare: "Cue the people waiting to enter." versus "Queue the people waiting to enter." Both are grammaticallly correct even to grammar nazis.

            • queue
              n noun
              1 chiefly British a line or sequence of people or vehicles awaiting their turn to be attended to or to proceed. ØComputing a list of data items, commands, etc., stored so as to be retrievable in a definite order.
              2 archaic a plait of hair worn at the back of the head.
              n verb (queues, queuing or queueing, queued) chiefly British wait in a queue. ØComputing arrange in a queue.

              C16 (as a heraldic term denoting an animal's tail): from French, base

            • Apart from one small detail: nobody would actually say the second one, because it sounds wrong and is wrong.

              Now "ask them to queue" or even "queue them up" are acceptable, but not what you wrote.

              Your usage is an eggcorn.

        • by alexo ( 9335 )

          homophones can be a bit tricky

          Especially for straight people.

          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            I think the homophones are those supposedly strait guys who keep looking at your junk in the bathroom to decide if you should be in there or not.

      • Unless you queue hundreds of "There's hundreds more working in Redmond"?
      • "Queue" because the joke is so obvious that people are lining up to tell it.

      • Queue is 100% correct and what I intended in this scenario.

    • Queue the

      "There's hundreds more working in Redmond"


      There are hundreds more working in Redmond .

      As I don't use any MS stuff, I have never called their help desk. But I wonder if MS avoid using those Indians on their own help desk, considering that caller will assume from the accents that they are scammers. Like I know a Chinese guy who never eats in Chinese restaurants because as soon as he walks in people assume he is a waiter.

      • I know someone who works at Microsoft; Microsoft at one point was in the process of outsourcing a lot of people to India, but customers didn't like that so they started bringing them back home. They still have a lot in India, Australia, and many other countries around the world (including the US). Which call center you hit depends in part on what time of day you call.

        I heard of one guy who liked to place his calls at night so that he would get the Australian help centre as he said they seemed to know what

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29, 2017 @04:26PM (#54715035)

    They'll lie their asses off when they call. Of course the poor overseas callers were fully aware it was a scam.

    • I'm not so sure, considering the huge amount of poor people living in India I'm quite sure that you can find loads of people who have no clue what Microsoft or Windows is.
      • by mbadolato ( 105588 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @04:49PM (#54715179)

        Oh ok is that why when I'd mess around with them pretending I was looking at my computer they would immediately call me a motherfucker that was wasting their time and hang up?

      • Well there's all the ones who work for Tata for a start.

      • considering the huge amount of poor people living in India I'm quite sure that you can find loads of people who have no clue what Microsoft or Windows is.

        Tripe. TFA is trying to excuse shield the scam callers because they are brown - it's racist patronisation in other words. Indians, even "poor" ones, are not stupid; on the whole they are very clever indeed, in the best senses and the worst senses. The word "poor" is used as a deliberate ambiguity.

        About everyone in the World had heard of Windows, especially ones sat in front of a PC. More likely they don't know what a virtual machine or Linux is. I have allowed these scammers to do what they want on a co

        • I doubt race has anything to do with this. TFA is trying to excuse the scam callers because they're poor. I'd bet that a good number of Indians are stupid, and I'd bet that substituting any nationality. Going after the callers is like going after a drug ring by busting the guys on street corners, except that the guys on the street corners actually have something of value to the higher-ups.

      • I am VERY sure, there is nothing innocent about any of them, they are trained to lie their arses off. I ave led a few on when I have been called and if you ask them questions they will happily make up any lie. They are fully aware of what they are doing, they will also instantly hang up on you if you hint that you might be with the authorities or if it sounds like you know it is a scam.
    • They'll lie their asses off when they call. Of course the poor overseas callers were fully aware it was a scam.

      Considering things like a Youtube video of a scammee tricking one of the calling scammers into locking down their system in the exact way that they were about to do to him I'm not so sure. Some people are actually just stupid.

    • by Teun ( 17872 )
      They are, a few minutes into the call I typically ask them whether their mother is proud to have brought up a criminal and before they hang up the usual reply is "Fuck you".
      • As a mostly law-abiding citizen of the US, if you asked me whether my mother is proud to have brought up a criminal, I'd probably say something much like that. Your screening method is going to register a very large number of false positives.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29, 2017 @04:30PM (#54715059)

    How the hell does this kind of thing take years to track down?

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Law enforcement is not a service for the people. Its main task is to keep the population in check. As the population is too stupid to recognize what is going on, letting crime continue actually benefits law enforcement. (Yes, I realize we are not fully there yet, but the global trend way into a full-blown police-states is pretty clear.)

    • Probably because it's not a crime the police are set up to handle. So you generally need a national law enforcement service to get involved. Then the problem is that all the evidence, if it can be found, points to India. Since that's a foreign country that puts a damper on the investigation. Now it's got to wait until it's a serious enough problem to spend real money on it (ie, lots of victims). Then you need to gather real solid evidence, good enough to actually get a conviction.

      And face it, they've n

    • How the hell does this kind of thing take years to track down?

      Because British Telecom has failed to implement a number which you dial immediately after receiving such a call to have the system track down the caller and email his details to the fraud squad.

      For the extremely stupid:
      I don't expect the victims to do this, but 99% of people called are not victims, and would report the call if provided with a means to do so.

      British Telecom is run by total morons and has lost most of its landline business bec

    • This was mostly run by the City of London Police. This is a police force that has responsibility for about 1 square mile of London. That area has almost no residents, so it's primarily paid for by businesses.

      The City Police are a bit short of work to do, and a bit over-financed (is my belief). They 'crusade' against copyright infringement and now about scam phone calls. In theory this is no bad thing - after all, some scammers are off to jail. However, we have another organisation called the National Crime

  • In a few years, there will be a major motion picture about these jerks, like they're Robin Hood or something.
  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @04:32PM (#54715075) Homepage

    Very unfortunate term and I it sounds like something that cannot be cured with a telethon to help those afflicted with it.

    The obvious joke here is that if you're using Windows, you're clearly "Technically Challenged" but I think it goes further than that and parodies legitimate physical and cognitive handicaps (both of which are PC'd down to "challenges").

    Probably a better and more accurate term would be "not technically proficient".

    Bash away.

  • Right. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cheesybagel ( 670288 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @04:38PM (#54715111)

    I got a phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft and that my computer had a virus. Which was... interesting to say the least. Considering that I never gave Microsoft my phone number in the first place. The guy on the phone line had the most ridiculous accent.

    • For some reason these scammers have always claimed to be calling from Windows here in Scandinavia.
    • by taustin ( 171655 )

      Well, technically speaking, if they actually were Microsoft, if you ever put your phone number into anything, anywhere, on your computer, or on any Windows computer on your network, or said it out loud in the presence of your computer, the telemetry that installed as a critical update probably sent it to Microsoft (along with copies of the dick pics you accidentally sent to your grandmother).

    • Zat is because he is French, you silly English K-niggit!!!

    • Apparently that was a South Shields, UK accent.
    • For my mother, she'll get a virus alert warning, with a phone number to call. Then she'll call... Once she got a virus warning, and a few minutes later a popup from Best Buy offering to sell her some antivirus program (Symantic Endpoint Protection, not your typical home user malware protection). They help her set this up, after first uninstalling her current antivirus. For payment they wanted her checking account routing number! Which she gave them!

      I tell her later that it's a scam but she just doesn't

  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @04:42PM (#54715139) Homepage

    The first few times I tried talking to them, then I tried calling them liars.
    But I found the best way to deal with them was to just say nothing and mute the phone; it wastes their time, but not mine.

    • Eternal penalty hold is my method of choice for Indian-accent cold callers.

    • Once my wife told them that we only run Linux, they quit calling.

    • The best way to handle any scam is to use the Jolly Roger Phone Company. http://www.jollyrogertelco.com... [jollyrogertelco.com]

      Watch the YouTube channel. It's so bad, I actually feel sorry for the poor telemarketers.

    • I always ask them "how do you know it was my computer sending you messages that it has a virus? Do you know the serial number of my computer?"

      They respond by getting you to call up an immutable sequence of characters and digits from the bowels of the Windows OS that a stupid person might consider to be a serial number. They read it out using words like "one, five, B for Bob, S for Suzie"... etc etc.

      Then they ask me to read it back so I pause and say

      "Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo Oscar Foxtrot Foxtrot"


  • Part of the problem we seem to have is that absolutely nothing is done about the numerous types of scams that are computer/Internet related. Even the FBI, which was the agency that was supposed to investigate many of these schemes in the US when the phenomena first started, doesn't even want to follow up on any of it because it's always considered too hard to actually trace or obtain an arrest/conviction. As more and more of them are actually caught, charged and punished (that last part is really important), it's always going to be considered easy money with zero ramifications whatsoever.
    • There is a reason the FBI doesn't spend a lot of time on these, according to an article I read MS spent $2million tracking these 4 down. That's a lot of cash for a financial crime that's a few bucks at a time. Particularly considering the FBI tries to avoid low dollar crime (I've heard they won't even talk to you if it's no $5k or more) because it wastes their resources where they can be better spent.

  • Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @04:55PM (#54715223)

    First, I find it hard to believe that there's only one group of scammers running th Microsoft Support con. Second, TFS says "the poor overseas callers working from scripts and, presumably, not really aware they're doing anything hugely wrong". From my many experiences with these callers, I would say that they're VERY aware that they're at least pretty far over on the shady side of the street. Some of them I wouldn't want to meet unless I was armed, judging by the things they said after I strung them along for a few minutes by describing what I was seeing on my Xubuntu machine... :)

    • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mdpowell ( 256664 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @05:13PM (#54715401)

      Yeah, saying they are "presumably, not really aware" is BS. I'm not sure why the post's author felt compelled to express sympathy for people perpetuating a scam that takes advantage of vulnerable people. The people who both manage and make these calls are criminals, and they should pay for their crimes with whatever $ they have and loss of freedom. Sympathy should go to the victims.

      I engaged one of these guys once who for whatever reason would not hang up on me. He was articulate and seemed quite intelligent. I called him a scammer and a criminal who should be in jail. I told him he should be ashamed to face his family. I told him to get an education and a real job. He claimed he was going to school in preparation for the merchant marine, which I agreed was a real job. He eventually admitted he was a scammer. He was totally aware of what he was doing.

  • Not the only ones (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spaceman375 ( 780812 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @05:06PM (#54715331)

    The business model has proven itself lucrative. Do you really think they're the only scammers in this global town? The shakedowns aren't limited to windows users; they use IRS and tax collection scams most often, but any possible billing is fair game to scammers. They prey on old people, immigrants, and minorities just because they are more vulnerable.

    At least two other "organizations" are already running this fake microsoft scam. It's just another revenue stream to them.

  • by toonces33 ( 841696 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @05:12PM (#54715387)
    If you scold them and tell them that they should be ashamed of themselves for trying to rip people off, they hang up. I suppose I could play dumb and waste their time, but I would be wasting my own time at the same time.
  • by buss_error ( 142273 ) on Thursday June 29, 2017 @05:39PM (#54715593) Homepage Journal

    There is a fairly easy way to stop all kinds of scams like this.

    Issue "Fraud cards" to LEO.

    What, might you ask, is a fraud card? It's a special card that will stop a merchant account. Shut it down. Scammer calls a undercover LEO or their call is forwarded to them, LEO gives them the number, and as soon as it hits the card processor, it locks the merchant account and triggers a fraud investigation into that merchant account.

    Full stop.

    As for checking, that would be a tiny bit harder but not insurmountably so. Bit coin I doubt much could be done about it since the point of crypto currency is to avoid LE as much as possible.

    • by cunina ( 986893 )
      Pardon my ignorance: does this actually exist? It's a great idea.
    • For real. How do I get one of these red herring cards? Do I have to call the FBI?

      Is it called something else? google loves to tell me all about credit card fraud, but nothing on a red herring card....

    • What, might you ask, is a fraud card? It's a special card that will stop a merchant account. Shut it down. Scammer calls a undercover LEO or their call is forwarded to them, LEO gives them the number, and as soon as it hits the card processor, it locks the merchant account and triggers a fraud investigation into that merchant account.

      Doesn't even have to be an undercover police officer. They make so many fraudulent calls, they must be calling the homes of police officers once in a while. To encourage police offers to actually do this (they are at home, not on the job), reward them with paying 30 minutes overtime whenever their "Fraud card" is used.

    • This sounds like a good idea. It will never be implemented though as protecting is not part of their remit. If in doubt, refer to the Supreme Court: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06... [nytimes.com]

      Unfortunately, our police forces are for revenue generation and for primitive behavioural control.

      Revenue could be (but not limited to) speeding tickets or prison profits.

      Behavioural control is the war on * where they can lodge a case against your possessions instead of you and just take them without any legal recourse by the in

    • As long as no LEO uses this card accidentally, or deliberately, and only LEOs get the card ever, I suppose that might work. Fortunately, in the US, all law enforcement agencies are honorable, incorruptible, mistake-proof, and never lose any important object or leak any important information.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    (Note: What this guy is doing is probably illegal, although I wouldn't convict him in court)
  • my Wife answered and I was not at home. She knows better than to do anything on the computer without me so she luckily didn't follow their command. However, when I got home she rode my a$$ all night long to "fix" her computer because she believed them that there was something wrong. She didn't believe me until I showed here many posts on the internet about these trolls and even then she wanted me to check out here computer and make sure everything was ok.... gees
  • Let's talk about a punishment fitting for the perpetrators. I'd like to see something involving chainsaws and great white sharks. And I'm not talking about "Sharknado VII: Mutant Ax Men Sharks".
  • I'm surprised they are stupid enough to run it from the UK. There will be plenty of financial and electronic paper trails for the authorities to follow, you can't buy your way out of jail and any money you do make thats kept in the UK as Assets etc will be confiscated also : not to mention getting banged up in jail.

    Surely if you are going to run this kind of con you should do it from a country that has a more "flexible" attitude i.e. corrupt.

    Arrests do take a long time in this scenario as the coppers
  • They called at 10 PM. I don't remember why I answered the phone at that ungodly hour. Someone mumbled something I didn't understand because of his accent. I mumbled something back that he probably didn't understand since I wasn't really awake, then I hung up. The next morning I woke up and realized that that was the Microsoft scam I'd heard about.

  • I enjoy the calls from Windows Technical Support. I treat them like a game - how long can I keep these people on the phone (often while I'm doing something else)? I can usually tie them up for about a half hour, but I'm not going to give them remote access to my computer, and there's only so long I can pretend to have trouble letting them in until they give up. I've always wondered what they would do if they actually could get in...

    Then I remembered: Microsoft makes free images of Windows installations avai

    • Thanks! I'm a Linux user but I know only a little about VM's and was wondering where I could pick up a Windows VM image so I could play with these guys and waste their time (at least when I have time to waste).

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