27 Oct 2010

A few weeks ago I received a phone call at home that came up as an International number, so I was fully prepared for some sort of advertising. The typical silence after answering such calls was eventually answered by an Indian women confirming she was speaking to Mr O’Leary. Of course, there was the usual stumble as she tried to decide how to pronounce my surname. Eventually she said she was calling to help with the issues I’ve been having with my Windows computer. I pointed out to her that I don’t own a Windows machine, so that was the end of that. It didn’t occur to me until I’d hung up that this was probably a scam and some fun could have been had.

Well, tonight I got the chance to play. I’d known for a while that an International number had again been ringing us through the day and Jo had taken to ignoring them. When I answered I tried to sound suitably naive and welcoming of their offer to fix the apparent problems on my (still non-existent) PC.

After confirming which the ‘windows’ key on the keyboard is, he asked me to press Win-R and confirm what I could see. Unfortunately it’s been too long since I’ve used Windows so I couldn’t remember what this did. I suspected it was the run dialog (which it is) but I didn’t quite have the confidence to say so. So I launched into saying how, unfortunately for them I’m an engineer, know about computers and that I knew they were trying to scam me. I kept this up for a while, ignoring their denials until the line went dead – they hung up on me.

An hour later, we got another International call. I had since confirmed that Win-R brings up the run dialog, so I was looking forward to taking it further. This time however it was quite different. After confirming they were speaking to the right person, I was told I should go kill myself, set fire to my house, dig a grave and lie in it and various other colourful suggestions. Clearly I had upset them. The guy on the phone, also with Indian accent, told me as an engineer I was lowering the intelligence of computer users. Oh the irony. The insults continued for a while, with occasional laughter in the background. To be fair, I was laughing back. Eventually I had had enough so hung up on them.

The phone rang seconds later; he clearly hadn’t liked that one bit. He told me off quite clearly for hanging up and the insults and threats continued. I told him I was recording the call so it could be reported and have them shut down… not at all true, but there you go. Eventually I told him I’d had enough and suggested we just leave it there and get on with our lives. He agreed and we hung up together.

It was quite a bizarre thing to experience. The saddest part of all is their scam clearly must work often enough for it to be worth doing. I’ll give BT a ring tomorrow to see if anything can be done to block the calls. Their website implies they can’t block international numbers as they are not properly recognised by the system, but that it is also very rare to get nuisance calls from overseas…

  1. Andy PiperOctober 27, 2010

    Wow.

    Apart from the creepiness and bizarreness of the initial call… wow. I’m kind of on your wavelength with the whole “let’s see where this goes and wind them up in return” thing, but the unpleasant response (and potential inability to block this kind of thing) is a worry. To my imagination – and fortunately I’ve not experienced it, although I’ve had random and spurious calls with Indian accents offering to help with my Sky issues when I don’t have Sky – it gets beyond the point of funny / scammy and to the downright threatening. It’s a shame that these things cannot readily be taken further.

  2. Paul Baker • October 27, 2010

    They have called me but i just said no when they asked me if i had a windows machine. I will try this next time. πŸ™‚

  3. Graham White • October 28, 2010

    Brilliant, apart from the dark side of this. I love you reaction. Almost looking forward to getting a call myself. Thanks for blogging though, at least we’re all aware there’s a current scam out there now.

  4. Andy S-C • October 28, 2010

    I had similar calls last week – they said they were from the local computer support office. Which is unlikely, given the teensy village I live in, so I asked them which town that was near – they couldn’t think of one, but “London” seemed a likely place, so they tried that.
    I assured them that London wasn’t really very local, but asked them to confirm which company they were from “local support office”. Is that the actual name of the company.
    Yes. Odd name for a computer company.
    Click – I’d waste enough of their time – they clearly had an appointment with Nick next…
    Yes, it’s quite appalling that BT continues to claim they can’t identify or block these calls. How come we haven’t fixed international callerid yet – it’s 2010, ffs.

  5. kybernetikosOctober 28, 2010

    I finally managed to stop paying line rental and now just have my phone connected to VOIP. So far I’ve received no spam on it, but it’s probably just a matter of time πŸ™

    You should have found out what they wanted you to run.

  6. Ed DaviesOctober 28, 2010

    Had a similar sequence of calls and took about the same approach to responding. My “ethic” with these sorts of things is to tell the exact truth but not be at all helpful. Mine called themselves “central technical support”, I think.

    Had a couple, with variations on the theme of:

    Press Win-R.
    Nope, nothing happening.
    Instructions on pressing and holding the keys right.
    Yes, doing that.
    Press Start button.
    Nope, haven’t got one of those…
    Etc.

    One wouldn’t be derailed off the script even when I told him I was running Ubuntu. I asked if he worked for a legitimate company. He said, yes, of course and started blustering so I said I didn’t believe him as a legitimate company wouldn’t employ somebody so clueless. Just got more mispronounced bluster and an attempt to continue the script.

    One actually worked out that I wasn’t running Windows, asked if I had a Mac and when I said “no”, asked “Linux”? He got quite upset about my wasting his time as there were lots of other people he could be helping, etc.

    I wonder if the callers themselves even realise it’s a scam.

  7. Ed DaviesNovember 15, 2010

  8. Geoff Clement • December 17, 2012

    I receive many of this type of call during any given week. I usually look at the caller display and if it shows that it is an International call I ignore it and let the answer machine take the call. However, I have decided, in some instances to have a bit of fun and to string them along. A person with an obvious Indian accent usually says there is a problem of some type with my computer i.e. a virus or hackers etc. They usually ask me to restart my computer and since I have a number of computers in my house I usually ask which one. This is where they hang up. I cannot understand their motivation for doing this. Most people have some sort of anti-virus protection on their computers which protect against unauthorized intrusion so I don’t think that gaining control of your computer could be the reason. I addition, they don’t seem to be technically capable of doing this. The only thing I can think of is that they want to keep you talking, all the while earning money in a similar manner to premium telephone lines,
    Regards,
    Geoff Clement

  9. nickDecember 18, 2012

    Hi Geoff,

    they convince the person they call to hand over bank/card details to pay for the service of ‘removing the infection’. It also verifies the phone number as ‘real’ – which makes it much more valuable to sell on to other scam agencies.

    There was a interesting piece on what is being done to tackle this issue, along with more about how the scam works, on arstechnica recently.

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