My husband, Mark, answered the phone at our house the other day and heard the unmistakable din of an active call center on the other end.
“Hello sir, my name is James,” said a polite Indian man with a thick New Delhi accent, “I’m from the Windows help desk. I’m calling because your computer has been sending us error messages…” Click! Mark hung up the phone.
How did Mark figure out that this was not, in fact, a legitimate phone call from Microsoft? Well, for starters, the caller never claimed to be from Microsoft, he said he was from the “Windows help desk.” Every third party tech support outfit in existence has a Windows help desk. All that means is that the support staff working there assists with MS Windows problems.
In fact, it’s suspicious that the caller pointedly avoided claiming to be from Microsoft – not that he had any qualms about lying. His script was carefully crafted to help his company avoid any unfortunate entanglements with the formidable legal team at the house that Bill Gates built.
The second obvious problem with the intrepid “James'” statement is that your computer doesn’t send love letters to Microsoft, and if it did the hard-to-get software behemoth certainly wouldn’t reply.
Have you ever tried to get through to tech support at Microsoft? These scammers expects us to believe Microsoft has sufficient staff to initiate those calls and proactively find you.
Let’s see, Windows 8 is running between $70 and $120 now, and tech support staff cost at least $40 per hour (counting payroll taxes, vacation pay, holiday pay, medical, etc). No, I think you can count on you having to chase them, and not the other way around.
This help desk scenario is just the latest escalation of a foreign tech support scheme that’s been in operation for years. I first encountered it about three years ago, when I needed to contact Norton about an error message I was getting on my business computer.
These were pre Panda days, when a Google search often returned less desirable results first and pushed the most relevant ones to later pages. I searched; I saw “Norton Antivirus” at the top of my results; I called the phone number. I narrowly avoided throwing $175 into a pit of lies and deception. But the important thing is; I did avoid it. And I learned to question the outcome of a Google search.
Then along came Panda. If you Google “Norton Antivirus” now, you actually get www.norton.com/Official-Site as the first returned value. The scammers had to come up with another way to reel in their victims. That’s when they started calling them at home to peddle their services.
At first they were just selling vaporware. A client of mine gave them $250 for software you can download for free and a 10 year warrantee that it would protect his computer from viruses, Trojans and worms.
Apparently, there weren’t enough takers. Now they’re impersonating Microsoft. Tomorrow, who knows, maybe they’ll call and tell you Mr. Gates desperately needs your help. Please send the richest man in the world $500 or Microsoft will no longer be able to protect your private information and precious family photos from hackers.
The sad thing is, some people will do it.
MORE FROM THIS CONTRIBUTOR:
Tech Support Scams: Don’t Be a Victim
Cell Phones, Computers and DVRs: How Technology’s Changed the Way We Live
How I Saved $800 on My Homeowner’s Insurance