Earning an honest living is more and more difficult, so it’s understandable that there will be more and more outlaws. Some of those outlaws will contact you via email, and clicking or tapping a wayward link can get you into a heap of trouble, particularly if you attempt to login to a site that you believe is your bank or another firm with whom you do business.
But it’s not just wayward links, or phony web sites. There are also purveyors of telemarketing phone calls, where someone calls you out of the blue, and in my case it’s usually when I’m preparing to have breakfast, or relaxing for the evening. Sometimes they will tell me I’m eligible for a low-cost loan, or that I’ve won a free vacation. But those vacations are seldom free, since you usually, I gather, have to pay a service fee and maybe endure a pitch for some fake real estate offer in exchange for a few days at a resort somewhere.
Now perhaps someone out there who manages those robocol lists realized that I’m involved in the technology business, but clearly doesn’t have a clue as to the extent, or what platforms I use for my work. So in the past few months, I’ve received occasional calls from someone, with a strong Indian accent, claiming to represent “Windows Technical Support.” If I let them speak any further, they will claim to want to fix a problem with my Windows PC.
The odds that this scheme will work are high, since over 90% of their potential victims have Windows PCs, and people might be lulled into believing they are speaking with Microsoft. But what are they selling? On the surface, they claim that they want to fix a serious problem with your computer that you didn’t know about. To do that, they require direct remote access so they can take control. From here, they can infect your PC with a virus, or lock it and demand a ransom to fix it. Indeed, those ransoms can amount to several thousand dollars — all this to recover use of your computer.
People who aren’t gullible enough to fall for this scheme will usually just hang up. But, since someone is already disturbing my privacy, I usually prefer to disturb theirs. The easiest response is to just sell that I use a Mac and “not those crappy PCs.” As soon as I’m done talking, I will hear silence on the phone, but they will soon hang up.
On other occasions, I’ve posed a logical question: How they could possibly know what’s going on with my PC unless they hacked it? That also causes them to stop their spiel and hang up.
But the easiest comeback is when I announce that “there is no such thing as Windows Technical Support.”
Of course, you shouldn’t have to put up with such nonsense, and I don’t know whether such scams are perpetrated in other countries, and to what extent. But in the U.S. we have a system established by the Federal Trade Commission known as the Do Not Call Registry. In theory, if you put your phone numbers on their lists, you will no longer receive telemarketing calls.
That’s not entirely true, however. I have been listed since 2004 — and I confirmed that listing before writing this article. But that hasn’t stopped the calls; it’s just reduced them. However, if you still receive an unwanted phone sales pitch, you can file a complaint, and if enough are received, the FTC can go after the offender and fine them up to $16,000 for each offense. I am not at all certain how often this is done, but I suppose these criminal telemarketers can simply close up shop and reappear under a new business name with a new set of phone numbers. It has to be a cat and mouse game.
Yes, there are legitimate telemarketers. They are supposed to restrict their sales calls to people with whom they’ve already conducted business, or to numbers not listed on the Do Not Call Registry. So they would have to spend a fairly large sum of money to get ahold of those lists from the FTC to make sure they don’t call the wrong people, which is fine with me.
As to those fake computer technical support calls, I actually know one person who evidently fell for one of these scams. But he was a Mac user, and evidently had a problem with his email for which he needed help. I’m not sure where he found the firm, but I suspect he looked online for support companies.
Typical of such scammers, he had to cede control of his Mac to the online support people via remote access. At the end of the day, it cost him over $350 to service his $599 Mac mini, and I’m not altogether sure whether it was properly fixed. I offered to come to his home for a far smaller figure to straighten things out, but he took the cheap way out. He drove over to the nearest Apple store — just ten minutes away from his home — and had it done free. That’s what he should have done in the first place.
Fortunately, that support firm didn’t do any serious harm, other than to take his money. But that, to me, is more than enough to be suspicious of such enterprises even if they actually manage to fix a computer.