This computer 'virus' scam will cost you big

Tony Levene
by Lovemoney Staff Tony Levene on 09 February 2013  |  Comments 12 comments

These helpful 'technicians' have spotted something wrong with my computer...

This computer 'virus' scam will cost you big

My phone rings. It's a cheap internet call from India. But it's not a so-called “consumer survey”. Instead, it's “Alex Carter”.  And he is serious – he works for an information technology support team.

He warns me my computer is full of harmful viruses and that the processor has “already almost stopped working.”  Even worse, my “percentage error levels” have hit 85.  And how does he know all this?

He's a “Microsoft Certified” engineer who has discovered these “facts” because he has scanned my machine via my wireless modem.

Knowing this to be a scam but pretending to be worried, I ask what to do. “I can provide free assistance. But I am a technician, not a magician so I don't know what my colleagues will offer.”  As I had to catch a train, I told Alex to call back the next morning.

To my amazement, he did.  He told me he worked for a firm called British IT Solutions which was the “only company in the UK helping Microsoft.”  He was getting “very harmful internet reports” from my number.  The computer was turned off.

“How do you know?”  The reply came:  “The computer is linked to the router, and the router is linked to the phone line.”  This is, of course, a statement of fact and not an explanation.

“Some processors have already stopped working and the computer is sending signals to Microsoft Global Services of many errors,” he informed me.

I enquired how I could fix the problem as I knew “processor failures and viruses were very harmful”.

Assuring me that this was not a sales call, Alex told me to turn my computer on.  I did not so I asked again about Microsoft. “The computer sends errors to Microsoft and it passes them on to us as we are part of a certified tech team.  You don't need to pay a single penny and we'll show how to delete the errors, warnings, and other problems in my computer. It is my job to tell you about this.”

The lies get bigger

I then revealed that my computer does not run on Windows – it uses a variant of the Linux operating system called Ubuntu.  He was confused for a second but not put off. Alex had been trained with a just about plausible, although false, line for those with Apple or other operating systems.

“Because you are running Linux, all internet companies are connected to the global server run by Microsoft which sends us error messages.”

Telling him my machine was working perfectly did not deter him either. “It may appear fine at the moment, but errors and warnings create a problem slowly, then come faster and when they multiply. After a few months your computer will crash and you will lose all your data.”

Scary stuff but a nasty cocktail of unmitigated rubbish and blatant lies.

I finally asked about the firm's website.  He said it was part of RedHat.com.

Another outright and outrageous lie. Just as there is absolutely no link between this cold caller in India and Microsoft (whose website has a disclaimer), there is also no connection between the scam firm which phoned me and Red Hat, a US software support company which specialises in Linux applications. Red Hat, a US quoted company worth around $11billion, has told me that using its name in this way is not just confusing, it is criminal.  There appears to be no trace of British IT Solutions.

What would have happened

Had I been a nervous person or a computer novice, it would have been all too easy to fall for this long running scam which has resurfaced after a quiet year or two. The perpetrators hope that the interval means we have forgotten the previous warnings.

And here's what would have happened. I would likely have been asked to download remote access software which would have allowed Alex's friends to control my machine from India. They would then have downloaded malware and then charged me up to £185 (plus £100 annual fee) to remove it.

Either way, it's big bucks for them and even if Alex only fooled one person a day, he will have earned his employers far more than he costs.

This call was simply computer garbage. The sooner these people are sent to prison the better – sadly vulnerable people fall for their nonsense every day.

More on scams:

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Comments (12)

  • Fatman2
    Love rating 2
    Fatman2 said

    I know someone who got a call from someone wanting to speak about his computer. After answering several questions he was asked "What kind of computer do you have?" to which he replied, "A Commodore 64". The caller put down the phone,

    Report on 09 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  2 loves
  • MK22
    Love rating 169
    MK22 said

    I've had 2 calls like this. First one told me I had a problem with Windows, so I said "I don't use Windows". Caller put the 'phone down. 10 minutes later I had a 'phone call saying there was a problem with my Apple computer. I told him I didn't have an Apple computer and that I had taken his details and if he called back I would call the police. It has been strangely quiet ever since (tempting fate I know).

    Report on 09 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • CuNNaXXa
    Love rating 410
    CuNNaXXa said

    This scam works on the simple premise that there is 'one born every minute'.

    With physical crimes such as mugging, shoplifting, bank robbery, assault and other sundries offences, the victim hasn't got a choice in the matter.

    With scams, though, the victim can defend themselves. These scams work on the principle that the victim collaborates with the criminals, aiding them to the full extent.

    If people freely allow these criminals to scam them, then they only have themselves to blame. If someone comes up behind me and hits me over the head with a brick, then steals my wallet, I have nothing to reproach myself about. If, on the other hand, someone came up to me and said, 'Excuse me, you couldn't give me all the cash in your wallet please? Oh, could you also give me your cards and the PINs to use them?', and I handed them over without argument, we could say that I was a total muppet.

    If people are not prepared to defend themselves, then they deserve everything they get. We ALL know that there are undesirable people out there, and while we may know what our MPs are getting up to, there are others who hide underneath the radar, operating covertly, ready to strike when they identify someone gullible enough to fall for the simplest lies.

    We have the technology, but we also have the education to ensure that we can protect ourselves as much as possible. Google is our friend, and can show us most, if not all, methods of scamming, including variations on a theme.

    Throughout history, people have lived off the backs of others, through stealing or taxing or just downright scamming. This is not a new disease, but something that has been with us from the dawn of time. If people cannot be bothered to protect themselves from the vultures of the human race, then they deserve to lose.

    Oh, by the way, this very article can be considered part of the education system that we should all subscribe to, to better protect ourselves.

    Always remember that if it is too good to be true, it probably is, and that there is no such thing as a free meal.

    Report on 09 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • pharmadon
    Love rating 4
    pharmadon said

    I get these pretty regularly. They say they're from Microsoft, which is rubbish. They show you the error messages in the computer which are logged and quite often to do with pushing the wrong button or a forced closure of a program like on shutdown - all normal stuff. I kept one on the phone for over an hour once while sounded distressed about the state of my computer. I was just wandering around doing my normal stuff. I was passed to an engineer who could remotely control the computer and put everything right. I eventually said to him that I hope he can afford the phone call and that I was getting bored so I was going to go, said goodbye and hung up.

    Report on 09 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  2 loves
  • Squanderer
    Love rating 0
    Squanderer said

    Now CuNNaXXa, while victims of scams are to blame for letting it happen, surely the scammer deserves the brunt of any negativity concerning scams. I've said the same thing, if a woman's handbag was stolen I'd say it's a risk to put everything important in one bag but the victim isn't the criminal there, they were careless in some way and should learn from it. Now regarding this computer problem scam, I've had a few attempts from... yes Indian accent people grrr... Really hate talking to them on the phone as it takes thrice as long to get through any conversation... Anyway most recent was just on thursday, some nonsense about a critical error or whatever emitted from the server I'm connected to. As soon as I mentioned I use a Mac she gave up though... While those of us that know a bit about computing will be careful with accepting anything from strangers bear in mind there are many out there who hardly know how to use a computer at all.

    What if it's someone who just started out using one, no offence to the elderly but say an old pensioner who only got around to learning to use computers in their twilight age. If they get a call like this it may panic them and they fall for it, show some compassion! While agreed a scammer cannot win if people don't let them more still needs to be done to stop them. They'll keep finding new ways to scam but at the very least they should be receiving the bad attitude, not the victims.

    As for those that get mugged or attacked randomly... While in no way is it their fault for it happening at the same time I could say 'Why didn't you learn self defence or take up a combat sport?' Not a nice thing to say is it CuNNaXXa?

    Report on 09 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • hopefultom
    Love rating 50
    hopefultom said

    Up to very recently, I was receiving an average of one call a day from people like this.With one exception, they all had heavy Indian accents, but very English names.

    The most recent one was " Steven " and,when asked, told me he was phoning from Calcutta.I told him that I did not believe that he was really called Steven, and he told me that he had changed his name at the same time that he became a Christian!

    I told him that if he had previously been a Muslim, there would be a Fatwa on him, but he said he had been a Hindi so no problem!

    By this stage I was getting bored, wished him gooday and hung up.

    Report on 09 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • superjanet
    Love rating 0
    superjanet said

    I get quite a few of these calls. I just tell them that I haven't got a computer - it's only a white lie when it's saving you from a scam!

    Report on 09 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • herald6
    Love rating 0
    herald6 said

    I have received two of these calls. First one allowed myself to be drawn into a conversation, but then hung up. Second time, same guy but I was ready for him. I just went along with it and said I was going to my computer to turn it on and I said wait a moment and then just left him hanging - very satisfying!

    Report on 10 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • sodit
    Love rating 135
    sodit said

    My Mother fell for this scam. She was under the impression that she had a company working to keep her computer operable.

    A few years later, those operating this scam phoned again. She asked me to take the call. Because she'd told me that she had these people employed to take care of her computer, I thought that they were kosher. I went along with them when they asked me to turn on her machine, but it slowly dawned on me that they weren't what they claimed to be. The sequence of events as I turned on my mother's computer were not what they expected... is XP really so old fashioned? Then they asked me to do those things that would have allowed them remote access, but without first telling me that they wanted remote access. At this point I really smelled a rat, and told them that they had wasted 15 minutes of my time, and that I could stay no longer as I needed to be elsewhere.

    Having got so close to a payday, they phoned back repeatedly over the next few days. Each time I told them to go away... eventually they gave up.

    Report on 10 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Henry-GBG
    Love rating 57
    Henry-GBG said

    I kept him talking for about ten minutes. I did exactly what he told me and told him exactly what the result was but he still didn't twig that I was using Linux. What an idiot.

    Report on 11 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • stonesi
    Love rating 3
    stonesi said

    Had several of these calls a couple of years ago. I knew about the scam so thought I would have some fun and tie the guy up such that he couldn't call anyone else for a while: said I had 3 computers, all performing badly (he was very excited at the prospect of 3 to fleece).

    Asked him to wait while they sloooooowly booted up. I Put the phone next to the tv, with Kerang radio playing and left him, while I got on with dinner. Occasionally, I'd pick the phone up to check he was still there, say the computers were crashing, etc. And he was! Kept him on the phone for nearly 2 hours while I got on with my regular stuff and even went to the shops. He now knows a lot more heavy metal music :-) and that was 2 hours he couldn't call any other, less savvy, victim. I also told him my hearing was bad and that he would have to shout very loud. And he did; I got him to the point of shouting at the top of his voice, repeatedly.

    I had more planned for his next call but strangely, he didn't call again.

    Report on 13 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • MrsTrellisOfNorthWales
    Love rating 18
    MrsTrellisOfNorthWales said

    I got one of these calls about a month ago. I waited for the guy to run through his spiel, then said "We have several computers here - please could you give me the IP address of the one which you believe has the problem?" He hesitated for a moment then went back to his script. I asked him if he had understood my question, then repeated it. He hung up without another word.

    Report on 14 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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