If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Thursday, 7 October 2010


Wrinkled Weasel has a post on 'grey' internet scams - behaviour by legitimate companies that is borderline immoral but not strictly breaking any rules. This reminded me of an incident here the other day.

I was called by a company calling itself 'Tech My Support' (an odd word-order to start with), who told me they had identified problems with my computer and offering to assist me to clear them. The female caller had a heavy Indian accent, and I was suspicious. Well, more than suspicious. I'm not an expert in the inner workings of the internet, but I am pretty sure that a) it is not possible to scan my computer for corrupted files remotely unless I give someone permission, and b) that if any organisation were able to do this, they would not be ringing me to tell me about it.

I played along, making like I was an old codger without a clue. Yes, I had experienced serious problems with my computer, and thank you so much for calling me. I introduced a couple of red herrings to make sure that they were lying: I got them to confirm that the computer is a Dell laptop (it isn't) and that I was running windows 7 (it isn't). They also told me that there were four computers accessing the internet from this house, which means that they have performed some voodoo magic on the old Dell desktop that hasn't been switched on for three years. I had some fun with them for half an hour or so, and then did the classic trick of saying "back in a minute" and then leaving the phone on the kitchen worktop. They were still on the line even after 10 minutes of that, so I got the dog to bark loudly into the handset and then put the phone down.

The following day, at the same time, they called again. Same lady calling ("Hello, this is Debbeeee") and same 'senior technician' that she put online when I asked her some awkward questions. They swore that they had never called me before, and started on the same script, so I hung up. That night, at the TOMCC pub meet, I mentioned this, and another member had had exactly the same call last month.

The method is quite clever. They ask you to turn your computer on, and then get you to do certain harmless things which 'prove' that the computer is corrupted. In this instance, they got me to look into Event Viewer, which is always full of random errors and warnings. If you have no knowledge of how computers and the internet work, you could well be taken in. Once they have got you convinced that your computer is infected and believing that they are able to fix it remotely, they will try to get you to log into a website which they spell out for you. My guess is that this is where the remote access permission will be given, and the trouble will start.

Be warned.


  1. Don't get hooked on jiving scammers: some folk get addicted see http://www.ebolamonkeyman.com/

  2. I hadn't seen that one, although I did once spend a fortnight one evening trawling the archives of www.419eater.com. Brilliant stuff, which inspired me to bait a Russian scammer for about three months. "She" was Natalya, and she loved me long time, but I busted her in the end.

    I stopped after that one because, as you correctly say, it can become addictive. Forging the Moneygram receipts was the most fun.

  3. Never trust anyone who contacts you with an offer of help. Ugghhh...

  4. Indeed. The cui bono principle. Of course, they may just be philanthropists who want to help you out from the goodness of their hearts. Equally, my name may be Father Christmas.

  5. It is shocking that companies do this kind of thing, my mum would be completely sucked into this and probably end up buying a whole new computer!

  6. I think you are being kind in calling them 'companies'. They are scam artists, pure and simple. But a lot of people, especially older ones, will be taken in. It's not even a case of 'too good to be true', like the people who lose their life savings to timeshare cons and the like - many people simply don't understand computers, and would believe anything they were told. It's a very nasty business. (And I don't think they were trying to sell computers - it's nastier than that. More like emptying bank accounts.)


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