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The Unstoppable 'Tech Support' Scam

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the all-your-base-are-c-o-d dept.

Security 312

Barence writes "A pernicious new type of scam is targeting British computer owners, reports PC Pro. The con is both fiendishly clever and ridiculously simple. The fraudster cold-calls the customer and tells them that Microsoft has detected a virus on their PC, then invites them to download a piece of remote-assistance software. No doubt reassured by the lines of indecipherable code flitting across their screen, the caller assures the customer they can make the virus vanish – but first, of course, they want payment. £185 to be precise. The spoof site behind the scam is approved by McAfee's Site Advisor and bears Microsoft logos, something which both companies have failed to act upon. Meanwhile, an assortment of British regulators have said there is nothing they can do to stop it."

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Scum (2, Insightful)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812302)

God, there are some real scumbags in the world.

Re:Scum (5, Funny)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812522)

Yeah. What morally responsible individual would ruin the good name of Microsoft?

Re:Scum (3, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812786)

Yeah. What morally responsible individual would ruin the good name of Microsoft?

I'm not sure, but I think you just called Microsoft's development staff "morally irresponsible." That's not very nice. ;)

Re:Scum (2, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813092)

Whilst I am going to have to flog myself for XKCD linking...

WE RUN LINUX! [xkcd.com]

Re:Scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813196)

best xkcd ever!

Re:Scum (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813270)

And through exploitation of that charming, authoritative British accent, no less! I mean, who wouldn't believe someone who called you up sounding like Simon Cowell or Tony Blair?

Re:Scum (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812556)

God, there are some real scumbags in the world.

And a lot of fools.

Re:Scum (4, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812672)

God, there are some real scumbags in the world.

Yes, but they are non-violent and require the cooperation of their "victims". Thus, they are like ticks, leeches, mosquitoes, flies, and worms: they are unpleasant and downright nasty but they serve a purpose. They provide a limiting function. They disincentivize ignorance and stupidity by making it more painful, just like those natural pests disincentivize improper sanitation. By becoming knowledgable and savvy, the "victim" can have total control over whether he/she is successfully targeted.

Really now, all it would take is a small amount of healthy skepticism. Let's assume the scammer is so good that there are no other "tells". A user would only need to say to the scammer "Microsoft found a virus on my PC did they? Let me get back to you" and then call Microsoft. As unpleasant as calling Microsoft would be, it beats giving money to a scammer. It's the same well-known principle used for dealing with suspicious communications from banks. If you don't know if that e-mail is really from your bank because you don't have the technical skill to determine that, then you ignore it and call your bank at their published phone number. Then it doesn't matter if it's the most clever phishing e-mail in the world.

It doesn't exactly require a genius to understand these things. It just requires that one not leap blindly into what they do not understand while expecting a good result. That's general advice for life, not just computing. I personally believe that almost everyone is capable of understanding these simple concepts, they just can't be bothered to think. Perhaps they need a little incentive. Perhaps by providing one the scammers are serving a purpose, even though I fully agree with you that they are scumbags. That's why I'd liken them to a carrion-eater or a parasite.

Re:Scum (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812724)

They disincentivize ignorance and stupidity by making it more painful, just like those natural pests disincentivize improper sanitation./quote?

Yet the only reason why we care to disincentivize ignorance and stupidity is because those scammers exist. Your logic is viciously circular. They need to exist to protect people from themselves?

Re:Scum (5, Interesting)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812856)

They disincentivize ignorance and stupidity by making it more painful, just like those natural pests disincentivize improper sanitation./quote?

Yet the only reason why we care to disincentivize ignorance and stupidity is because those scammers exist. Your logic is viciously circular. They need to exist to protect people from themselves?

I'm glad you raised this point. It's a good one, to be sure.

Being wise and savvy and seeking understanding is the natural state of human beings. The widespread ignorance and stupidity is what I might call "unnaturally natural". The proof is that by not viewing ignorance and gullibility as problems in need of correction, people leave themselves vulnerable to this type of scam. The scammers do not create this vulnerability. They merely capitalize on it. They see that something is out of order and that this creates room for them to operate. Otherwise their dubious "enterprise" would never get off the ground.

The ignorance and stupidity is a disease state. The scammers are the disease that can thrive in the environment of that disease state. They are symptoms, not the actual problem. It's absurdity itself to say that the only reason to eschew ignorance and stupidity is because these scammers exist. Have you no concept of how much better our world would be if ignorance and stupidity were not such powerful forces in shaping it?

The personal shortcomings that scammers exploit go far, far beyond computing. They also play important roles in politics, the economy, interpersonal relationships, you name it. It just so happens that computing provides a convenient entry point for that ignorance and stupidity to come under attack since it is generally encouraged in other realms like politics.

Re:Scum (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812962)

This is what the government-run schools are supposed to eliminate: Ignorance. But instead they ended-up glorified babysitting zones.

Re:Scum (3, Interesting)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813134)

They are far worse than that [cantrip.org] and it is definitely by careful design [johntaylorgatto.com] .

In fact I'd say that the public schools bear more responsibility than anyone else for the widespread ignorance and gullibility that these scammers feed on. A truly tough-minded population familiar with critical thinking, logic, and argumentation would not so easily fall for these scams. They also wouldn't support anything our politicians of today are pushing for. So you see that'd be really inconvenient for our increasingly centralized society *spits*.

Re:Scum (2, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813266)

The government-run schools in the USA are designed to be indoctrination stations and they function brilliantly. They produce a steady stream of soldiers and criminals in addition to undesirables like journalists and human rights lawyers. Meanwhile, those who know utilize private tutors, home schooling, and/or private schooling so that their children receive an education in using their minds.

Re:Scum (1)

T7g (725446) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812734)

Well said sir, I especially liked the first paragraph

Re:Scum (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812758)

"Stupidity" is correct. Isn't 185 pounds equal to $350?

Even if I was a complete luddite, before I spent that kind of money I'd either (a) buy a brand new computer for the same price or (b) Do nothing and live with the virus. But I guess "a fool and his money are soon parted" still applies even today.

Re:Scum (1)

djlemma (1053860) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812960)

"Stupidity" is correct. Isn't 185 pounds equal to $350?

Even if I was a complete luddite, before I spent that kind of money I'd either (a) buy a brand new computer for the same price or (b) Do nothing and live with the virus. But I guess "a fool and his money are soon parted" still applies even today.

185 pounds is more like $280. The Pound and the Euro haven't been doing all that well lately... And the Canadian dollar and US dollar are almost equal again.

Re:Scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813006)

185 pounds to someone living in Brittan gets you about as much as 185 dollars living here in America. Just because our currency is shit compared to the pound doesn't mean it costs them more too.

Re:Scum (1)

asdf7890 (1518587) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813008)

"Stupidity" is correct. Isn't 185 pounds equal to $350?

More like $280 at current exchange rates according to Google, though that may need to be adjusted to account for cost-of-living factors to be properly representative of the equivalent cost. Not an amount to be unconcerned about in any case though.

Re:Scum (2, Insightful)

grumbel (592662) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812834)

Yes, but they are non-violent and require the cooperation of their "victims".

So does robbing somebody with an unloaded gun.

Re:Scum (1)

cyber0ne (640846) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813334)

So does robbing somebody with an unloaded gun.

The threat of violence is much closer to "violent" than "non-violent." If one believes that the person asking for (or demanding, in your example) money has a firearm, compliance with their demands would probably be the wise choice. I would, however, characterize a willingness to give money to anybody who calls me on the phone as an unwise choice.

Re:Scum (2, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813038)

So, what you're saying is that we need scammers to scam people to protect them scammers?

I gotta better idea. Why don't we just start telling everyone that they can rid their PCs of viruses and malware if they scrub it in the bathtub with the power on?

Re:Scum (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813176)

I gotta better idea. Why don't we just start telling everyone that they can rid their PCs of viruses and malware if they scrub it in the bathtub with the power on?

Truth is one, paths are many.

Re:Scum (1, Flamebait)

dcollins (135727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813152)

"Yes, but they are non-violent and require the cooperation of their 'victims'... They provide a limiting function. They disincentivize ignorance and stupidity by making it more painful, just like those natural pests disincentivize improper sanitation. By becoming knowledgable and savvy, the 'victim' can have total control over whether he/she is successfully targeted."

You're a fucking sociopath. Have a little empathy or fuck off.

Re:Scum (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813360)

Wow, a pro-union teacher believes that saying "critical thinking is a basic survival skill" is sociopathic. I'm shocked - shocked I tell you.

Re:Scum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813206)

Criminy, you read one book of economics and one book of evolution and soon you start thinking criminals serve a natural -- even desirable -- function or niche. I will not be surprised if this meme trickles down to the criminal underclass and is used to justify this sort of scammery. There isn't a fixed level of criminality, nor ignorance, and it is desirable to decrease both.

We all warn our children of certain dangers much like we warn our computer illiterate friends and family of how not to get suckered online. We don't leave them to the parasites so they can learn a few-hundred dollar "lesson" when they can learn it for free.

Re:Scum (2, Insightful)

sorak (246725) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813256)

Doesn't that seem like circular logic to you? Con artists are good because they teach us not to trust con artists?

DAMN YOU, MICROSOFT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812334)

Change your logo immediately!

Can't Do Much (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812336)

Meanwhile, an assortment of British regulators have said there is nothing they can do to stop it.

Well, yeah. You can't fix stupid. You can't fix gullible.

"A fool and his money are soon parted."

This does provide yet another argument against the camp which thinks that understanding the tools they use is not important.

All your money are belong to us (1)

xjlm (1073928) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812440)

This just reinforces my views about open-source. No money in that for McAfee or Micro$oft, though...

Re:All your money are belong to us (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812580)

This isn't really a problem that open source software would solve.

You would still have users out there that can fail for these old fashioned confidence scams.

Re:All your money are belong to us (1)

ais523 (1172701) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813352)

There are, in fact, several organisations that charge ridiculously high amounts of money for (legitimate) copies of OpenOffice.org, in the hope of suckering people into buying it from them rather than just downloading it for free. (Of course, it's legal to charge for GPL software (so long as you obey the other conditions), and it's even sometimes worth buying if you get extra benefits, like a warranty or support, with it. But the scammers don't offer anything you wouldn't get with a simple free download.) Also completely legal, also rather morally dubious.

Re:All your money are belong to us (2, Insightful)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812676)

How exactly does open source prevent social engineering scams?

Re:All your money are belong to us (3, Funny)

nj_peeps (1780942) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812862)

Sacamer: Hi this is M$, we have detected a virus on your PC.
Callie: Really? What version of winblows am I using right now?
Scamer: Windows XP.
Callie: Try again there buddy, I use Linux. (click)

Re:All your money are belong to us (2, Insightful)

Disgruntled Goats (1635745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812992)

To counter with an example from the real world just look at the malware infections of people installing screensavers for ubuntu. Where was the magic open source pixie dust to stop them. Oh yeah it doesn't exist.

Re:All your money are belong to us (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813318)

That has nothing to do with Linux being open source or not. Linux could be closed source and a windows virus or malware won't run on it.

Re:All your money are belong to us (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812974)

How exactly does open source prevent social engineering scams?

Open Source is often accused of not being "user-friendly" because it caters to savvy users who know what they're doing. At the very least, it assumes that the user wishes to understand even if they do not have that understanding now. It is not sold to anyone based on how "easy to use" it is or how little expertise is required to use it. It is not sold as a substitute for knowing what you're doing as many Windows apps are.

So perhaps Open Source in the strictest isolation doesn't prevent social engineering. I think it's the culture surrounding it. Open Source is all about being able to examine and modify the program yourself, if you are so inclined. That naturally assumes that you would have or could obtain some programming skill and some understanding about what the program is intended to do. This again is not "so easy any moron could use it" and isn't trying to be.

It follows that more savvy and knowledgable users are less likely to fall for social engineering attempts. Ignorance is the social engineers' very best friend.

Re:All your money are belong to us (0, Offtopic)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813368)

It follows that more savvy and knowledgable users are less likely to fall for social engineering attempts. Ignorance is the social engineers' very best friend.

So then where was that savvy and knowledge when people were installing malware ridden screensavers on their Ubuntu boxes? Or where were all those eyes on the source when UnrealIRCD had a trojan put into the Linux version without anyone knowing for a year? You can crow all you want about only Windows users falling for this and all about how open source leads to this not happening but there are counterexamples to show this just isn't true.

Re:Can't Do Much (3, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812442)

Perhaps they could get the people who have been scammed to report the telephone number and work with the teleco's to find out where the scammers are hiding?

This worked in my city when Scammers would steal wallets and purses and then call later claiming to be the police, and to meet them in "unmarked white police vans".

It's true, you can't fix stupid - but the smarter ones can... you know... at least provide useful information aiding in the capture.

Re:Can't Do Much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812550)

most scams originate outwith the UK so not alot can be done. Better to stop it via the credit card companies (however they may be processing transactions via multiple 3rd party merchant accounts which would be difficult to stop).

Re:Can't Do Much (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812948)

Probably Skype (or something similar) as the article suggests.

The phone number is on the scam website: http://www.thenerdsupport.com/ [thenerdsupport.com] (+44 20 3318 8706 if you feel like messing about with them, that's a normal landline so shouldn't cost much/anything to call from outside the UK).

Re:Can't Do Much (3, Insightful)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812490)

This does provide yet another argument against the camp which thinks that understanding the tools they use is not important.

The message I get from all this is that computers really aren't ready for prime time. They're more like automobiles from the first decade of the 1900s.

Re:Can't Do Much (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812720)

How so?

People still don't understand cars and if ANYTHING goes wrong with them, they don't know why.
Consider, also, that a computer's software is custom to each person as they add in more software packages and settings.
That's roughly akin to someone buying a car and having custom parts put on without knowing much of what they do. They still have no clue when something goes wrong.

How many people can do much more maintenance on their car than fixing a flat tire? That's not much different than someone knowing how to run an antivirus once in awhile, imo.

Just like the poster you're replying to was saying, it is important to understand the tools we use so we know how the things we use work.
If we don't understand that then we're just as much in the dark be in computer trouble or car trouble.

Re:Can't Do Much (3, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812740)

So you think an automobile scam along similar lines today wouldn't work? Get the list of automobile type ownership from the licensing authority (most sell this information, or its easily available elsewhere), cold call the owner and inform them that a voluntary safety notice has been issued on their vehicle, would they like priority booking for just $99 over the phone...

Uninformed people are still uninformed, regardless of how long the technologies been around.

Re:Can't Do Much (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812748)

Are you implying that there are no dishonest garage-men who charge $700 for replacing a $35 part? And that there are no car enthusiasts who spend their free time tinkering?

Re:Can't Do Much (0, Troll)

Spatial (1235392) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812768)

A vague allusion and a car analogy. Yup, this will suffice to describe this complex phenomenon. What an insight.

Re:Can't Do Much (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812784)

You still have to get a license to drive one, so automobiles don't seem to be ready for prime time either. ;)

Re:Can't Do Much (2, Funny)

kaoshin (110328) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812828)

The message I get from all this is that computers really aren't ready for prime time. They're more like automobiles from the first decade of the 1900s.

The message I get is that users really aren't ready for prime time. They're more like prehistoric monkeys.

Re:Can't Do Much (1)

MisterZimbu (302338) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812996)

Hi.

I'm just calling to inform you that your car's warranty is expiring soon. Please call (800)555-1234 and we can renew your warranty for the low low price of $200.

Re:Can't Do Much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812848)

This does provide yet another argument against the camp which thinks that understanding the tools they use is not important.

I disagree. You don't need to understand anything at all about the tool in question. All any potential victim of this scam needs to understand is the society they live in. In modern society, if someone calls you on the phone and says you "need" to give them money, it is very likely that they are, at the minimum, trying to sell you something you don't need. Any adult in this day and age should realize this.

Warning! Sir Walter Raleigh has escaped his can (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812344)

...and your refrigerator is running down the street to catch him. For help, please punch the monkey.

P.S. Turn in your brain for a better model.

Unfortunately, it works. (2, Insightful)

arhhook (995275) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812374)

You can only do so much to save the end-user from themselves.

Re:Unfortunately, it works. (0, Troll)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812650)

Oh, but so much more can be done.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. We need an Internet License.

Regulated much like drivers licenses, with different endorsements.

The Internet Endorsement: Allows a user to access the Internet when standardized testing shows competency. Users are only allowed to receive information.
The Email Endorsement: Allows a user to participate in email communication when standardized testing shows competency. Users can participate in two-way communication.
The Website Endorsement: Allows a user to author web content when standardized testing shows competency. Users are allowed to participate in forums, create websites or write articles.
The Server Endorsement: Allows a user to maintain a web server when standardized testing shows competency.

Each level of endorsement requires the previous endorsement. Maybe an etiquette endorsement in there somewhere.

Re:Unfortunately, it works. (1)

tivoKlr (659818) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812728)

Maybe an etiquette endorsement in there somewhere.

Oh that etiquette endorsement has to be revoked prior to becoming eligible for the Server Endorsement. Etiquette towards end users? BAH!

Wow (2, Insightful)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812376)

How dumb do you have to be to fall for this one? The kind of people falling for these must be same ones who fall for the "suspicious activity in your bank account" scam.

Nothing to see here, move along.

Re:Wow (5, Informative)

IshmaelDS (981095) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812618)

You would be surprised how many there are. I work as a network admin and I have dealt with some .... interesting?.... people. One emailed me to tell me their email wasn't working. Yes I know we have all read it in a comic but it's true. I had one of the CFO's I did some work for fill in and almost send a scam bank email form. He at the last second called me to see if I thought it was legit. sigh. I have had people call me up in a panic cause the system was "doing something illegal and they didn't want to get in trouble" (illegal exception errors). I could go on and on. This doesn't surprise me at all. A lot of people when it comes to anything to do with a computer are struck dumb immeditatly and stop using whatever intelligence they have.

Re:Wow (1)

Aeros (668253) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812714)

I wonder if he was related to my old boss who called me up on my vacation to see if his name and number were on the contact page on the company website. To tough for him to actually look I guess.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812772)

yep, I totally know what you mean here ... my aunt called me one time in *tears* ... she was on the verge of losing it ... because the computer 'said she had done something illegal'

ha ha ha

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812798)

My favorite was a user who used to think the tech support email was the email for someone called "mailto". I never understood how he did not found funny that every single email he founds on a web page belongs to a guy called "mailto".

Re:Wow (5, Insightful)

Spad (470073) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813012)

A lot of it is psychological; users convince themselves that computers are too complicated for them to understand, so they are.

We had an app at work that ran on a Windows CE-based palmtop that nurses used to record patient notes on their visits and then synced back to a server when they got back to base. The users never had any problems with this at all. Then, when the palmtops were up for replacement, they swapped them out for notebooks running XP with exactly the same app (newer version, same UI) and sync process and suddenly none of the users were able to cope any more.

Despite the fact that the processes were identical, they saw the notebooks as "proper" computers as opposed to the palmtops that were just electronic notepads in their minds and they convinced themselves that as a proper computer it was too complex for them to understand. So much of the trouble with technology is users creating barriers in their own minds and it's largely of "our" own making for trying to convince users throughout the 90s that computers were easy to use and would do everything for them, when we all know that isn't true.

Re:Wow (4, Interesting)

tibit (1762298) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813330)

I'm out of mod points, but the above is very insightful. I can relate seeing, on many occasions, where a dead simple UI, no more complex than say that of an ATM, becomes utterly confounding just because it's being presented with a PC in sight. In one case: as long as the PC was hidden, and the UI was accessed via a touchscreen --- everything was fine. As soon as mouse, keyboard and the PC case became visible, people would say that "something broke" and that I should bring it back to the "way it was before". This was a big eye opener when it comes to usability: users are not rational. Not at all.

Re:Wow (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813146)

i have 2 resident people who e-mail me constantly to tell me the e-mail is down.. (they send it from gmail)

in reality? they didn't bother connecting the VPN - instead they just closed the popup asking for their password..

i hear from one of them at least every 2 weeks..

Re:Wow (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813242)

One emailed me to tell me their email wasn't working. Yes I know we have all read it in a comic but it's true.

I believe you. I actually had one of those. Someone emailed me, saying, "My email is not working." I replied saying something like, "Seems to be working. Is it only when you send email to specific people?"

I got an email back saying something like, "Nope. Still not working. I cannot send or receive email at all, with anyone. I think the mail server is down."

Sometimes you just hope your being trolled, since the alternative is too sad.

Re:Wow (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812754)

It's not just the gullible, but also that easily pressured that are at risk.

The editor of one of the local papers (The Maidenhead Advertiser, I think, I'm not sure which.) got one of these phone calls a few months ago and played along with it a bit to see where it went - I remember reading about this in the editorial. When he stopped playing along (at one point pointing out that his machine was a Linux machine, and didn't even run windows), the guy on the other end started becoming pretty aggressive.

Unfortunately, there's a lot of folk about that don't know much about computers, and more that cave quickly to pressure. The elderly in particular are pretty vulnerable to this sort of stunt.

There's an ongoing problem in semi-rural areas with cowboy builders using a similar ploy - this is just the same conjob updated for the digital age, and using the wonders of international jurisdiction to make themselves even less likely to get caught. I expect it's a lot less profitable, but much lower risk.

Re:Wow (1)

hkmwbz (531650) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812860)

Look, not everyone is as up to date on the latest technology or scamming methods. I think it's quite silly to demand everyone to be as tech savvy as yourself. "But they shouldn't be scammed anyway," you might retort, to which I respond that it's human nature. People just don't have the capacity to think thoroughly about everything and inform themselves fully about every single thing they do.

Duh (4, Insightful)

kieran (20691) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812380)

The only thing you need to stop this unstoppable scam is for people to be unwilling to shell out a significant sum of money to some c**t who calls them up out of the blue.

I mean, £185, when you didn't know there was anything wrong with your computer in the first place? You'd need to have more money than brains to shell out for that.

Re:Duh (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812448)

You'd need to have more money than brains to shell out for that.

Or unwavering trust in authority. Which is scarier?

Re:Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812560)

I mean, £185, when you didn't know there was anything wrong with your computer in the first place?

In Windows there's always something wrong.

Re:Duh (1)

hibiki_r (649814) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812562)

Ah, but by the time you make the download of the remote assistance code, are you sure their computer is in a good state? A guy calls you on the phone and, before asking for any money, manages to make you install a malware dropper. It's just a different vector than the warez/video codec downloaders that do the same thing, and install a fake anti-virus on your computer.

Re:Duh (2, Informative)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812604)

Part of the scam is that they get you to download the remote-control software before they tell you they'll charge you. At that point, they can hold your computer hostage.

Re:Duh (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812660)

I mean, £185, when you didn't know there was anything wrong with your computer in the first place? You'd need to have more money than brains to shell out for that.

The first thing that came across my mind is that £185 is probably more than the vast majority of the computers these people are using. I know it's certainly more than what my computers are worth. If somebody tried to charge me that much to fix my (5-year-old) computer, I'd say "No thanks" and buy a new computer.

Re:Duh (3, Funny)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812760)

Well, I've been doing the more brains than money thing for quite a while and I'd like to try it the other way around just to see what all the hype is about. There are so many of those people out there I figure they must be on to something.

Re:Duh (4, Interesting)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812796)

The only thing you need to stop this unstoppable scam is for people to be unwilling to shell out a significant sum of money to some c**t who calls them up out of the blue.

I mean, £185, when you didn't know there was anything wrong with your computer in the first place? You'd need to have more money than brains to shell out for that.

Its no different to being told by a cold calling builder that your roof is sagging and needs several thousands of pounds of repairs done to make it safe. House owner coughs up, builder potters around in the attic for a day and legs it. One house owner that is a lot of money down for no reason other than fraud.

Unfortunately, these seem to be being reported in the news all too often today :(

Can't stop it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812382)

"Meanwhile, an assortment of British regulators have said there is nothing they can do to stop it"

Of course there is nothing they can do to stop it, most of these calls are going through BT phone systems and it's not like BT track and log every single call that they handle. So finding the range of numbers these people are using and blocking them would be impossible.... /s

Re:Can't stop it? (2, Insightful)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812708)

I believe what they meant by that comment is that there is nothing regulators can do to stop people for falling for social engineering scams. In what way do you presume them to be able to do so?

Re:Can't stop it? (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813310)

Wow, apparently fraud isn't illegal in the UK? You know, misrepresenting yourself and fraudulently claiming the person has a virus?

My (non-techie) dad got a call from these people (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812426)

He rang me to relate an annoying but amusing call where someone with an unintelligible accent had been excitedly telling him that something must be done about his PC because it was sending out "the signals!"

He asked for a number to call them back on, then called me. I googled the number: obvious scam, lots of people reporting it.

I hate this sort of swindle (5, Funny)

thewils (463314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812432)

It's like the one where some dubious company persuades you to install some new version of their operating system claiming that it's super fast and totally secure, etc. etc. and then after six months your machine crawls to a halt unless you give them more money for the next version which is faster, more secure, etc. etc.

Oh wait...

And ... (2, Insightful)

Spiked_Three (626260) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812436)

What is the difference between this and the tech support offered by most companies?

Re:And ... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812820)

Real tech support quality may often be poor but:
- Customers call in to them, not the other way around
- They only call out as call backs to customers
- The customer has a legitimate problem (at least in the customer's viewpoint though their system may be working as intended)
- Software level service fees are not nearly as expensive as these charges are. The price of that charge is a full service agreement for at least a year (based on what extra support they might entail, durations beyond that varry). The price listed appears to be for a _single service_.

Re:And ... (2, Funny)

jpyeck (1368075) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812836)

You actually get to talk to a person on the phone?

Creative energy (3, Interesting)

osullish (586626) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812446)

Its funny how much creativity goes into these scams - they're more elaborate than any morally acceptable way of making money! I'm sure that creative energy could be used in a more positive way. However its probably the case that these scams feel easier than positive work.

Re:Creative energy (4, Interesting)

aicrules (819392) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812630)

the problem with morally acceptable of making money is that they often morally tie you to the person paying you in some way. And therefor to keep morally on the up and up, you continue to have to make morally right decisions and actions. Scams, however, it's just a matter of how far you can string a person before you move on to the next one. And you seldom have to worry about silly things like reporting taxes and employing people, though some scams do get that large that they employee people who unwittingly (sure, right) participate. Still easier than providing a useful service that works to make customers happy.

Re:Creative energy (2, Insightful)

kenrblan (1388237) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812716)

Generating $280US or £185 in a matter of minutes without much technical skill is a pretty good payout. Not many jobs pay that well outside of the CEO class. These guys could easily be making $8000/day. At that rate they could make over $2Milllion in US dollars in a year just treating it like an 8 hour per day, 5 days per week job. I have to put more creativity and effort into my job and don't get anywhere near that kind of payback.

Re:Creative energy (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813022)

What scares me is that this doesn't look any less legitimate than a lot of the corporate policies out there. Charging people for tech support on a product you've already charged them for. Rearranging the order in which checks are cleared to maximize the number of them that bounce. Using unclear language in insurance documents hoping to not have to pay out the promised sums of money.

Jonathan James (1)

JayTech (935793) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812462)

Is that you?

Same here in the states (2, Insightful)

gregthebunny (1502041) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812566)

I get calls once or twice per month that start out like this. I usually just yell "NOOOOO" like I'm dying into the phone and promptly hang up. It's good for a chuckle.

But seriously, warn all your normie friends about this. My parents were surprised such a thing would be a scam, and my mom's sister even got popped for $90 by these people. Of course, after I told her about it and she tried to call them back, the number was "no longer in service".

Education about the scam is the only way to avoid it.

Re:Same here in the states (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813114)

Education about SCAMS is the only way to avoid it. Otherwise the next scam that's slightly different in nature has you falling for it too.

Companies do not contact you for things like this. Banks do not phone you up and, if they do, you say "Fine, I'll contact customer services in my own good time and resolve the issue" - that way *YOU* phone the bank and thus are sure that it is the bank that you have phoned, and that there is a REAL outstanding problem.

How did Microsoft get the phone number? How dare they demand access to my private machine? If it's "required" then they can damn well come to my door, at their expense, and fix it themselves on my kitchen table while I supervise. You do *NOT* get Toyota phoning up, even if your car is part of a recall, without other things following it that WILL verify the authenticity. Letters. You contacting them and verifying they ARE Toyota, etc.

The magic word is "payment" too. Demand money for something and you better send me an itemised bill. Don't have my address? Oh, shame, seeing as you managed to "discover" my phone number. If I had any business dealings with you, you'd certainly have my address on record and/or would be able to subpoena it if necessary.

My bank don't send me emails asking for my PIN. In fact, they don't send me emails. If I choose to ignore said emails, eventually a letter from them will land on my doorstep if it's *really* important and I can contact customer services myself, or send a recorded delivery letter to their head office. If they ask what took me so long, I tell them that I don't reply to suspected scams and they should know not to contact me that way as per the bank's OWN advice on dealing with scams.

Similarly, my phone company don't ring me about renewing my contract with them. If they do, they will get ignored. If you want to renew a *contract* then I'm going to need to sign something, so send it to me in the post, goodbye. If the person on the end of the phone claiming to be from my phone company doesn't ALREADY have my name, address, the package I'm on, how much I'm paying, the COMPANY they are supposed to be calling from (I had a scammer once demand that he was from "your phone company" and then he couldn't name which company that was even after four guesses), my payment details and everything else they need to know, then they are NOT from my phone company. My car insurance company don't NEED to ask for my details and/or my renewal date. They would already know it. They don't need to phone me up to renew it, they'll send me a letter a few weeks beforehand.

The guy who knocked on my door claiming to be from my electricity company (and holding a device that he "just needed to put on the meter" and a contract that I "just needed to sign") doesn't *need* access to my property without prior agreement, unless he has some sort of police officer with him (and that I would verify even more heavily - the PC who *doesn't* wait outside while you phone the station to verify his identity is the one to shut the door on and call 999 / 911 / 112).

The electricity guy also doesn't *need* to touch anything in my house. Hell, he doesn't *need* to enter my property at all and if he tries, he'll find himself flat on his back. Even a bailiff can't force his way into my property - unless I've invited him in (under UK law, at least) or unless he has a court-officiated warrant and even then he'll have a police officer supervising him. Hell, my LANDLORD can't legally enter my property if I don't give him permission too, without the same sort of backup/documentation, and technically he owns the property. (BTW: Electricity guy turned out to be from a rival electricity firm that *didn't* know who I was with, and was trying to "switch" me to their company - Please everybody avoid EDF Energy. The guy was lucky not to have me reporting him for fraud and numerous other offences.)

Stop being idiots and combating each scam as it comes up. I saw people in IT recommending to "never open any attachment on any email that has ILOVEYOU as a subject line". WRONG. Never open ANY attachment that's not from a real person who you would EXPECT to send you an attachment and/or from whom you're expecting one. Don't just inform people about THIS scam. I can think of a million variations myself, all equally "convincing" ("Hello Sir, I'm from Automotive Services Ltd. We're looking into certain models of car that our client needs to recall due to safety problems, could you give me your registration?" - LOOK UP REG ON DVLA DATABASE AND SEE WHAT MAKE IT IS, the same way I can save myself having to fill out the whole insurance details of my car and they can just fill them in for me once I give the registration - "Oh, yes, Sir, we're recalling all the Hyundai's made between 2000 and 2005 for a free repair. No problem sir, and no inconvenience to you. We'll send someone to pick up your car tomorrow, could you just confirm the address? Thank you, Sir. Our representative will be carrying a Hyundai ID card so you know that it's him... wouldn't want just ANYONE driving off with your car and the keys now, would we? Thank you, bye!" CLICK... BUZZZZZZZZ.)

Trouble is, though, I can't think of a single reason why I should ever give my credit card (or other) details to someone who phones ME rather than the other way around. If it's that important, I'll phone them back at the company they claim to be from and do it manually, in a way that I *KNOW* who I've given those details too. Or they'll send me a letter.

Stop playing the victim and, well, you won't be a victim of stupid scams like this. Say "No". Say "I need to check who you are". Say "I demand to know where you get my details from". Say "That's fine, so if I phone my local branch, they'll be able to sort this out for me in person". Say "Send me a letter". And even after all that, still check that people are who they say they are. It won't stop you being scammed in other ways but at least your friends won't laugh at you when you *do* get scammed in a more subtle and clever way.

Charge them with fraud (0, Redundant)

doconnor (134648) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812596)

I'm pretty sure lying to convince someone to give you money is a criminal offense. Saying that they are from Microsoft or that they have detached a virus are lies.

Gullible would be an understatement (2, Insightful)

Kenoli (934612) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812612)

... and tells them that Microsoft has detected a virus on their PC

Believing that Microsoft knows or cares if your machine has a virus is flat out ignorant. Being okay with the idea that Microsoft could monitor you is even worse.
Never mind shelling out hundreds to an stranger for doing nothing -- how many people are really so dense?

Re:Gullible would be an understatement (2, Funny)

BVis (267028) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813130)

Lots and lots of people. People shop at Walmart, for crying out loud.

Same thing, but not techie (5, Interesting)

nomorecwrd (1193329) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812626)

Sounds exactly like a telephone scam now happening here in Chile.

They call old people telling them that their grandson is involved in some sort of a car accident, and need money for bail or pay the affected part for the damages, anyway they tell them that if they don't get the money his/her beloved grandson will be in jail for a long time

Then, they ask for the address to send a messenger to pick up the payment, in terms of cash, LCD TV, Blu-ray, etc.

And people fell for it... even the ones without a grandson :-)

Here's a thought (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32812690)

Something about "an educated populace being the best defence against tyranny."

Then apply this to corporate interests.

Profit.

Not even remotely new (3, Informative)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812782)

The spoof site behind the scam is approved by McAfee's Site Advisor and bears Microsoft logos, something which both companies have failed to act upon

Spammers have been doing the same thing for years. The "Canadian Pharmacy" sites always claim to be "verified by visa", "hacker safe", "bbb approved", etc... Any half-wit knows how to copy the logos from some other web page and use them to make your page look more legit than it really is.

subject goes here (0, Troll)

charliemopps11 (1606697) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812788)

I think this is a clear case in which Obama needs to use his new powers to shut down the internet until this is resolved!

What? (1)

stealth_finger (1809752) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812894)

Anyone who falls for this are the same people who believe the phone calls telling them won some lottery they never entered in some country they've never been too. They'd get a short sharp fuck off if they called me.

So... (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#32812946)

...this is Geek Squad then? I do a bit of sidework now and then and many of my jobs are undoing what GS did...

Run text (2, Interesting)

clownface (633478) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813034)

My mother-in-law had a call like this last year - they told her to type "temp spyware" and "prefetch unwanted" into the Run box on her PC to prove it was infected..

They've called our house a few times before... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32813074)

...And we just tell them that we use Linux.
They either shut up then, or they continue regardless, adamant that we have a windows pc that's infected.

It's also fun to ask them how they know there is an alleged virus on my pc; and so on.

Our system says "don't go there" (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813338)

The actual site mentioned is thenerdsupport.com [thenerdsupport.com]

I ran them through our SiteTruth system. Here's what comes out. [sitetruth.com] "Rating: "Site ownership unknown or questionable. No Location. ... This certificate identifies the domain only, not the actual business. No street address found on the site."

Compare the SiteTruth results for Geek Squad. [sitetruth.com] Street addresses found, found in the US business directory, found in Open Directory.

It's not that hard to sort out the phony business sites from the real ones. You have to check business databases, not just the Web, for business legitimacy. If you just look at the web, you get bogus results like this: McAfee SiteAdvisor [siteadvisor.com] : "We tested this site and didn't find any significant problems." The site itself doesn't try to attack the user, so McAfee says it's good to go.

I hope they have Linux/OSX remote software (1)

ChoppedBroccoli (988942) | more than 4 years ago | (#32813342)

download versions too, or they are setting themselves up for some awkward calls :P
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