I received an odd telephone call this morning. The caller with an Indian voice, who claimed to be from the “Technical Department of Windows”, tried to tell me that I had downloaded some malware from the internet on to my computer. When I asked how she knew this, the caller became confused, and as the line was poor, I took the opportunity to hang up. Ten seconds later the phone rang again, the same caller again apologising for having been cut off and once again telling me that there was a problem with my computer. So for a second time I asked how she knew, again she became confused, but this time handed me on to a male colleague who ignored my question and got on with the script. He asked me if I could see my computer, which I said I could, next he asked if I could see the “My Computer” icon. At this point, I consider playing along to see where this was going, but two things stopped me, first I wasn’t going to be able to follow his instructions (as I am using Ubuntu Linux, not MS Windows), and two I had better things to do with my day. Therefore, I hung up once again and have had no further calls. I tried ringing 1471 but as they were phoning from abroad the number was unavailable, so I had nothing to report to Consumer Direct’s “Report a Scam” service.

This afternoon I found myself still thinking about the call, I was intrigued to know how common this sort of thing is, so I did a quick Google search and I found there is plenty of hits showing that this is a regular problem. Obviously, Microsoft would never make such a phone call, you have to phone them to get support, not the other way around. Either way, their advice on dealing with scams is pretty thin. The best advice dealing with these scams comes from the Digital Toast blog, which also has an entertaining collection of videos of people winding up the scammers. Also, the Guardian technology editor, Charles Arthur, makes some interesting comments about who might be behind these scams. If you have received a call recently, maybe you would like to leave a comment.

Update
In the years since this post was originally written, this scam has changed to include the “Technical Department of BT” and “Virgin Media Technical Department”. The simple fact is that no “Technical Department” cold calls customers to tell them that their computers are in some way infected with a virus. These calls are scams, please don’t fall for them.

Oh and just is case you were wondering if Microsoft knows about this scam, well, yes they were told about it in March 2010, it is just that they can’t be bothered to do anything about it…

Addendum: It would appear that Microsoft have finally woken up and realised there is a problem, and this is their official advice. Please note that the scammers are now also claiming to be from: Windows Service Centre, Windows Help Desk, Microsoft Tech Support, Microsoft Support, Windows Technical Care, Windows Technical Department Support Group or Microsoft Research and Development Team (Microsoft R & D Team). So please take care.

Addendum: There have been a number of attempts to comment on this blog saying that the fraudster making these calls are legitimate, the latest came from:

 
Author: luckysharma (IP: 115.115.103.248, 115.115.103.248.static-kolkata.tcl.net.in)
E-mail: luckysharma420@gmail.com
Comment: this is genuine company…ok

 

Please note, these calls are entirely fraudulent, do not allow these people to access your computer.

Addendum: There has been one high-profile arrest and conviction but, sadly, there are plenty more still active. Please take care.

 

Addendum: I have had a number of people asking if there is a way of stopping these calls (see comments below), well, there are call blocking devices available on the market which can be effective. You also need Caller ID on your phone line, this may be an extra cost depending on your phone provider. Some phone providers may not supply Caller ID for international calls and so you need to think about just who you want to block, to avoid blocking legitimate calls, i.e. family members and friends living abroad, or people calling from switchboards where the number is withheld (personally this last one is a risk I would take). If anyone has experience of using such call blocking devices they would like to share, please feel free to comment below.

Addendum: This scam is now being replaced by a broadband scam, the scammers claim to be calling from BT (I am not using BT Broadband) and threaten to cut off your broadband connection if you don’t do what they ask. Don’t fall for it, just hang up.

The most recent numbers to call me are below, beware these are all scammers:

  • 01702354369
  • 01753886279
  • 013113670232 (this is worrying because it looks like local number to where I am)
  • 0031627789951
  • 0049300229105318
  • 01264322256 this is an Amazon account scam, it is not from Amazon, don’t fall for it
  • 01204430305
  • 02392463764
  • 01224732823
  • 02476337166
  • 01226340637
  • 01702618132 another BT broadband scam (I am not with BT)
  • 02890587967
  • 01481201721
  • 01782258898
  • 01313670252 (another one that looks like local number to where I am, this time it is a loft insulation scam)
  • 01530 224539 another BT broadband scam (I am not with BT)
  • 01903238950 another BT broadband scam (I am still not with BT)