jivin’ with james
My computer has a virus! Or, so I’ve been told by James, who called me out of the blue today from “windows tech support” because of all the error messages my computer has been sending them. “Windows tech support?” I said, “Since when does windows tech support call me?” He was very reassuring & said they just want to help my computer to run better & he wanted to give me some simple instructions to help fix it. “Shouldn’t my tech support guy be doing this?” I asked, “I don’t really know much about it.” “These are very simple instructions, ma’am,” he continued in his thick Indian accent, “Just go to your Start button.” I went to my Start button. From there to computer & manage & system tools & event viewing & finally the windows log filtered for errors & warnings:
This all sounded very strange to me. I am not a computer maven, but I live with one so I let him do all that needs doing to keep up with viruses, software, malware, hardware & wi-fi… I just complain when it doesn’t work well or call him in a panic when I can’t access something I need. But I was curious… so, I followed the “simple” instructions James was giving me over the phone. I had difficulty understanding him say words like “left click” or “right click” or “event view” but we made our way through several windows so I could see the log of error reports my computer had sent somewhere. It looked just terrible: no wonder my computer has been crashing, closing or running slowly! He asked me to delete one of the messages by selecting it & hitting the Delete button on my keyboard. It didn’t disappear. It didn’t erase. When I told him that he responded in some urgency, “The virus has eaten your Delete button!” In order to deal with this horrible situation, he had me go to a website at which point he wanted me to push the button labeled Remote Support.
Up to this point none of the buttons he had me push changed anything so I was fine with following his helpful instructions. However, I know enough about computers to know that “remote support” opens your computer to someone else in another location. This was very helpful to my dad when his computer was acting up because my nephew in another city could remotely view & deal with whatever problems had come up on his computer. Great. But I don’t even know this guy calling himself James with an Indian accent from something called Windows Tech Support. So, I told him I had to leave right away & would call him back upon my return in an hour. He gave me a number & got off the phone. The number is a Houston area cell phone (281/220-2901) but apparently has no phone as all I heard was three beeps; no ringtones, no advertisements, no recorded message, certainly no young man with an Indian accent named James.
To pursue this mystery a little further, I went online & googled “someone just called me from windows tech support” & found several interesting entries including an article by Nate Anderson from October of 2012 about this very same scam. Apparently “John” had called him & he too had followed the suggestions until they were about to take over control of his computer. Evidently that very day the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) had begun an investigation into allegations of cyber-piracy of this very sort. Once you have given John or James remote support of your computer, they can give it all kinds of problems that only they can fix, for a fee. If you refuse to pay the fee, they lock your computer up, away from you, basically holding it for ransom. Is computer kidnapping against the law?
Apparently, yes, “At the request of the FTC, a U.S. District Court Judge has ordered a halt to the alleged scams pending trial, and has frozen the U.S. assets of six operations named in FTC complaints.” but this hasn’t stopped the overall scam or its effect on those who are trusting over the phone & don’t know enough to recognize this offer of help for what it is: a way to take your money & give you nothing in return. So, what should you do if you get one of these calls? According to the FTC : “Hang up. Legitimate companies won’t call you out of the blue and ask you to pay for tech support. If you’re concerned about your computer, call your security software company yourself on a phone number you know to be genuine.” In other words, don’t let anyone into your computer unless you know & trust who they are.
I feel badly for James & John & their friends, it sounds like an embarrassing job to have calling up utter strangers, pretending to be good samaritans & taking whatever they can get. It reminds me of the poor girl who calls from “credit card services” in order to lower my interest rates for which, I presume, I am to pay them a fee… this too is a scam from a company that won’t name names, give out numbers or otherwise identify themselves. Each time I ask for more information or to speak to a manager or for whom they are actually calling, they hang up on me. Why is it that most of the phone calls I receive to my landline lately, are trying to con me out of money? Not actually sell me anything or ask for donations for good causes, but out and out scams trying to trick me. I enjoyed the movie STING & can appreciate a good con in an intellectual way; it makes a great plot, but I am annoyed that my phone rings time after time with no good news, noone I want to speak to & nothing I want. So if I don’t answer the phone when you call, it’s not that I don’t want to speak to you, it’s that I don’t want to talk to James or John or any of their money grubbing scammer friends. Please leave a message with a legitimate phone number & I’ll happily call you back!