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“Your PC is infected” scam gets nasty

August 10, 2012
Credit card

Credit card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve probably heard about it, but here’s how it works in case you haven’t.

You receive a phone-call from a pleasant but persistent Indian who says they’re “representing” Microsoft or something like that, and they’ve discovered that YOUR PC is infecting other computers on the Internet, and isn’t that horrible, but thank goodness they’re here to help.

They tell you to go to your computer and visit some website and click on some link, and then they can take control of your computer and show you some random files and claim they’re a sign that your PC is the greatest threat to civilisation since Abbott entered politics. Before you know it, they’ve installed various trojans and other malware on your PC, claimed they’ve cleansed your system and saved your soul, and then they inform you there’s a reasonable bill you now need to pay if only you can please provide your credit card details.

That’s how the scam goes. It relies on ignorance, shock and a wilful appeal to authority, as most people suddenly confronted with a situation outside their understanding will naturally follow the nearest someone who seems to know what’s going on.

But now shit just got real. Today I heard from a colleague (who incidentally is one of the most lovely, kind and beautiful people I know), that even though she learned her lesson the first time she fell for this scam, the bastards almost got her again last night.

This time the scam had a twist: They called saying “We’re real sorry but a while ago we scammed you and we got caught, and now we’ve been ordered to PAY YOU BACK the money we stole.” So my friend, no doubt delighted that after all this time she was about to get the two hundred or so dollars she’d lost back, did as instructed and went to her computer and SURRENDERED CONTROL AGAIN to the scammers!

Thankfully this time she was a little skeptical, and she happened to check her account activity as they were helping her fill out the Western Union money transfer authority, noticing a sudden transaction of $820 which she hadn’t authorised. When she asked the caller why they were taking $820, they said the had to “verify her identity”, to which she said “and you can’t do that with a one dollar transaction?!?” She then wrestled for control of her mouse with the scammer, who promptly hung up on her and tried to submit the money transfer order. Sense prevailed and she switched off her PC, then called her bank immediately and reported the fraud. She was told by her bank that this is becoming very common, and she was lucky to have taken such prompt action.

In case you’re in any doubt, let me be absolutely clear about this – NOBODY LEGITIMATE WILL EVER CALL YOU AND TELL YOU YOUR PC IS INFECTED. It just doesn’t happen. Furthermore, even if it did, they wouldn’t work for Microsoft, who are in the business of making software, not policing the internet.

My household has received three calls of this nature over the last 4 months. Thankfully each time they’ve called, my 12yo son has answered and taken great glee in telling them “We run Linux here, so you must be wrong” since they claim it’s a Windows PC which is infected. He knows better – he’s surrounded by technology. The thing is, these scammers are clearly pulling some serious cash out of this scam, which means people are still falling for it.

That’s where you come in. You have the power to stop these scammers. All you need to do is talk about it. Tell your workmates, the girls you play volleyball with, the guys you meet for poker and the lady at the checkout. Mention the scam to as many people as you can, and you’ll take the wind out of their sales. The scam relies on ignorance, so if people know about it, then it won’t work.

Please share this story and others you see on any social media you use. It’s absurd this scam is still working after so long. Let’s end it now.

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From → IT, Skepticism

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