“Windows Technical Support” scam

At least once a week I get a call from a caller claiming to be “Windows Technical Support.” It’s a scam. The routine is to convince you that your computer is “infected” by dozens of virii. You give a “technician” permission to take control of your computer (!); after a payment of from $100 to $360, the “technician” repairs the alleged damage. Actually, they have no idea whether anything is wrong with your computer; the whole “repair” scenario is faked-up. Their goal is simply to extract cash.

The latest call to me was from +1 203 793 8906. Early in the call the caller tries to substantiate that he’s associated with “Windows” because he knows my unique “CLSID/CLS ID” number, 888DCA60-FC0A-11CF-8F0F-00C04FD7D062. You can read about how CLSID not unique.

You can read anecdotes from people who played along for a while: Phone scammers call the wrong guy, get mad and trash PC, and A tech support scammer dials Ars Technica. These guys are dangerous: Apparently if they get as far as convincing you to grant remote access to your machine, but then you fail to pay, they’ll remotely delete your user files and trash your system. Uggh.

The scammers attempt to identify themselves with “Windows.” Microsoft has published a few web pages about the scam, Avoid tech support phone scams and 5 things you need to know about tech support scams. Computerworld has an article, “Aggressive, persistent Windows tech support scammers continue to stalk consumers.” A detailed description of the scam is available: Hanging on the telephone (PDF, 1.5 MiB).

I describe this because a friend of mine (who should have known better) was taken in by the scam. It is clearly generating enough cash that their operation has been sustained for several years. It must be the case the the front-line worker (my caller) knows that the operation is a scam; it is a sad sign of the times that apparently you can convince hundred of workers to lie, cheat, and steal to make (presumably) a pittance as a wage. I admit curiousity about whether you could construct an operation like this maintaining a veil where the front-line callers don’t even know that what they are doing is illegitimate. My tentative conclusion in this case is that the front-line workers here know that they are lying.