Saturday, February 27, 2016

Microsoft Security Essentials--the scam

I got a phone call last night, a Friday night, at about 10:30.My phone said "unknown caller", which usually I screen, but as I thought it might be someone in my circle of friends and family at that hour, I picked it up. A woman with an Indian or Pakistani accent said something that I don't quite remember, but it led me to say, I think you have the wrong number. But she was adamant that she had not, said my name, and so I stayed on the line. She told me that my Microsoft Security Essentials components weren't working and that if we didn't fix it, Microsoft would have to revoke my ability to use the license.

A couple of things ran through my mind as she was talking. One was, why in hell are they calling at 10:30 PM on a Friday night? But then I thought, well, they're obviously not on Pacific time, so maybe they're calling in daylight where they are. And when I say "they", I mean that I could hear lots of sounds in the background, implying some sort of phone bank. It's funny that we know enough about the fact that companies employ workers in Asia that we can believe all that we are hearing is legit.

I'm not particularly adept at picking up on scams, especially in person. I've been taken in by a couple of young hucksters in town in my time, though only to the tune of of a few dollars. Luckily for me, I am kind of ornery when it comes to phone calls from people soliciting anything--it kind of pushes a button in me, which sometimes I feel bad about afterwards. But in this case it kind of got my back up that Microsoft was calling me at 10:30 in the evening. I did feel a little anxiety at the idea that some sort of access to the internet would be denied, so seriously, I could easily have been taken in. But when this woman told me to boot up my computer to start some process or other, I just didn't feel like doing that. So I said, "You know, maybe you could send me an email about this, because I don't really believe that you are who you say you are. Sorry. Goodbye." And I hung up.

Now, you  may have noticed that this blog isn't called "The Confessions of the Super Savvy", so I didn't get off the line feeling triumphant or anything. I actually thought, well maybe my internet access will be cut off or something. I even turned off my router so that no nefarious scheme could be enacted. But after a while, I thought, if this was a scam, there will probably be something out there about it. And sure enough, there was. Tons of stuff. I even came across something where Microsoft sort of wrung their hands, saying, we get calls about this every day, usually AFTER someone has been taken in by a scammer. I got the feeling that they thought this was a bit pathetic, but if you are outside their inner track, I think the spiel is convincing enough that you might fall for it, so don't feel bad if you do. Like I said, I fall for scams all the time. The only reason I wasn't taken in by this one is that I got riled by the intrusion.

Later, of course, I started thinking of revenge. I know, revenge usually serves no purpose, etc., etc. But in this case the purpose would be to slow them down a little, which is all to the good. I thought of several tactics, such as leaving them on hold, staging some sort of violent scene which would frighten them, or asking them if their mother really thought when they were born that this was the kind of work they envisioned their child doing. I don't know that I will get another call any time soon, so if you do, I urge you to be inventive. Like this guy:

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