Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, "Confident Computing", for more solutions you can use to make your life easier. Click here.

Is my ISP calling me to clear up my problems with Windows?

//
Hi Leo,

You might be interested in this little anecdote.

Yesterday about noon, the telephone rang. It was an Indian woman, and here’s what she said …

What follows is an increasingly commonly-attempted scam. Fortunately, the person reporting it had the right instincts and was able to avoid getting taken.

Let’s look at the transcript provided, and I’ll identify all of the warning signs with [notes] as we go.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

The “your computer is causing problems” scam

Before we get into the specifics of this example, I want to clarify that this scam has become increasingly widespread, and has many variants. In the five years since this article was originally published, it’s clear that it’s happening more and more often, and many people are falling for it.

While this example is a call from “your ISP”, variations include scammers claiming to be calling from Microsoft, from “the internet”, from security firms, and from other reputable-sounding organizations.

Except they’re not reputable at all. They lie. It’s a scam. They are not who they say they are at all.

Don’t fall for it.

If you take away only one thing from this example, let it be this: always be suspicious when someone calls you. You have no way to confirm that they are who they say they are. I’ll have some tips on what steps to take in a moment.

The scam in action

Phone ScamThe conversation (with names changed) went like this:

Caller: “Mr. Smith? We have your address as [correct address given], and we have your telephone number, otherwise we’d not be able to call you. For security purposes, would you give me your first name, please?”

Smith: “You should have that on your records.” [1]

Caller: “Yes, but this is to check that you are Mr. Smith.”

Smith: “I don’t think that is necessary – I answered the telephone. What is this all about?”

Caller: “This is your ISP. [2] We seem to be having some problems with your account. Have you been having trouble with programs crashing recently?” [3]

Smith: “Yes, of course!”

Caller: “Well, when that happens, it sends a message to us [4], and we are getting a lot of these from you, and they are causing us some problems. Also, it is a sign that you may have serious problems with your computer very shortly. We want to help you to solve this problem, which will prevent you having your computer die on you, and it will solve the problems we are having with your messages. We have a team of Microsoft experts here to deal with it.”

Smith: “Are you trying to sell me something ?”

Caller: “Oh, NO, Mr. Smith! We just want to help you to sort out the problems; it’s part of our service.”

Smith: “O……K……”

Caller: “Is your computer turned on?”

Smith: “Yes.”

Caller: “Will you go to Start > Run, type in “Eventvwr”, and press Enter.”

Smith: “O.K.”

Caller: “Click on “Application”, and you will see lots of Events [5], either Information, Warning, or Error. What is the total shown at the top?”

Smith: “Over 1,700 since 6th January.”

Caller: “Wow! Roughly how many of these are Warnings?”

Smith: “I guess about a third?”

Caller: “O.K., now click on System, and tell me the total?”

Smith: “Over 2,800 – again, about a third are Warnings.”

Caller: “You see, Mr. Smith, how serious this is?”

Smith: “Is it?”

Caller: “Oh, YES, Mr. Smith! But we can do something about this! I’ll hand you over to a colleague who is an expert who can fix it for you.”

Expert: “Hello, Mr. Smith! I’m going to help you fix the problems on your computer. I want you to go to Run > Start, type in www.logmein.com [6] and press Enter. Then tell me what you see.”

Smith: “It’s asking for a six-figure entry code.” [7]

Expert: “Ah. Do you have that?”

Smith: “No.”

Expert: “Well, that’s because your computer is over a year old. You get a year’s free support, and this has now lapsed. You will need this six-figure code before we can proceed. Renewal costs $50. May I have your credit card number, please?” [8]

Smith: “Just a moment! Your colleague told me at the start of this call that this was not a sales pitch. Do you want money off me?”

Expert: “Oh, NO, Mr. Smith ! We just want to sort out the problems on your computer! But to do that you must have that six-figure code….etc., etc., etc…”

Smith: “Just a minute! I asked, do you want money from me – yes or no?”

Expert: “It’s not about money, Mr. Smith, it’s about fixing your computer!

Smith: “Is that a yes or a no?”

Expert: “It’s a yes.”

Smith: “Fine. Good day.” CLICK [9].

Observations

[1] Exactly, though they will often ask for something even more personal, like your mother’s maiden name or a part of your social security number, with all the obvious risks therein. Hence the warning I started with: recognize that they called you, and never respond with this information. [back]

[2] Your ISP will never say “This is your ISP.” They’ll identify themselves by name, both the name of the individual calling (which may be meaningless for security purposes) and the actual name of your ISP. However, be aware that stating the correct information doesn’t mean they’re legit (it’s not that difficult to find out someone’s ISP), but not telling you at all is a big red flag. [back]

[3] Really, now … who hasn’t? Smile [back]

[4] No, it doesn’t. If a message is sent at all, it’s sent to Microsoft or to the vendor of the software that’s having a problem. [back]

[5] Yes, you will. In fact, we all will. The event viewer is kind of a mess, and having lots of events, even errors, is not an indication that things are about to go bad. [back]

[6] Important: logmein.com is a legitimate company and website, and they have nothing to do with this scam. Other services besides logmein have been used as well. They provide a “remote access” service: the ability to log in to someone else’s computer across the internet. [back]

[7] It’s unclear, but this is one of two possible targets of the scam. Once the appropriate code is entered (provided by the scammer, of course), they can access your  computer remotely. With that access, they could install all types of malicious software, including continued remote access, without your further assistance or knowledge. [back]

[8] Bingo. This is likely the other target of the scam: to get you to divulge your credit card information. [back]

[9] Handled excellently. This is exactly the correct response. [back]

I think of it as phone phishing.

After you hang up, they may call back. In fact, I’ve heard of the scammers becoming verbally abusive if you don’t follow their instructions. I can only assume they do this because for some subset of potential victims, it causes the victim to capitulate to the scammer’s demands. Don’t fall for it.

How to not fall for the scam

There were many red flags in this conversation. Given the amount of information that’s likely publicly available about each of us, it’s not that hard to put together a convincing-sounding story – but that story will have holes. You must watch for them.

Here are my important take-aways from this example:

  • Always be suspicious when they call you. One solution: ask for a number at which you can call them, and then research that number (Google’s been fairly useful for this). Alternatively, call your ISP yourself, using only phone numbers you find in information your ISP previously provided, and ask if this number, person, or scenario is something they know about.
  • Never give your credit card or other personal information to someone who called you – at least not unless you’re absolutely positively certain you know who they are. If needed, get a call-back number. That way, even if it still turns out to be a scam, you’ll have that to give to the police.
  • Be suspicious of instructions to visit web sites. They may be legitimate – if you call your ISP’s tech-support line, for example, they’re likely to have you do things like that. However, until you’re certain you know who you’re talking to, don’t.

If you get called, and you’re the least bit uncertain, the solution is simple: hang up, and call the company that they claimed to represent. If it’s legitimate, they’ll understand (and perhaps even appreciate) your caution. If it’s a scam, they may or may not appreciate your caution, but you’ll have just saved yourself a lot of grief.

Podcast audio

Play

80 comments on “Is my ISP calling me to clear up my problems with Windows?”

  1. About 10 years ago or so I fell for something similar to this. I won a cruise, but there was a processing fee, yadda yadda. Well, I even went so far and gave out my credit card, despite my gut warnings — a credit card that I knew had a low limit and should be denied for what they said they’d be charging.

    I ended up closing the card (or the company did, hard to remember). So many fraudulent charges appeared that there was little else that could be done.

    Long story short: I never give out my credit card number to anyone over the phone anymore unless I called them and have called them before. ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. As I’ve said many times, I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier But if a complete stranger came to my front door and asked me for my credit card information, I would not give it out. Most people wouldn’t under those circumstances. Hard to believe so many people drop their guard when a complete stranger calls or emails.

  3. There is another really nasty twist to these ‘out-of-the-blue’ phone calls – I am not sure how, but some, as you get transferred to the ‘expert’, manage to switch the phone-call so that YOU called THEM. The ‘new’ call is to a much higher costing phone number, and of course, the ‘expert’ tries to keep you talking…

  4. Two hours ago I was in my ISP’s office, and there was a little old lady here, maybe 80 or 85 years old, who came here to ‘have the internet’. (I suppose her children, or grandchildren, had paid her a computer so she could stay in touch with them, or something like that).

    The guy from the ISP tried very hard to explain her the basics of Internet/network/…, but had problems even with the simplest things. She visibly was here long before I came, and 1/2h later he was still trying to explain her how an Internet account was supposed to work.

    This lady (and all the _mainly older_ people who are on the internet but know nothing at all about computers, programs, networks,…) is the kind of person these scammers are looking for. I am sure that if anybody phones her to ‘fix the problems on her computer’, she will gladly give them her social security number, credit card number and everything they will ask her.

    And there are good chances that, even after her ISP, her family and even police officers have explained her this is a scam, she will tell all people she knows that she has been robbed by her ISP !

    • I always tell them I am running LINUX. This usually stops them dead in their tracks, and they hang up. Once in a while, they will pursue this. They might ask what brand of LINUX I am running; I tell them UBUNTU. One of these callers even went so far as to ask me which version. I told him 12.04 . Then he finally gave up.

      Of course, you can always try the HOLD trick. “Let me put you on HOLD for a second, while I go into the other room.” Then put the phone under a pillow and leave it there for 5 minutes. The caller will be long gone when you retrieve the phone. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I used to do this back in the “olden days” before Caller ID. I’d answer the phone and the instant I realized it was someone selling something, I simply lay the receiver down on the floor and go back to what I was doing. Every 10 minutes or so, come back and see if they’re still talking – if they are, then set the receiver back down on the floor and repeat the process. It was amazing how long some of these telemarketers would keep talking. Also this has the added benefit that they can’t call you back right away because your line will be busy.

  5. P.S.1
    The URL they gave me was actually http://www.logmein123.com

    P.S.2
    They never actually gave me the name of my ISP

    P.S.3
    I forgot to check their number afterwards (1471) – but I dare say it was “with-held” anyway.

    P.S.4
    Thanks for the anonymity – but I can live with the shame !

    Thanks for posting it.

    Oh, and yes, I’m an old fart – but I have been using computers since 1968…

    Yep, as another commenter points out, “logmein123.com” is yet another sign that this is bogus. There’s no shame here, my friend – your gut instincts were right on. Thanks for sharing the experience!

    Leo
    24-Feb-2010

  6. in response to John Edwards
    If they asked you to do this:
    Start > Run, type in “Eventvwr” and press Enter.”
    You would know they assumed you were running Windows so they would fall at the first hurdle.

  7. Actually, Robin’s PS1 is another clue relating back to your point 7.

    While LOGMEIN.COM may be a legitimate business, LOGMEIN123.com is most likely NOT.

    So they are going to collect BOTH the $50 payment and your credit card info to charge against in future.

  8. Very interesting – I am happy to say that I am so cynical as to never believe anyone who calls me and wants to help me without asking from microsoft or any other Internet provider/service.
    This information gives me some satisfaction that my cynicism is justified.

  9. Leo, these kind of in depth analysis’ (especially for spams, frauds etc like this)will help you help others and thereby help your business. Other subjects should be included in your in-depth portfolio. Thanks for a Great! job Leo!!

  10. I also thank the original poster- The callers are probably part of a gang and the gang will be right royally annoyed because he spoke to them so long and they still failed to extract his credit card details. Hopefully it’ll discourage them from this scam.

  11. Thank you.Very helpful. One more thing. To whom can this type of scam be reported?

    It depends on where you live, of course, but in the U.S. I believe this goes to the FBI.

    Leo
    24-Feb-2010

  12. My appropriate response (true or otherwise) .. “uh I actually have a Mac..so you must really suck at your job’.

    as soon as a stranger calls you on the phone and asks for money.. hang up!

      • I have had two separate calls. When an Indian woman called everytime she ask me a question, I would ask her “why?” She got so exasperated she finally just hung up.

        The second call a few days later an Indian man tells me he is calling because he notices my computer is sending error messages. As he asks questions I answer and when he asks if he can get access to my computer I ask him “do you actually think I am that stupid?” He hangs up.

  13. Whenever someone calls me with a sales or donor pitch, almost 100% of the time either no phone number or no name, or sometimes both are not displayed on your Caller ID. To begin with, as soon as the words “Hi, Mr. Tilley, we’re so & so with the police or fire association, the phone is hung up without second thought. The same for sales. Hiding their business name and/or phone number is a dead giveaway that they are fakes. One called back asking me why I hung up on him, and I told him this, and he said that if they displayed their name, no one would answer. What a dead giveaway, did this man think I was born yesterday? A 100% honest charity or salesperson should hide nothing, even the remote assumption that no one would answer is not a legit excuse for hiding your identity. And if they are a fast talker or speaks with broken English, they’re crooks for sure.

  14. I have had a couple of experiences where my bank has called after i have made purchases at locations far from where i live (when im on holidays for example). However, they have always given their full name and the Bank’s name, as well as quoting my client number to me and inviting me to call them back if I wish to. It is this sort of practice that should be mandatory when companies contact their customers. (The bank is the Commonwealth Bank of Australia if anyone is curious).

    I agree. It’s the way my cedit card companies work as well – though once they have satisfactorily identified themselves, they also ask for some kind of confirmation that they’ve reached who they intended – often the last 4 digts of my SSN, here in the US. A call back number is also an option provided, and in fact recently there’s also been confirmation email that follows a short time later. Insisting on those kinds of things when you are called is part of what it takes to remain secure.

    Leo
    25-Feb-2010

  15. Check with your phone company to see if they have a Call Trace feature (*57 where I live). This will log a trace record with the phone company’s security department for the last incoming call. Once you’ve hung up on the scammer, simply pick up again & dial *57. Generally, you will not get access to this information, but the phone company will release it to the police or other authorities.

  16. I use logmein123.com all the time with my reputable computer consultant. Are there legitimate issues with this?

    You may be right – it looks like it redirects to a valid “logmein” server – but you might want to double check with the logmein folks to ensure that’s what’s intended. The domain registration is also hidden, so it’s not easy to verify that this is legitimate.

    Leo
    01-Mar-2010

    • No issues at all. Itโ€™s a completely legitimate remote access product/service โ€“ from the LogMeIn team โ€“ thatโ€™s used by helpdesks. That said, itโ€™s also been used in telephone scams โ€“ much like those discussed by Leo – to obtain access to peoplesโ€™ computers. The best advice is 1) to only use this โ€“ or any other similar product/service โ€“ in connection with support requests that youโ€™ve made to a trusted company (in other words, never in relation to an unsolicited call) and 2) watch what the person does while connected to your computer.

  17. Working for a PC manufacturer we are noticing a pattern starting to form with the same script as above in use, except they are fraudulently pretending to be Microsoft instead of “ISP” and the cost to fix the errors from eventvwr.msc is AU$400. The customers I’ve had so far a fortunate enough to realise that it is a scam before any damage has been done. The company that appears to be behind this scam is onlinepccare.com and the logmein client is branded as Horizon. The company has been reported to scamwatch and crimestoppers in Australia and is also in breach of the trade practices act.

  18. Sidenote regarding LogMeIn:
    LogMeIn is a legitimate and reputable company providing remote support solutions in consumer and commercial environments and especially within the tech support industry. Cisco also provide similar solutions such as the application Go2Assist.

    logmein123.com/, support.me/ and oty.com/ are all owned by LogMeIn for convenience and are documented within the technicians manual on the website for LogMeIn Rescue and also within the Rescue Console.

    Researching a domain before making assumptions is a good thing! Whois details are just 1 option that is available.

  19. I’ve just had a similar call to the one above but the caller said he was from Windows technical department. I work in IT so I was pretty suspicious. I let him get as far as asking me to call up event viewer then asked him for his name – Ron Levy (not very likely) and where his office was. He told me he was in North London. I asked for his phone number and he gave me one which if you ring it goes to a company called zubla (?) and they say they will put you through to one of their agents. I did ask why his call was showing as international on my phone when he said he was calling from London and he told me I was mistaken. I did mention that I had several friends who worked for Microsoft and I was sure they would know him! By this point I think he’d lost interest in me and hung up. Hopefully he has blacklisted my phone number ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. I have just had a similar scam phone call here in the UK, claiming to be from a company providing technical support for Microsoft. After a lot of ramblings about spyware, he took me to the directory where I was asked to count the warnings and errors – just as you relate. I finally hung up when we got to the logmein.com page which asked for a 6 digit code.

    Please spread your warnings widely!

  21. In the interest of seeing where he was going and to waste his time I went as far as making up six digits and typing them in the logmein screen. I don’t think that ‘opened the door’ for the scammer. Since I had tied up the phone for a half hour I hung up the phone
    and my McAfee AV software hasn’t reported any intrusions. What would I have to have done to allow access to my machine?

  22. I just had a call from them while reading your newsletter, but it was about my computer running slow. They wanted remote control of my computer, but I said I had to confirm who they were, so he gave me his site (onlinepccare ).He said he would call back Mon. AM, nothing was mentioned about cost.

  23. I just got a call (which showed as Overseas on caller ID) from someone with an Indian accent telling me he was from ‘Windows Clear’ and that my computer sent several error messages to the company. He said that he was calling to fix it for me. I hung up at that point – he hasn’t called back.

  24. Well, here, in the Netherlands I work for the consumer dsl support desk and we may call our customers when a trouble ticket was logged in our ticket system. Also when a customer has inadvertently become part of a botnet or is violating security policy i.e. sending email without headers and was blocked by our abuse department and that has gone unnoticed for more than three weeks. However we always identify ourselved clearly and we will never take over a computer (as that has become impossible due to the block on their internet traffic)

  25. I have had a similiar phone call today saying I have problems on my windows. I just said I don’t have a computer and she said I was lieing to her and wasting there time, and just hung up on me. I then thought how do they know I have a computer and what my phone number was.

  26. I received a similar call yesterday and went along not thinking straight. I was eventually asked to go to {URL removed} not realising it was logmein allowing remote access. I did go as far as keying in the 6 digit pin but as soon as a connection was established I closed the chat box and hung up.

    Now my question is whether my information has been compromised since I did not allow them to take control? I have disabled anything doing with lmi.exe on my firewall an disabled remote access.

    Please help! Appreciate it..

  27. I had a similar call this morning from an Indian/Asian woman claiming to from a company called ‘International Brouter’ (at least I think that’s what she said) who work for my ISP????. She gave me the ‘warning messages coming from my computer’ speel and that it needs fixing straight away or my computer will crash! I said my computer was running ok and that it has full Norton security but she said Norton do not cover these problems!!!! She instisted quite forcefully to turn my computer on straight away so that she could talk me through a ‘fix’. I’m not a computer expert but I eventually twigged she was talking absolute rubbish. After a few more attempts at trying to convince me I told her ‘how do I know you’re not trying to get into my system yourself…goodbye’
    and promptly hung up. And surprise surprise…the caller’s number was unavailable on 1471. Thanks for publicising this scam.

  28. Hi Leo, I too, have had heaps of these calls and the callers are very persistent. I just hang up and tell my friends to do the same.

    However, I now want to access my Aunt’s computer in England to help set it up – would you please recommend software that I could use for this purpose?

    Gratefully
    Marian Cooper

  29. It is hard to conceive but there are hundreds fall for this scam every day! Yet, it been “active” for at least 12 years that I know of.

    I have my iPhone set up to “cut short” any call that does not send me a Caller ID, including location. If you want to call me, you better have Caller ID on, and with honest information.

  30. We get calls like these very regularly here in the Netherlands. They don’t know you have a computer. They’re just guessing. Sure you can hang up but they sometimes call back. So my standard reply after they’ve finished their spiel is just “Sorry, I don’t own a computer”. Or “Well yes, I have a computer but it’s a Mac”. In both instances it’s a quick end to the conversation. They’re only interested in Windows computers.

  31. A old lady I know got this call and the caller got quite excited as she followed instructions from point to point. But when nothing seemed to be working from the caller’s end she finally laughed and told him that she had neither a computer nor a credit card!

    But seriously, if a legitimate company has a reason to call they will tell you to log on to your own account yourself, where you will find a notice about whatever concern they have.

  32. I am 110% convinced it’s a scam every single time I get a call from an Indian person out of the blue and the first sentence out of their mouth has the word ‘computer’ in it…and I’m right 100% of the time. I am not a happy camper on the phone with them……and we have been getting about 1-3 calls a WEEK! for a year now. It’s completely exploded. Everyone I know in my town is getting the same calls! It doesn’t matter what the call back number is, IT’S A SCAM! I think they target certain zip codes more than others as well. Remember: no one is going to EVER call you out of the blue re your computer! especially to fix it.

  33. Simple Solution: If someone contacts you (phone, front door, email, tweet, cell, mail, party, …), tell them NOTHING as you have no way to truly know who they are.

  34. I recently had a variant of this scheme, I think. While reading a frequently-visited, benign web site, suddenly a plain text box appeared, the rest of my screen greyed out. This was accompanied by audio announcing that my computer was infected, the box giving an 877 phone number to call. OH NO, RANSOMEWARE!
    I immediately did a hard shut-down, planning to restart in Safe Mode without networking. Right after the BIOS splash, even before the password screen, the same audio began. Since I was unable to proceed further, I reluctantly called the number, was directed to logmein123.com, and they gave me a code. With my finger on the power button, the rep went through event viewer, system, etc., pronounced my laptop “heavily infested” with viruses and trojans, then gave me the options of sending the laptop to Microsoft, or a “comprehensive” 4 hour, $500 “cleaning” at Best Buy!
    I told them I’d opt for the latter, after which we terminated the call. Restart was uneventful, full scans revealed no infection or malware, problem hasn’t recurred.
    Could Best Buy possibly be this devious? The inescapable nature of the message, even before OS launch, scared the crap out of me! At least it ended well…

    • This has nothing at all to do with Best Buy. I’m sure that they quoted a high price for Best Buy to make a subsequent offer that they would make for something less more palatable. NEVER call those numbers. If needed, take the machine to a technician you trust instead.

  35. I get these calls and being an IT pro play along to waste their time. When I get bored I finally ask them if their mother is proud of them trying to scam people. Most hang up. One, however, said his mother was proud that he had a job. Left me speechless.

    • I once strung one of these people along for about an hour then spoke to him rather sharply(!) – but he still insisted that my computer was bust – I got the distinct impression that he really did think he was helping me, possibly just thought he was doing his job – in other words he was a sort of victim himself. I have heard of someone convincing a scammer to give the scam up and get a proper job, for which he was, apparently, grateful. I’ve now got caller id and never answer anything unless it’s a known number – they can always leave a message …

  36. I suppose I have a suspicious nature (LOL) but when I get calls purporting to be from my ISP or from websites to which I have submitted an enquiries etcetera, I refuse to give them any personal information at all except to confirm that I am the person they called. Because there is no sure way of knowing if they are who they say they are, is there?

    I even refused to give my password to an agent at my ISP, when I called to simply find the answer to a general question which had nothing at all to do with my account! He then refused to give me the information so I hung up and did a Google search and found the answer myself ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Even if it is someone from a bank or ISP YOU have called, NEVER give out your access code over the phone and most likely in person either.

      When I send in my computer to the manufacturer for repairs, I change the password to the manufacturers name or delete the whole hard drive before sending it in. I do have images I can restore.

      The mfgr will install a new factory version of Windows that was previously installed.

      Employees should know better than to ask for passwords in the first place.

  37. I think I’ve had calls using this scam. They begin “Hi, this is Tim in Customer Service.” The reason I’m not sure is because that’s as far as he gets before I unleash some of the foulest words in the English language. I mean really obscene personal attacks. Works every time. Thing is, they never seem to remove my number from their call list because a month later “Tim” calls back for another berating.

  38. I get these calls frequently. I’m retired so I can afford the time to have a bit of fun. Here’s my favorite …

    So I decide to play dumb, and go through the same routine as did “Mr Smith”, and after many instructions that end in dead ends, I get the “supervisor” on the line. The first question I get from him is “What operating system are you using”? “What’s an operating System”? After a lot of back and forth I tell him I think I have Windows. “Good” and he starts with the same rubric as did the original “Technical Specialist”. I manage to drag this out for a few minutes because the syntax is totally different for Windows 3.1 By now I’ve wasted 15 minutes and finally he asks “go to Help, on the top line”. “Oh yeah, I found that” “Now, click on ‘About Windows'”. Yeah, I got that. “So, what does it say”?

    “Microsoft Windows 3.1 version nnnn” !!

    Gord in Rockburn

  39. NEVER give out information over the phone. They already have more information than they should have. Try asking them for information!

  40. New Twist on the Scam:

    Getting these calls 6-8 times a year, I noticed the new twist: They use a recording of an “American” voice to start the call and transfer you to a “technician.” So no more obviously overseas accent to start the call.

    I’m so fed up that I just ask the caller if his mother knows what he does for a living and how do you sleep at night? Then I just go into a vicious expletive-laden rant into which I put all of my anger at these crooks.

  41. Over the years I have had many emails and phone calls along the lines mentioned.
    Emails just ignore and delete.
    My standard phone call response is.
    Have I asked you to call me……
    If their chat goes on then at an appropriate lapse from them I ask again.
    Have I asked you to call me…..
    I let this continue until I get the correct answer, which will eventually come, of “No”
    Once the “No” has been achieved, I tell them to “#### off” and hang up.
    I must confess I feel good after doing this.
    You will have to decide for yourself your final remarks you would choose to use .

  42. I think I’m on the list at “Microsoft Technical Support” for training new hires. If I can get them to cry, they lose their job….

  43. My wife and I like to toy with these calls when they come in. For starters, every one we’ve received has said he is from Windows (rather than Microsoft). As soon as we heard “Windows”, it was game-on.

    “Hello, I am calling from Windows support.”

    “No you’re not”

    “Yes I am”

    “Prove it”

    “We see that your computer has been having problems”

    “What kind of problems?”

    “Crashing and shutting down.”

    “No it hasn’t. Wait, which computer are you speaking of?”

    “The computer related to this phone number – that is how we tracked it.”

    “We have 12 computers here. Which one has the problem?”

    “Do they all use the same modem?”

    “No, I don’t think so. I think they all have their own modem, although I’m not sure why. Do you know anything about modems?”

    “Why would you have 12 individual modems?”

    “I’m not sure. Wait, maybe you better speak with my wife.”

    “Hello?”

    “Hello, I am calling from Windows.”

    “No you’re not”

    “Yes, I am.”

    “Prove it….”

    A word of caution… we have found this to be entertaining but be aware that they have your phone number and you don’t have theirs. We had one guy start cursing at us after 15 minutes of going around in circles. And we actually had another guy tell us that he would continue to call every 30 seconds for the next 5 years. He followed up on that for about 5 minutes.

  44. It surprises me, from the number of comments here, how many folks will actually answer a call from someone they don’t know. On my phone I get the name of the person if they’re in my contacts list, those I answer. If the caller had ID enabled I get their phone number but I don’t answer those because I don’t know them. If they’re legitimate they’ll leave a message. If there’s no caller ID information at all why would I answer it? Screen your calls and save a lot of time. Just because your phone rings doesn’t mean you’re obligated to answer it.

    • Same here, some days I just jerk their chain everyway I can possibly think of and lie like a rug and give all the false PC info I can create. Normally if there is NO phone number, I punch several tones into their ear until they freak out. I love to give them information on my 1984 Northgate with DOS 6 and a 300 baud modem. FUN !!

    • That’s exactly what I do. My thinking: “If it’s important to you, you’ll leave a message. If it’s important to me, I’ll return your call.”

  45. Got the call last week, again these Indians (dot) just don’t give up. This time I said “I have NO computers”, she was stumped, Duhhh, U have lap top?
    Me: no, She: I-phone? Me: no, She: some one in house has PC? Me: only me here! She: hung up!! Waiting for call back, think this will work, maybe!!!

  46. When I’m in the mood, I like to get these people off-script and mess with their minds. Sometimes you can drag this out for a few minutes until they lose it and begin cursing you or break up into a Hindi (or whatever) rant. The method is to be hyper friendly, yet aggressively lead the conversation.
    So let’s say they just called you to tell you that they are from the Internet and that your computer has problems. You say how very glad you are to have them call you, how you have been waiting for their call, how your computer scans the internet looking for malfunctioning computers, and how you computer then instructs them to have their owners call you for help. They can’t argue that they were told to call you! Don’t accept any attempt for them to get back on script, just move right back into your own script. Tell them it doesn’t matter why they called, but now that they have, you can help them. Are they sitting at their computer? Is it turned on? Good, I can now start to help you! And it’s all free, my organization does this to make the World a better place to live in for everybody! Now, here’s what you do; you are going to perform an error detecting procedure by recycling your power and watching for error messages. Now, shut your computer down, right now! Please sir, you have to trust me. Come on, you have to help me in order to fix your machine!
    OK, you get the idea, its guerilla theater over the phone line. I’ve actually gotten a couple of them to re-boot and then I discuss BIOS messages as dire problems, but ones that can easily be fixed, and it’s all FREE. Sure, there are moral issues about this, but I figure that anybody who (typically) spoofs their caller ID and then tries a scam on me deserves the most thoughtful screw I can come up with, something that wastes their time, sours their mood and possibly inclines them to give up scamming.

  47. When the conversation starts with a problem with my windows…I just reply I had my windows fixed a few days ago, then it goes on about cleaning my windows. Well you guessed it, I’m talking about the windows in my house and insist they were cleaned when I had them fixed. It takes a while for the caller to realize they are getting no where with me. Next time I am going to tell them Leo took care of my windows and does a good job fixing and cleaning them!

  48. The thing i love the most about these scams is that i kept one going for about half an hour and at the end i said “you know something, i don’t even have the internet”. I don’t, i never signed up when i moved house!

    I once got a phone call from a company who offered me life insurance, after taking the mickey for a while she offered me a 1 month free trial of the life insurance. I asked he what possible use that would be?

    If i had to use it i would be dead and wouldn’t have any experience of how good it was, and if i didn’t die i wouldn’t have to claim anything so i wouldn’t have any experience of how good it was. She was selling the most pointless product i had ever heard of.

    i was 16 at the time!

    some people will try to sell anything to anyone!

    I have a bag of air going for ยฃ3 if anyone wants it, true seaside air from birmingham!

  49. Whenever I got these calls, I answer them, that SORRY, WE DO NOT FIX COMPUTERS FOR OTHER THAN OUR CUSTOMERS.
    They shut up. As they think that we are repairing computer problems and they cannot cheat on us.
    Interestingly, I noticed that they ALL come with an Indian accent. They do not call from North America. It seems that they have Magic Jack or similar North American phone numbers registered by Magic jack which allows them free calling to any where in North America.

  50. Hi
    I have also received these calls from an indian fellow here in Australia. I just tell them that I don’t have a computer and then hang up.

  51. i have had this same situation happen from a asian call center( i assume from the accent) and when they told me that they were contacting me to help fix my windows and i admit i laughed at them. they continued very seriously and i just hung up. it seems that half my phone calls are things like “this is your last chance to get a better credit card rate”( i get those once a day), or donate to something or other. everyone i do know emails, social media or text’s so i am fairly suspicious of phone calls these days.

  52. If you live in the UK, it is essential to remember that if you are inclined to hang up on a caller and ring back to, say, your ISP to check the authenticity of the call that when YOU (the called party) hang up this does NOT break the connection ! Only when the caller hangs up is the connection broken. So, you hang up, then dial your ISP – the original caller is still on the line and will pretend to be your ISP!
    This is a regular scam in the UK.
    Either use another phone line to check the authenticity of a call OR wait at least five minutes and make sure you hear a dialling tone.

  53. I often get these calls (in Australia). They usually claim to be from Microsoft. I’m afraid I get naughty with them – I figure if I waste their time they are not scamming someone else. My range of responses include:
    – just a moment (put phone down and walk away)
    – act dumb (is it my Macintosh?)
    – act dumber (is it the bedroom or lounge window?)
    – when I get tired of the game I yell at them (I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING, YOU’RE A SCAMMER. GET AN HONEST JOB). Slam phone down.

    • I spoke to a lady with great respect and followed her directions to type certain words in certain places, she asked what I could see, I said I really misunderstand what I am seeing. To get to the end of this, I eventually told her that I was lying to her, that I had in fact not followed her instructions because I knew that she wanted to get into my computer and run it. Of course she denied this, so I said goodbye and f… off and hung up.

  54. I have an older “desk-model” phone with a “hold” button. I received a call from a “securities” salesman and he started his pitch with “this is a fantastic offer to purchase stock in a computer company that was new to the market and would be a monstrous deal”. As I listened to the sales pitch I knew he was a scammer, so I told him that I was down stairs in the family room working on my hobby but the deal sounded GREAT!! and if he would not mind me putting him on hold while I went upstairs to get my credit card I would be very interested in this stock. I pressed the “hold” button and the little red light was blinking and my wife asked me why the light was blinking and I told her and she started laughing along with me. After a minute or two the light went out and I guess the scammer hung up. That’s the best way to handle them, and when someone calls and says that they want to fix my computer I tell them that I don’t have a computer.

  55. Leo, I have one point of disagreement with you. These calls are never legitimate so there’s no need to check them out. Just hang up right away. A couple of things I’ve done, just to annoy the callers:
    1. Would you rather I waste your time by playing along or do you want to hang up now?
    2. Oh, there’s a problem with my computer? Thank you so much for bringing it to my attention. I’ll be sure to take care of it right away. (Hang up.)

    Alas, I don’t get these calls anymore. No more Rachel from Card Services, Tim from the Shipping Department, or Chad from Computer Services (in India). I signed up with NoMoRobo a couple of weeks ago. It works perfectly.

  56. I live in Canada and have heard that if you get a phone call with your home phone number showing or cell number showing, if you press number 1 or 2 this scam company can now use your numbers to make long distance calls.

  57. I cannot believe that I fell for this scam and actually went along with what they wanted me to do. I did contact my credit card company and am hoping that I will be able to recover my money. That will be known in another two and a half months. I have been reading your column for quite some time and have learned so much. It was just a moment of insanity on my part that I answered the phone when I saw a number that I did not recognize. Usually I will let it go into the answering machine to see if they will leave a message.

  58. I have had several calls from men with East Indian accents, telling me they are “from Microsoft” and that my computer “is having problems.” I know that this is a scam, so I just tell the man that I am going to borrow a gelding clamp from a veterinarian, find out where he is located, and use the device on him. In all cases, the creep has hung up before I finish the sentence.

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article. Comments indicating you've not read the article will be removed.
  • Comment on the article. New question? Start with search, at the top of the page. Off-topic comments will be removed.
  • No personal information. Email addresses, phone numbers and such will be removed.
  • Add to the discussion. Comments that do not — typically off-topic or content-free comments — will be removed.

All comments containing links will be moderated before publication. Anything that looks the least bit like spam will be removed.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.