Network Security

Cold-calling scams and rehearsals for retirement*

“So you can stick your little pins in that voodoo doll
I'm very sorry baby, doesn't look like me at all...”**

Following a recent article here on the well-worn theme of cold-calling support desk scams, and some conversations with Virus Bulletin's Martijn Grooten and long-time scamwatcher Steven Burn, I've been looking at some different aspects to the kind of fraudster who tries to part you from your money by offering help with problems you don't have.

In the meantime, for those who like to read about the baiting of Nigerian 419-scammers and India-based helpdesk-scammers, you may be interested to know that I've established a new personal endurance record for “we're ringing to let you know that you have a virus” calls. Only about 20 minutes, but usually I've exhausted my patience long before that. As indeed I did this time, but this time the guy on the other end lost his temper with me, which was amusing enough to lower my own blood pressure. In fact, he recommended that I take a world tour, as I would be dead very soon, and that his team would be checking on my real address (presumably so that they could send the wetwork team round).

Since he managed to guess wrong on my name, my address, my status as a senior citizen (I admit – though not to scammers – to having grandchildren, but I'm not what in the UK we used to call an Old Age Pensioner), and even the operating system I use, I don't feel terribly intimidated by his prediction of my early demise. It was kind of interesting, in an unpleasant sort of way, that he hammered so hard on my being old like his grandad (so he respected me, but I don't know anything about computing), as some of the reports I've seen recently about this kind of scam suggest that the old are being deliberately targeted by this kind of spam. Which makes sense: it's not only scammers in Kolkata and New Delhi that assume the older generation are incapable of understanding technology, and therefore susceptible to scaremongering and psychological bullying. However, that doesn't entirely explain why he assumed I was in that age group, even though I wasn't the person he was trying to contact.

My latest caller didn't give his own name, but claimed to be representing Windows support (but he was emphatic that he wasn't from Microsoft, who would never call me – interesting assertion...) Then he claimed to represent a company called G-Tech (I can't vouch for the hyphenation, and there seem to be quite a few companies of that name) or Global Tech. I'm not surprised he was a little uncertain, though. It must be pretty hard keeping your story straight when you have multiple company names and websites.

*Rehearsals for Retirement was a 1969 album by Phil Ochs and included a photograph of his tombstone on the cover, though at that time he was still very much alive.

**Leonard Cohen, “Tower of Song”

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