May 4, 2011


Along with discussing old bunco steerers, grifters, rogues, swindlers, crooked dealers, card sharps and scoundrels, I thought that it might be a good idea to warn family and friends of the latest deceivers and shysters to prey upon our lives. Anyone, including myself, who has studied the methods, can be taken, ripped-off, scammed, and stung.

Two lessons I wish to stress today.
  1. Swindles have changed little over the last century. Human nature does not evolve.
  2. One of the most basic starting points for the swindler, is to warn the victim about swindles. Gaining the trust of the prey is paramount.


Microsoft Impersonation Scam.
Computer Virus Over The Phone Scam.

The first of such warnings that convinced me to start this occasional segment comes from my publisher's family in Canada. Art checked it out on and found that it and variations of same have been around since 2009 and appears to be going through a resurgence lately (See is the site that brings attention to it (See Art says he was glad to learn of it just in case of such a call coming out of the blue. The following comes from and shows out the swindle works.

I had a phone call last week from a woman who told me that they had received a service record that my computer was infected with a malicious virus and was pumping error messages out onto the internet.

She wanted me to sit down at my computer and said she would show me how to find my computer ID number, which would prove that she was legitimate. From there, she would presumably guide me through the process of cleaning up my computer and protecting it in the future.

We all fear the dreaded computer virus problem, so one part of me was afraid I would have to believe her.

Then the logical, skeptical part of me started asking questions.

The woman had enough Indian accent that I couldn't quite make out every word. When I asked how she knew how to contact me - after all, a person's phone number is not attached to their computer's error messages, she didn't give a straight answer.

In fact, every time I asked a pointed question, she went back to her script about how dangerous this malicious software was and that she could help me clear it up. She sounded very earnest and helpful. But finally, when I pressed her to spell the name of the company she worked for, she hung up on me.

I went to the internet to see if anyone else in the wide, wide world was getting this kind of phone call.

I soon discovered that I am not alone. (I breathed a small sigh of relief! I also felt a surge of anger at these people who are taking advantage of our fears.)

This particular kind of scam has been going on for a couple of years in the US, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Earlier versions claimed to be representing Microsoft. I eventually discovered that my particular caller claimed to work for Technogennie. (They do have a website. They might even be a reputable company whose name has been hijacked - I don't know. I did notice that on their home page, the word "order" was spelled "oder" twice.)

Apparently, the calls come from a call centre in India. At the very least, their goal is to sell you expensive and probably useless virus protection. Some have paid up to $400 for it.

At worst, they have your credit card information plus they have had you sit down at your computer and download something from their website that is purported to be virus protection.

In fact, people caught by this scam say they were directed to a website and told to download a program that takes over their computer so that the caller can clean up their computer. This is a very risky thing - to turn over control of your computer to some stranger at the other end of a phone line.

The people who are getting caught by this "phishing" (pronounced "fishing") scam are those whose fear outweighs their caution.

Phishing has been around for a while. It is the name for those email scams where you get an email that tells you to click a link to confirm data such as your Social Insurance number and credit card number. But the link is really connected to a faked website where your personal data is stolen.

What they are "phishing" for is your personal information. A few of us are naïve enough to make that click, or to buy into a telephone phishing call - enough of us to keep the scammers happy, at least.

One thing that I realized as I read of other people's experiences with this new kind of phishing is that the scammers are getting more sophisticated as time goes by. They keep changing the process they use to convince you that they are legitimate.

Although the calls come from "unavailable name and number," I was given an 800 phone number so I could call them back.

Often you can identify a scammer because she won't give you a way to contact her, but this outfit seems to have figured that one out.

The moral of this story is to be alert. If you worry that your computer has a problem, take it to a local expert who is recommended by people you know. Never allow some stranger access to your computer or any of your personal data.


Jeff Smith


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting that Jeff. Knowledge that these scammers excist is helpful. That said, I cannot envision 'myself' falling for this one. No disrespect to Art...but this seem to have had 'Scam' written all over it from the start.

    I personally screen all my incoming calls with my answering machine on my phone. My new digital system seems eliminate all telemarketers. For some they just hang up. Thankfully.


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