Monday, 22 July 2013

PC Solutions. It’s a scam.

They are multiple dialling, probably using Skype. The first tell-tale indication that PC Solutions (or an ‘accredited Microsoft engineer’ from ‘"Microsoft Windows Support’) are phoning you on your landline is a pause, followed by an Asian voice asking if they are speaking to whatever name they’ve got on their database. They are criminals based in Calcutta: how they compile their database is anyone's guess. They tell you that your computer has a virus or that it is running slowly.

Of course your computer is running slower than when you bought it, brand new with little software or data loaded. Not to mention BT's bandwidth restrictions, copper cables, distance from the nearest exchange and your neighbours downloading porn. That five year-old car outside hasn't exactly got the horse-power it had when you bought it.

Unless they installed the virus themselves, it is not possible for anyone to know that your computer has a virus.

I’ve listed the most effective responses I've used so far, effective in the sense PC Solutions hang up quickly. Which is what you should do really, but if you’ve got time on your hands, try one of these responses. Be warned - they start using you for training purposes! One unwanted call from these scamsters is more than enough. Google 'PC Solutions' or whatever name they are using. The word ‘scam’ will never appear so many times on a search page again. Tell them that what they are trying to do is disgraceful but be prepared for abuse!

“I have no computer.”
“I only use Macs.”
“I have been feeling under the weather recently. What sort of virus do you think I have?”
“Bank details? My name is Evenue. Initial? R. My bank account details are.. Sort code..” (You'll need Inland Revenue bank details for the last response.)

They will ask you to press the Windows button, then ‘Start Run’ and ‘Prefetch’. Don’t do it.  They want computer users to look at a program called Event Viewer - a standard part of the Windows operating system. Event Viewer displays logs of events occurring on the computer - sometimes with the label "Warning" or "Error" – which in fact have no significance to the smooth running of the computer. The caller would then say that these warnings are due to 'viruses', that they had been alerted to them remotely, and they can fix them. They will then use a remote log-in program to appear to 'fix' the computer.

The purpose of this unsolicited call is to trick people into installing malicious software on their computer. They want to take control of a victim’s computer and adjust settings in order to leave the computer vulnerable. They will request credit card information so that cybercriminals can bill for services. These are 'boiler-room tactics' aimed at getting you to take out multi-year contracts, indeed aimed at the vulnerable and gullible. This is unfair and deceptive commercial practice. It is illegal to cold-call numbers signed up to Telephone Preference, not that it stops, for example, cold-callers claiming 'This is not a sales call', asking 'Would you take part in a short survey?'.
If you, or someone you know, falls victim to PC Solution's scam, then do three things:
1) Contact your card issuer and get the transaction reversed.
2) Report what happened to Action Fraud, the UK's national fraud reporting centre. It has its     own page on Microsoft-related scams, as does Microsoft itself.
3) Contact the police and get a crime number.

In the US a federal district judge has frozen the US assets of 17 people and 14 companies that have been accused of taking part in these operations. 80 internet domain names and 130 phone numbers used in the US to carry out the scams have been shut down. It is not known how many people have been scammed, or how much they had lost. Microsoft has been working for two years to try to catch these criminals and know that more than a thousand people have been scammed. Losses average $875 each. The fraud has occurred in several English-speaking countries including Australia, Canada and the UK.

Since I ran this as a news item, forviemedia encountered a high number of crawl errors. Webmaster Tools report suspicious activities on the site from India and New York. I received more than the usual number of badly-written phishing emails full of mis-spellings imploring me to open dubious links. My sandbox has been heaving. (I don't know what that means either.) Looking at my attempts at spring-cleaning, I can't believe I'm writing these words, but please do some basic housekeeping, unless you like staring at a blank screen, reloading your computer and fielding irate calls from folk you've infected with viruses. Put aside those principled objections you have towards companies with a cavalier approach to the payment of Corporation Tax in Britain, and back-up everything on to Google Drive.

To be positive, search engines are obviously picking up my keywords. If it is PC Solutions in the business of infection, I'm in the good company of the Guardian and other media organisations. At least they are not pestering some other poor punter trying to go about their daily business. Thereagain it could be someone I've upset.

So I made a list of folk I might have upset with this website. It is quite a long list. Stagecoach Bluebird was suggested, but they have all their work cut out trying to run a public transport system, particularly in the Buchan area, so I've discounted them. Trump has a record of petty retaliation (paying folk to protest, for example), but I can't see him bothering with forviemedia. That Cameron Sect in Peterhead are a shady outfit. Local fishermen become uptight about publicity for their propensity for blasting away at doe-eyed, fish-guzzling seals. Oil trader Vitol are well - who knows? - capable of anything. Maybe the Chinese object to my piece on the Old Town House.

All this is more likely to be malicious than someone out there not wanting something written about them. I must be doing something of worth but there are some very sad, desperate people out there in the ether. A couple of folk have said that they haven't read this article because they're feart to open anything with the word 'scam' in the title. Anyway, be warned. Keep your firewalls and anti-virus software up-to-date. Don't open anything unless you know its provenance. And don't send anything to forviemedia if you haven't got a clue what this article is going on about. If you've sent me something 'inappropriate' and think I'm being rude by not responding, I'm sorry - it just means I've added you to Blocked Senders without checking your contact details. This is getting silly. Think I'll go for a lie-down.

In unreported cases, a major oil service company at the Bridge of Don had to wipe 16000 computers and re-install software last year, a process that virtually shut down the company, took four weeks to complete and gave the IT department many sleepless nights. Aberdeen University was taken for a six-figure sum just because some inquisitive employee couldn't resist opening that tantalising link..

Must go, before I get on to spam and related issues. And the landline's ringing..

'This is the Windows Defence Centre. Am I speaking..'

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