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What I learned playing prey to Windows scammers

Fahmida Y. Rashid | July 8, 2016
Three months of phone calls prove Windows scammers are more skilled at social engineering than you think

“What I am trying to say is when you bought your computer, a technician installed the operating system, you know that? The Windows operating system,” said “Nancy.” I noted there was no such thing as the Windows company because it was an operating system. “That’s what I am saying. I am calling from the Windows Service Center. Windows is the operating system you are using, right? And this is a service center for Windows. There are 700 service centers for Windows, you know that?”

"Nancy" claimed later in the call that my Windows license would be canceled if I didn’t fix the issues on my computer. “You have been provided with the license for the operating system of your computer. Right? If we find that someone is misusing the computer for any reason or there is something going wrong, what we do first is that we cancel the license of the computer, which means that you won’t be able to use this computer, all right?”

I argued back, “Why not?”

“You are using the Windows operating system,” she repeated patiently. I hoped I was annoying her at this point. “If we cancel the license of the Windows operating system from our end, then your operating system gets locked.”

Way to spook victims with the idea of ransomware, “Nancy.”

“Being a Windows user, I believe you know that all Windows computers are connected to the same Windows Global Router in Virginia,” “Nancy” said.

Even conspiracy theorists can’t make up this stuff. All Windows users connecting to a massive network that monitors all their activity? The sad thing is I can see how people wouldn’t know how preposterous the idea sounds.

When “Rachel” told me she was calling because the technician had detected malicious activity from hackers on my computer at 5 a.m., I told her she was mistaken as my computer was always off at night. She ignored me and proceeded to the next part of her spiel where she asked me to open up Windows Event Viewer.

After a while, even the most curious recipient will give up asking questions, since the answers don’t make sense. I told “Nancy” so. “At this point you are saying a lot of things that make no sense, because they are not logical, but OK, go on.”

I was startled that she continued regardless. “If you do not remove the hacking file from this computer, then unfortunately, we will have to cancel the license of your computer so that there is no misuse of your personal information.”

“Nancy” really wanted that payout. Why not? I was making her work for it.

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