Cold-call scammers, "Your Windows computer is infected"

In summary, twice this week now someone has called me saying that my Windows computer is infected and they are from a separate company contracted by Microsoft to handle computer viruses. The callers claims to be from a different company each time, but both times they have been trying to get me to let them install their software on my computer. The last call tried to get me to give them access to my computer so that they could install their software. I have never followed through to the point where I let them have access to my computer, so I'm not 100% sure what would happen after that point. Beware of sweepstakes winners and notifications purportedly from the Post Office or Fedex about being unable to deliver a package to your address.
  • #1
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Twice this week now I got phone calls out of the blue telling me that my Windows computer is infected (sending back "suspicious" reports of infection). The callers claims to be from a separate company contracted by Microsoft to handle computer viruses. This isn't the first time receiving such calls. But twice in one week is new.

It's a scam, btw, don't fall for this!

Usually I try to have fun with them, keeping them on the line as long as possible. Sometimes I'll randomly throw out biblical sounding "quotes" (that I typically just make up on the spot) in the process, "And then Jeremiah said to Zachary, 'thou shalt not tread lightly in the house of Kahless.' Oh, dear, me! Help me fix my computer!" Often, I pretend to be totally computer illiterate, which helps keep them on the phone longer.

If I catch on immediately I'll start the conversation using a high-pitched, nasal voice, which makes it quite easy and convincing to throw in random, "gnnyaaaaa" sounds, interspersed randomly within sentences. This is especially fun, because, under the pretense of confirmation, I'll repeat instructions back to them:
Caller: Now type in 'a' as in alpha, 's' as in sierra, ...
Me (in high-pitched, nasal, mocking voice): Okay, I typed in 'a' as in nyaaaa, 's' as in sierrghnyaaaa...​

Anyway, this last scam call might seem pretty convincing to the average user. When I asked them to confirm my Windows license number (product ID, which I know the correct way to find in the Computer properties window), they gave me the following, incorrect instructions to find the license ID:
  • From the desktop, hold the windows button and press 'r'.
  • In the "Open:" field, type "cmd", and hit Enter, or press OK.
  • In the black window* that comes up, type in "assoc" and press enter.
  • Near the bottom, you should see a line, "ZFSendToTarget=CLSID{888DCA60-FC0A-11CF-8F0F-00C04FD7D062}"
And then they'll claim that that last alphanumeric string is my Windows license number (product ID), which of course it's not; it's merely a file association entry. And it's not unique to the specific computer. You can follow the same procedure given above and you too will get the same alphanumeric string, assuming you are running a Windows computer.

Anyway, what they ultimately try to get you to do is give them direct access to your computer so that they can install their software on it and eventually charge you money, presumably. I've never actually followed through to the point where I give them access to my computer, so I'm not 100% sure on what follows after that point.

In closing, don't fall for this, but have fun**!

*(Yes they actually said, "black window.")
**(It does make me wish for an afterlife though, if for no other purpose that if there is an afterlife, there may be a hell, and if so, there's got to be a special place there for scam artists who prey on fear.)
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  • #4
There's all sorts of scams out there, but actually having someone call you on the telephone seems particularly odd.

Maybe the scammer just got lonely. :L

In any event, watch out in your e-mail for sweepstakes winners and notifications purportedly from the Post Office or Fedex about being unable to deliver a package to your address.

I even got a couple of notices purportedly sent by EZ Pass (which collects road tolls in the northeast US) claiming I had dodged tolls. I haven't driven a car in almost 5 years and it's been almost 30 years since I was last in that part of the country.
  • #5
jedishrfu said:
Some years ago, I read a story about a guy who strung a Nigerian scammer along with a lot of promises trying to get him to give up the pursuit. It was pretty funny but now it's buried in the millions of other scammer stories and I can't locate it now.
That was probably Brad Christensen who did the Quatloos site. Some of his pranks on spammers/scammers were hilarious.
  • #6
I got a call like that some time back. I asked what the infection name was. When he stuttered, I hung up and that was that.
  • #7
Would the scammers have the audacity to show up on your doorstep with a fictional story?
  • #8
collinsmark said:
Anyway, what they ultimately try to get you to do is give them direct access to your computer so that they can install their software on it and eventually charge you money, presumably.
It's worse... way worse. They're going for identity theft and access to your financial information.

SteamKing said:
having someone call you on the telephone seems particularly odd
You would not believe my experience with that. Two years ago, when they called the first time, I pointed out that I was on the "no-call" list and that it was therefore illegal for them to call me (true). The guy just laughed and said that there was nothing that I could do about it (also true, since they're routed through, and possibly based in, the Philippines and therefore out of RCMP jurisdiction). Anyhow, I told them to never call again. Every one of the next 26 times that they called, I repeated the demand that they never call again. The 26th time, I pointed out to the guy, in language that I can't use here, that I had tracked him as far as the Philippines and it was only a matter of time before I found him and slit his throat. He then called back 6 times within the next 5 minutes menacing me. I just didn't answer the last time, and immediately called my phone company and switched over to a new unlisted number.
The stupidest thing about those jerks was that every single time I called BS on them immediately because I'm on a MacBook and wouldn't be caught dead using Windows. They refused to believe me and continued to insist that I had a problem with my Windows.
Here's an excellent article about it that you can use to mess up those ##$&(%$^@!@&)$#^ers but good.
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  • #9
I found a video that details the modus operandi of how the typical scam goes, but again, only up to the point before giving them access. After you give them access, well, I don't even want to know. I'm guessing a lot of money or a lot of money and your files and computer. <shiver>

There's actually lots and lots of documented audio calls on YouTube and such; I only picked this one because it doesn't have foul language. (Or at least not much. The scammer might swear at the end of the call, but's it's sort of garbled.) All the others I've listened to are not suitable for posting on PF due to obscene language, including the calls I've gotten myself.

My goal is to keep them on the line as long as possible if for no other reason to waste their time. And if I can covertly make fun of them in the process, that's a extra special bonus.

If I start early enough, using my squeaky, nasal voice allows me to easily mock them by repeating their words back to them. But I have to start if off from the beginning of the conversation for it to work, otherwise they might catch on too early (more on that below). Imagine my speaking with a exaggerated cross between Eric Cartman and Proff. Frink:

Scammer: Now press Windows key plus 'r'.
Me: Nya press winyyaaa key plus nya.
Scammer: Now type in double-u, double-u, double-u...
Me: Nya type in double-u, double-nya, nya.
Scammer: <pause> Are you f***ing with me?
Me: No sir! <sounding shocked> Why would you say that, glaven nya? Please help me fix my computer! I want your help. ... nya.
Scammer: <pause> Okay, type in double-u, double-u, double-u...
Me: Nya type in double-u, double-nya, duyanya-nya-nya.​

My approach is not for the faint of heart though. As soon as the caller realizes that you are not going to give him or her access to your computer, he or she typically will unleash a barrage of vulgarity that could make Quentin Tarantino shudder. And that's even if you're serious, and don't mess with them; refusing to give them access to your computer is enough. I'd go into detail but it's not suitable for posting here. Do a video search for "windows scam call" and listen to a few recordings and you'll get the idea.

So my general advice is if you get such a call, immediately hang up. Only if you're prepared to fight the good fight by keeping them on the line, and are prepared for a lashing of obscenity, should you keep going. If you're not prepared for it, it might wreck your day (and faith in humanity). [Edit: And of course, it goes without saying, never ever give them access to your computer no matter what -- no matter how long you keep them on the line: never let it get that far.]

Now you might be asking, "isn't phoning a person out of the blue followed by obscenity and threats illegal?" Yes, of course it's illegal. These people are knowingly guilty of out-and-out fraud. A bit of telephone harassment on top of it doesn't mean much to them. These are bad people.

(Here's another article of what can happen if you do give them access <shiver .. cringe>.)
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  • #10
LOL Me too, from my Fedora linux OS. It is a demonstration of the futility of the do-not-call lists. FedGov can know and solve everything except this.
  • #11
I figure actually the NSA could fix this problem easily. They have the tools, the means and wherewithal to do it but then they'd be giving away some secrets that are better kept hidden.
  • #12
This whole thing makes me regretful about modern telephone physical properties. Back in "79 or '80 I invented a pocket-portable sonic weapon that had 3 settings: "stun", "kill", and "Jell-O". The first jostled the endolymph fluid in the semi-circular canals of the inner ear to induce instant vertigo. The second boiled the cerebrospinal fluid to cook the brain. You don't want to know about the third.
My best friend who did the actual circuit design and fabrication (I know nothing of electronics) pointed out that the carbon-granule microphones and speakers of a telephone would reproduce the signal, making return calls by telemarketers a thing of the past. Solid state ones won't. What I wouldn't give to be able to use it on these "Windows" jerks...
Before you ask, we decided that it was just too Dangerous to have around, even though it couldn't be used by anyone other than ourselves due to built-in security features. The breadboarded prototype and all notes were destroyed.
  • #13
A few years ago I kept getting these calls from a suspicious-sounding person who would ask for "Jack", and when I explained I was not Jack and they had the wrong number, they would want to talk to me anyway. And then they would call back literally every few days, every time asking for Jack.

I eventually tracked them down on the internet as some kind of student loan scam. They had a website with a big field to enter a phone number if you wanted to "opt out" of their cold calls (uh-huh...). So I put in the numbers of the attorney-general's office and several police stations throughout the state. Never heard from them again. :D
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  • #14
Brilliant! :DD
  • #15
Ben Niehoff said:
So I put in the numbers of the attorney-general's office and several police stations throughout the state. Never heard from them again. :D
That's awesome. They probably don't have a way of removing numbers from their own lists either so they would just keep calling even once they realized where they were calling. :w
  • #16
As with any telemarketers, cold callers, and phone spammers, attempting to reason is a fruitless endeavor.

But, it is now your duty to try your very hardest to make that arse never want to bother anyone ever again. How? By ruining his day.

Lip-smacking into the phone is a great place to start. Or just eat lunch and chew with your mouth open into the phone, periodically stopping to burp a little and inhale through your mouth, so it's like "Crunch smack smack smack rrrHURRR smack smack crunch" and remember to make lots of noises that emphasize very clearly that you are, in fact, eating, such as going "mmm" repeatedly. For instance, you can combine this with some soup or hot cocoa after you eat so it can be like " crunch smack smack slurrrrpp mmmm ahh"

That, or you can rub it in your hair and start talking dirty. Bonus points if you can integrate some kind of terrifying fetish. Like say something like "I am a sex Hobbit and am now sensuously rubbing the phone on my feet" while you pretend you're role playing as Bilbo and Smaug that are themselves role playing as Dr Watson and Sherlock.

You know, get creative.

Finally, you can change your number to a 900 so they have to pay you if they call, since iirc a lot of the cold calling is handled by a computer that may or may not know better.
  • #17
jack476 said:
a lot of the cold calling is handled by a computer that may or may not know better.
I'm not sure about that; every single one has addressed me by name. Hence the new unlisted number. As for the 1-900 bit, your friends probably won't appreciate it much. (Although, given the nature of your fantasy, you might not have any... :D)
  • #18
I just brushed up on my hindi swear words.

Im kinda hoping they call me again soon XD
  • #19
I usually try to "be nice" to the caller and then ask if they could repeat what they said. When they repeat I say that I have a lot of noise here and I can't hear them well at all. My goal is to have them shouting into the phone first. Then I will ask them to go over the issues that they found at least three or four times. Just to be sure. After that I point out that my computer in not on so how can they tell I have these issues? If they pursue it further I tell them that I am not running a Windows OS. Then we go back to the I have noise thing again. If they still haven't given up, I put the phone down and say nothing. Eventually they hang up. Works well and is cheap entertainment.
  • #20
Don't forget to crumble some paper in the receiver and say there seems to be some static on the line...

or the stuttered speech and say I can't hear the line seems to be breaking up...

whistles and pops work well too...
  • #21
jmeps said:
I usually try to "be nice" to the caller
That's what my new friend at the phone company suggested. She's been harassed by the same $#(*%#^#@#&%s herself. Oddly, she used the exact same phrase that my mother did for the 53 years or so that we were in communication: "Kill them with kindness." She just thanked them for their interest in her well-being (stretched out to about a 10-minute statement) and promised to call them back if she encountered any more trouble with her "Windows". I had requested of her a line trace so I could track the guy down to a specific physical location and kill him (and everyone else that works there). She liked the idea in principle, but couldn't do it because 1) they are very good at spoofing the ID, so even though I already knew that it was routed through the Philippines, there was no way to determine where it originated before that, and 2) a trace result goes directly to the RCMP rather than the victim, which means that I would then have to record every single interaction with the bastard and let them do the follow-up. It was her suggestion for me to switch over to a new unlisted number and she performed the operation herself. I'm hugely relieved that I've never heard from him again, and likely never will, but also hugely dismayed that I didn't get a chance to, well, you know... :oldfrown:
  • #22
It's too bad you couldn't keep them on thee line and cross connect them with some other scammers doing the same thing so they mess up each other's machines.

A radio DJ did that once by connecting up two escort services phone lines. The women talked until one said wait you're in the escort business too and then realized they'd been had and it was broadcast on the air.
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  • #23

it's just a sound file.

A friend's response if it is a female calling will ask what they are wearing. I guess it would work for a male too. :-)
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  • #24
Chrispen Evan said:

That has got to be just about the funniest #*^$%#%(ing thing that I've heard in years! Thank you!

Related to Cold-call scammers, "Your Windows computer is infected"

1. How do I know if the call is a cold-call scam?

Cold-call scammers often claim to be from a reputable company or organization, such as Microsoft or the IRS, and will typically pressure you into taking immediate action. They may also ask for personal information or access to your computer. If you receive an unexpected call from someone claiming your computer is infected, it is most likely a cold-call scam.

2. What should I do if I receive a call from a cold-call scammer?

The best course of action is to hang up immediately and not engage with the caller. Do not provide any personal information or access to your computer. It is important to remember that legitimate companies will never ask for personal information or access to your computer over the phone.

3. How do cold-call scammers try to infect my computer?

Cold-call scammers often use scare tactics to convince you that your computer is infected and that they need to remotely access it to fix the issue. They may also try to convince you to download malicious software or click on a link that will infect your computer with malware.

4. How can I protect myself from cold-call scammers?

The best way to protect yourself is to never give out personal information or access to your computer over the phone. It is also important to have strong security measures in place, such as anti-virus software, to protect against potential malware and scams.

5. What should I do if I have already fallen victim to a cold-call scam?

If you have already provided personal information or access to your computer to a cold-call scammer, it is important to take immediate action. Change any passwords that may have been compromised and run a full scan of your computer for malware. You may also want to contact your bank or credit card company to alert them of the scam.

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