The need to teach our senior citizens about scams

Recently there have been a spate of phone calls from “Microsoft Tech Support” or similar. The other day my home was rung by a person claiming to be a Micosoft technician. These are where people ring you claiming to be from Microsoft tech support and ask you for access to your computer so that they can access your computer. They tell you that there is a bug or a virus on your computer and that they can fix it.

Whilst many people will not fall for these scams, there are a couple categories of people who quite potentially will. One are the elderly who are easy prey, and can be quite vulnerable if they live alone and in need of any sort of contact. They very possibly do not understand the implications of what the callers are trying to get one to do, or they believe that there really is a problem with their computers. A degree of trusting that everything is genuine makes things easy. Other instances will involve them not being strong enough to simply say they are not interested and hang up.

Smell a rat? You should. There are several warning indicators that something is not quite right about this:

First and foremost, these people who ring you are most likely scammers. Most likely they are calling from another country. By ringing you, they are in effect acting as an agent for a potential trojan horse by getting you to lower your defences so they can insert something improper into your computer.

Second, Microsoft tech support will not ring you. In fact this is what the real Microsoft says about these scams – the information might not be specific to a New Zealand audience, but the implications are clear:

  1. This behaviour is a criminal offence in New Zealand
  2. Your computer can be exposed to malware, viruses, have data stolen off it or even completely hijacked
  3. If your system is in a network or open, you might be exposing other people and their machines to whatever illegal software that was put on your computer

So how do these scams work? The caller will most probably be calling from somewhere overseas. They might provide a fake number in your country to make their scam look more believable like an 09 area number from Auckland. These callers can be very aggressive. They are probably under pressure from their boss to churn through a set number of calls during their work until they get someone who bites and does what they want. The scams might be variations of old ones, but they all purport to be from Microsoft.

The simplest and most effective thing to do is simply say “Not interested” and hang up. In the case of the phone call to my place, the person who answered asked for their phone number, and the caller said “Fuck you”, at which point the person who answered hung up. If your phone records the number, do pass it on to your phone service provider and tell them it was a scam call. This will enable them to build up a picture of illegal activity going on, and possibly help the authorities bring the scammers to court.


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