Okay, trust but verify is perhaps a better way to say it. So what am I talking about here?
This is a true story about one of my senior customers. I’ll refer to her as Ms. Smith. She is 70 years old and lives alone. She does not have much money like many seniors these days. Her pastime is playing games on her computer. One of her games started giving her trouble. Wouldn’t you know it, it was her favorite. The name of the game does not matter in this story. What does is that it came with Windows 8. Microsoft has always bundled games with the operating system. Many people enjoy them as they are “free”. Ms. Smith figured that she could just call Microsoft and they would help her figure out what was wrong. To her credit, she did do a little research on the problem and found that many other users were having similar problems. She kept seeing references to Microsoft of course during her search. She decided to Google “phone numbers for Microsoft” or something like that, and many “hits” appeared as one might expect. She picked one of the numbers listed on the first Google page and called.
Someone with a heavy accent answered. She thought, well Microsoft is a worldwide company so perhaps it was okay. Ms. Smith explained the issue with the game. The “agent” said she had a virus and asked for permission to connect to her PC and scan the hard drive. She was not totally comfortable with the idea but told this person, yes. Ms. Smith could watch on her monitor and see that a program was indeed scanning her computer..or it appeared as though it was. When the scan was finished she could see and the “agent” confirmed that she had over 400 viruses! They would take care of them for ONLY $250. They asked for her credit card number. I’ll give her credit because at this point, she remembered something I had told her about scams related to computer viruses. She said she didn’t have a credit card. They said they’d accept a check if she’d give them the information required. Now she wanted out of the conversation but like many of us who have reached our seasoned years, she was brought up to be polite. The “agent” kept pushing her. Next Ms. Smith told this person that it was too much money. The person she was talking to reduced the price by about 50%. The person still continued to tell her she had to get rid of these 400 viruses and that the lower price was a bargain. She finally said her daughter controlled her finances and she’d have to get off the phone and call her. The person on the other end said that was fine and he’d call her back in a few minutes. At that point, Ms Smith had enough. She finally did what she should have done when the word credit card was mentioned. She hung up.
What really happened was the program that was installed on her PC is coded in such a way to bring up false information. In other words, it lists hundreds of names that appear to be nasty viruses and would scare the devil out of a non-suspecting person.
The sad thing here is that sometimes, these scams do work and people who can’t afford it end up in a real mess. This is not the first time I’ve heard a story like this. In spite of the news stories about Internet scams, these people use social engineering to make us do things we would not normally do. When someone you don’t know asks for your credit card number and it’s related to something over the Internet; be very suspicious. Heck, I’ll just say it; DON’T DO IT unless you are 100% sure who you are giving that information to.