More Alarm Bells On Scam Phone Calls

Our first ever article at TechLogon warned how to avoid falling for scam phone calls from fake computer support companies. Sadly, it appears that such warnings are still going unheeded by many people.

A scam phone call is an unsolicited call made by criminals who tell you there are problems with your computer (usually ‘lots of viruses’) that only they can fix. Their aim is to make you pay them money to ‘fix’ the supposed problems – and by allowing them to take control of your computer they may be able to also plant viruses or steal your passwords!

In our original article we warned: “Scam phone calls are increasingly made in huge volumes by call centers on a similar principle to spam emails – for every 1,000 people they ring, 1 unlucky person falls for the scam.”

It appears that we underestimated the success of such scams! ComputerWorld have run a story about a Microsoft survey: “15% of the people polled said they had received unsolicited calls from fraudsters posing as computer support technicians who claimed they were offering PC security checks. Of the people who received such calls, 22% fell for the scam”.

That means that 3.3% of the people who received a call fell for the scam – i.e. out of every 1000 people called, 33 were misled into paying for the scam service! Just this week we were asked to do a PC security check by someone who belatedly realized they had been scammed out of $110.

If this figure is typical, the scammers are basically stealing about $3600 from 1000 calls – requiring only about 33 hours ‘work’ and another 967 unsuccessful phone calls lasting juts a few seconds or minutes each.

Whilst the total time required for 1 person to make the 1000 calls is only 1 – 2 weeks, $3600 equals a year’s salary in countries like India and China (where scam calls can be made on an industrial scale). It is easy to see why this is such a popular and growing crime – the returns are simply too good. And this is just the tip of the iceberg – in addition to the initial payment for the ‘service’:

Most who were duped suffered some kind of post-call financial loss, which Microsoft claimed averaged $875 per victim. Among the losses, people cited compromised passwords, faulty computers, identity fraud and cash pilfered from their bank accounts.”

The people most likely to be caught out by such a scam are not stupid – they may just be too trusting or could be busy professionals who are cash rich but time poor – used to paying for professional services and happy to splash the cash on what appears to be a technical and professional operation.

Antivirus software and other security measures offer no solutions to this problem – the only answer is user education and awareness so do pass on this warning to anyone you think might be at risk or you can Facebook ‘Like’ this article below. For a fuller breakdown of the problem and ways to recognize it, see our original article here.