I don’t know how often this happens to you, but the Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I often get phone calls warning us that our computer has “reported problems” to them. The earnest-sounding person on the other end assures us that he/she is from <insert computer company name here> and has our best interests at heart and that they really want to help us–for a price.
Well, first of all, I’m no technical genius, but no computer I have ever used has had the capacity to go rogue on me and start tattling to its maker about unauthorized access. Furthermore, when these phone calls started I immediately called the company who made my computer and told them what was happening. They assured me that they do not initiate telephone contact with their customers. They also warned me to never give out our IP address (well, DUH). If there is a scam, virus or other issue, they notify by email or snail mail.
What these phone scams attempt to do is to scare you into giving the caller your IP address (do not EVER do this over the phone–ever!!) so that they can gain access to your computer in order to “help.” If you give them your IP address, you are really going to have problems–EXPENSIVE ones.
When you get one of these phone calls for the first time, it’s scary and if you’re like me, you go right from skeptical to scared in seconds flat. You imagine horrors like having your identity stolen, your bank accounts emptied, and so on. Instead of hitting the panic button, do this: if you have a trustworthy computer guy with whom you regularly work, call him ASAP. We have Steve, who has known and worked with us and three computers for over 10 years. In our case, Steve came over, looked through the computer, ran a few diagnostics and told us that nothing was wrong. He also told us that these types of scams are very popular, and that the perpetrators count on fear to get access to supposedly faulty computers. So having a ‘Steve’ of your own will not only ensure that your computer is running well and has all the protections in place, but will give you peace of mind. Well worth the price of the visit!
So, now that we know about these scams, the Crankee Yankee can’t resist having a little fun with the callers. His latest “reverse scam” goes like this:
Scammer: “Hello, sir? I am calling from <insert computer company name here> to let you know that your computer has notified us that it is having serious problems. You are in great danger of losing all your important information and data.”
The Crankee Yankee: “Is that right? Well, which computer of mine is telling you this?”
Scammer: “What–which computer? What do you mean?”
The Crankee Yankee: “I have a bank of 52 computers. WHICH of them is ‘telling’ you this?”
Scammer: “Wait–wait–you say you have 52 computers??”
The Crankee Yankee: (impatiently) “Yes, I have 52 computers. Now are you going to tell me which one of them is having a problem or not?”
Scammer: “Um, are you a business?”
The Crankee Yankee: “Yes–I am a business.”
Scammer: “What kind of business are you?”
The Crankee Yankee: “A cyber security business.”
Scammer immediately hangs up.
Years ago, before we were married, I suspected that the Crankee Yankee had a talent for stuff like this. One evening we were enjoying dinner and chatting when the phone rang. It was a telemarketer from a telephone company offering “great new low rates” on our long distance service. The Crankee Yankee listened politely, and at the end of the spiel the telemarketer asked if he could sign us up for this wonderful deal. The Crankee Yankee declined, saying that we were quite happy with our present long-distance service. The telemarketer asked what our provider’s services were, and the Crankee Yankee answered, “Two Dixie cups and a string.” They NEVER called back.
Look, I realize that people have to make a living and that the ones who cold-call don’t have it easy. Telemarketers must know that, when they go into that business, the majority of us aren’t going to appreciate their calls (which oddly enough always seem to be right at dinnertime). It’s part of the job.
The scammers are another story. I have no respect or sympathy for those who knowingly and willingly attempt to steal from people using fear as their motivation. This isn’t honest work–it’s criminal. Frankly, I think it serves them right to get a Crankee Yankee on the phone to wind them up now and then. Or maybe it will just make them scarier and more persistent. Be that as it may, it sure did knock the socks off the last guy who tried to scam us!
Besides, remember the old karmic law: what we put out to others comes back to us THREEFOLD!