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Old 10-04-12, 07:50 AM   #1
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Post "I am calling you from Windows": A tech support scammer dials Ars Technica

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Aurich Lawson


When the call came yesterday morning, I assumed at first I was being trolled'it was just too perfect to be true. My phone showed only "Private Caller" and, when I answered out of curiosity, connected me to "John," a young man with a clear Indian accent who said he was calling from "Windows Technical Support." My computer, he told me, had alerted him that it was infested with viruses. He wanted to show me the problem'then charge me to fix it.

This scam itself is a few years old now, but I had not personally received one of the calls until yesterday'the very day that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a major crackdown on such "boiler room" call center operations. The very day that six civil lawsuits were filed against the top practitioners. The very day on which I had just finished speaking with Ars IT reporter Jon Brodkin, who spent the morning on an FTC conference call about this exact issue. And here were the scammers on the other end of the line, in what could only be a cosmic coincidence.

I walked around my office with the phone against my ear, then settled into my desk chair and put the call on speakerphone. I wanted to know just what it felt like to be on the receiving end of such a call. I wanted to know how a group of scammers half a world away convinced random and often tech-illiterate people to do things like run the built-in Windows Event Viewer, then connect to a website, download software, and install it (together, no easy feat for many mainstream users). I wanted to know just how the scammers eventually convinced their marks to open up remote control of their PCs to strangers who had just called them on the telephone.

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