Adventures in Malware Scammerland

Two or three months ago an annoying thing kept happening (it seems to have stopped now, though; not knowing how these things work, I don’t know if they’ve wised up to me, got arrested, or just moved on to something else in general).

scam 3

Anyway, the annoying thing was this: there I’d be, doing something on my computer, when all of a sudden my browser would freeze and a message like the one in the photo would appear. Clicking on other tabs did nothing. Initially, I confess, I was a bit disconcerted — but we have so many firewalls and security thingies here that… hmm… somehow a malware attack just didn’t seem very probable. But whatever I had been doing on the computer before this interruption was fairly boring and I felt like a little entertainment, so I rang the number given — and had a very enjoyable half hour on the phone with one of the scammers who set up this silly fake alert thingy.  I played along with the fiction that I was calling a legit Microsoft help desk, and went from totally thick (pretending to think my browser was Windows 10), through mystified (claiming that none of what he suggested was doing what he said it should do), to nigh-on hysterical (blaming him for breaking my computer). And then… just as he was about to ask me for money… I told him he was incompetent, I’d just take it back to the shop on Monday — and hung up on him. Hehe 🙂

A week or two later, the same (or a similar) thing happened again. That time, whatever I was doing was either more interesting or urgent, so I didn’t feel inclined to have time-wasting chats with naughty scammers. Instead I went for the simple fix:
1. go to Task Manager
2. close down browser
3. reopen new browser session (i.e. don’t click ‘[Your browser] didn’t close down correctly. Reopen closed tabs‘)

And this was the pattern for the next few weeks — one of these scareware doodahs would appear, claiming to be from Microsoft, or Yahoo, or Virgin, or, well, a whole range of reputable-sounding sources, and I’d either get rid of it or, if bored, phone the number. This was the best one:

I rang the ‘support line’ and dutifully followed all their instructions (well, I didn’t, but I pretended I did) and said that I was seeing what they said I should be seeing. This time I managed to get them to the point of telling me that I had a Malware problem and they could send me something or another to fix the problem; did I have my credit card handy?

I said, oh no, it wouldn’t be me paying; it wasn’t my computer. It would be my boss who’d have to deal with that side of things, but he was in a meeting with the Chief Constable until 5 o’clock.

“The Chief—?” said the scammer.
“Constable,” I supplied, helpfully. “We’re at Police Headquarters in Manchester” (we weren’t).
“Oh, we cannot help you, Madam. We deal only with private individuals,” spluttered the scammer and hung up on me before you could say “arrest warrant”. I wonder why?



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