Spare a thought for the call centre conmen

Image: Microsoft



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15 January 2014 | 0

In common with many people in Ireland, I usually find myself on the receiving end of phone calls around twice or three times a year from “technical support” informing me that there is a problem with my Windows computer. I am often impressed by the ability of this remote operation (and it’s very remote, judging by the dialling code of the number which often appears to be based somewhere like Pakistan or India) to diagnose my computer from such a distance. If I actually had a Windows computer, I would be even more impressed.

Sadly for “technical support”, the MacInnes household does not use Windows except, in rare instances, when running it on an iMac with Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion or VirtualBox (although perhaps I should be even more impressed by the ability of the remote caller to diagnose a fault with Windows when it is used so rarely at this location and never on a network).

Anyway, it struck me after reading this piece on The Register that people cold calling me offering to fix a problem with my Windows computer are probably well behind the curve and need to start upgrading their scamming techniques if they want to survive into the future. The article is interesting because it shows that some support scammers are doing just that by moving beyond Windows not just to the Mac but also to the post-PC world.

When I have received a dubious ‘support’ call in the past, I have assumed the issues with my Windows computer relate specifically to Windows XP. Because the phone call has never progressed much further beyond my smugly informing the caller halfway through his or her spiel that I don’t have a Windows computer, I have no idea whether he or she drills down to the specifics of the OS and whether the scammers are now more inclined to apply their techniques to Windows 7 and Windows 8 than XP (I doubt they ever bothered with Vista).

But with support for XP ending in April, I’d expect many of them to start migrating to the newer versions of Windows (if they haven’t already done so). Of course, given the large number of computers out there still running XP, some enterprising scammers might also diversify into a ‘migrate your PC to Windows 7/8’ or ‘provide support for XP beyond April’ type of con. After all, if the UK government will still be running XP after April on PCs in the National Health Service and the tax office (HMRC), it’s fairly likely quite a few ordinary folk will be doing it too. I haven’t seen any information regarding Irish government departments and agencies, but there are bound to be a few machines still running XP in three months time here as well.

I digress. Anyway, the fact support scammers are starting to target smartphones and tablets shows their willingness to engage with the possibilities of the post-PC world. You might say they are merely following the market but they have the advantage over most legitimate support organisations of not being encumbered with an installed base of ageing machines to maintain or upgrade (as an aside, does this make them potentially more fleet of foot and agile than legitimate support providers?). In fact, you could argue that the move by support scammers to target smartphones and tablets is demonstrable proof that the post-PC world will definitely be upon us soon (if it isn’t already). After all, criminals don’t get involved in any market unless it has volume and – unlike some legitimate businesses – value.

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