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Have you recently received any of the popular scam phone calls from someone claiming to be from Microsoft offering to fix your computer? Or the IRS scam call, alerting you that you owe taxes and that you must pay immediately? Or a representative from a utility company, threatening to shut off your electricity if you don’t immediately pay with a pre-paid debit card?

These popular scams have been around for years, yet despite all the warnings and advice to just hang up when you receive these calls, many people are still getting fooled by these scams.

One possible reason that people do not instantly hang up could be our innate curiosity – this curiosity is the reason we have survived and progressed as a species. Another reason that many people cannot immediately hang up is because it violates our rules of etiquette because abruptly hanging up seems so rude. Or, perhaps it’s the believability of the scammers.

I recently received an IRS scam phone call. I was not fooled by the caller but I have to admire the training that these scammers must undergo before they are unleashed on the public. It is easy to see how an unsuspecting person could be fooled by these callers.

I usually recognize the scam phone numbers on my caller ID, and I have been known to answer my phone in a very official voice with the greeting: “Sal’s Pizza, what toppings you want on that?”

Usually, the scammers hang up at that point. Sadly, my Bronx accent is so authentic, that some scammers have actually tried to place an order for a pizza, so I have recently changed my greeting. I now identify myself as “Deadpool.”

When the phony IRS caller phoned me, I was not near my caller ID display, so I was unable to use my phony identity. Since the caller was already deep into his script about how I was going to be arrested for my delinquent taxes, I figured I would have a little fun with him.

What I discovered was how well-versed these scammers are in what they do. I asked the caller for his badge number and the name of his supervisor. He immediately, unflappably responded with a series of numbers and the name William MacGregor as his supervisor.

I did not let the call go on much further, and there are plenty recorded examples of people who like to play with the scammers. I do not recommend this.

In the hopes of helping others who may get caught off guard by these scam calls, there is some sound advice about how to avoid these calls, and for your more playful friends, here are some humorous techniques you can share that will allow them to satisfy their curiosity and give them a chuckle along the way.

The Fake Windows technical support call

When the caller says that your Windows machine has been reported for downloading malicious software, tell the caller that you don’t own any Windows computers.

If you want to have some fun, tell the caller that you are Amish and you don’t have any electricity. Hang up and let the scammer wonder if the Amish have telephones.

In a recent report from Brian Krebs, it now seems that some scammers have started calling Dell customers to notify them of a problem with their Dell computer. What makes the call extremely convincing is that the caller knows the correct service tag number of the Dell computer in use by the victim.

The simple solution to this is to tell the caller that you threw the Dell computer out after the damage caused by the last fake Windows technical support call.

The faux IRS call

As already described, these scammers are very good, and they can scare you into thinking that they are actual IRS agents. Please note that the IRS, FBI,\ and all the other government agencies will NEVER contact you by phone or email to notify you that you owe money.

However, when you receive the call from the faux IRS, tell them that they have reached a church, which is tax-exempt.

For extra fun, identify yourself as “Father MacGregor.” Tell them to have a blessed day, and then hang up.

The phony Utility company call

Let the caller know that you have been “off the grid” for years, and you sell your excess electricity back to the power company, and that they owe you money.

Proceed to demand that they pay you using a pre-paid debit card.

Our daily lives have become challenged by criminals who seek to rob us at the safe distance of the end of a telephone. I hope these tips allow you to repel these calls with a chuckle, rather than the usual aggravation we all feel at the end of these types of encounters.

 

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.

Title image courtesy of ShutterStock

 

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  • Mary

    Last year around this time we got a phone scammer posing as Microsoft about our computer. That guy may not have been trained as well or was hella excited about getting some cash because his script consisted of him essentially saying if we didn’t immediately pay the $179.99 fee to “clean” our computer, he was going to shut our computer down forever. I started laughing hysterically then hung up.
    Fast forward to two days ago and once again our phone is ringing with calls from Microsoft about our bad, bad computer.
    I let the guy get through his intro and decided to let him know I was well aware of his scam. I told him that he should keep a list of phone numbers where the person who answered didn’t fall for his shit. He started to say something but I loudly interrupted him and said YEAH WE’RE ALL DONE HERE then hung up. I hoped that would stop the calls.
    The next day they decided to try their luck again. Unfortunately for them I answered the phone and I was in a playful mood. Here is that conversation:
    Scammer: Hello. I am from the IT department of microsoft and I’m calling about your computer.
    Me (feigning seriousness): My computer?!? Is everything ok?
    Scammer: Well, we are going to check on that for you. Are you in front of your computer right now?
    Me (so NOT in front of it): Yes. What do I need to do?
    Scammer: Do you see the control button on the keyboard?
    Me: Yes
    Scammer: What button is right next to it?
    Me: The windows button.
    Scammer: That’s correct. I need you to hold that button down and press R at the same time.
    Me (pretending to do it): Ok, I did it. A window popped up.
    Scammer: Good. Now please type in the following letters for me. M S C R O
    Me (still pretending): Ok, I did it.
    Scammer: Please read back the letters you typed in.
    Me: Ok. F-U-C-K Y-O-U A-S-S-H-O-L-E
    Scammer: Those are not the letters I gave you. Please try again. M S C R O (I’m almost peeing myself from holding in my laughter at this point)
    Me: Oh! I’m sorry! See, you called me yesterday and tried this scam and I remember thinking to myself do I have to spell it out for these morons? Apparently I do. But just for good measure, I’ll say it AGAIN: DON’T CALL THIS NUMBER EVER AGAIN. THIS IS A SCAM AND YOU ARE A NASTY PIECE OF SHIT…..*CLICK*