21 March 2012


Yesterday Rodney Blackmore called me on the phone.  Rodney is a supervisor at Microsoft Technical Support. 

In India.

“Are you the same people who rang me an hour ago?”  I asked.

“No.  That was not us,” he said in a very pronounced Indian accent.

“But that was also Microsoft Technical Support.  You must have a record of having spoken to me an hour ago.”

“No mam, that was not us.”

“Not you?  How many Microsoft Technical Support offices are there in India, then?”

“There are over a hundred,” he answered.

“And all legitimate?”

“Yes, mam, they are licensed by Microsoft.”

"Don't you have a record of having made a phonecall to me an hour ago?”

“No mam. We are ringing to tell you that there is fault with your computer.”

“Yes, that’s what they told me exactly an hour ago.”

“Are you Mrs Griff living in Tommies?”  

( ? !!!*!)  “I might be.”

“Well, mam, all I can tell you is that your computer has problems.  They will interfere with your online shopping and online banking.”

 “Now that sounds really serious.  So what exactly is wrong with my computer?”

“There are errors.  And we can fix these for you.”

“You mean it’s got a virus?”

“Mam, it could get a virus.”

"It’s funny that you say that, because my computer is working fine.”

“Your computer may be working fine at the moment but, mam, it’s going to have problems.”

“In the future?”

“Yes, mam.  That’s why you need technical support now.”

“But I get technical support already.  From two computer experts.  Who happen to live right here in this house, actually.”

“Mam, if you just write in this code, you can check to prove that what we are saying is correct…”

And, if I hadn’t cut Rodney off in his prime, he would probably have directed me to the Windows Event Viewer where I would have been horrified to see what could have looked like a troubling list of errors.  Then he would have painted a dire picture of how these errors were set to devour the workings of my own computer, the computers in my street, this postal district, the Civil Service, Tesco, and the world.  And then he would have extracted a fee for putting it right.

A Guardian article by Charles Arthur, dated two years ago, tells us that such scams from India have been running since at least 2008, probably from call centres originally based in Kolkata where the scammers get our names from phonebooks.  Now in 2012, they must have been drawing their fingers down the names in the “Tommies” part of the telephone directory, as I’ve been targeted several times a week – and that’s just the phonecalls I’ve bothered to answer.

Microsoft, of course, does not cold-call its customers: “We do not send unsolicited email messages or make unsolicited phone calls to request personal or financial information or fix your computer,” they say in their website.  

I did know that, really.  

In no uncertain terms, I told Rodney never to call me again.  But now I regret our parting of the ways, and the words of anger uttered in haste.  For, after watching on You Tube how some other scam victims have handled the situation, I’ve realised just what fun can be had by stringing along the scammers, if you have a little bit of time at your disposal. 

So Rodney.  Our time together was too short.  Call again.  I’ll have a cup of tea in my hand, and my feet on the desk.  And I may record our conversation.  For training purposes.

One way of dealing with the scam:

The Guardian article: 

Microsoft’s information about computer security:

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