How I accidentally found a way to mess with “Peggy”

Last Updated on June 7, 2014 by Dave Farquhar

“Peggy” from “Computer Support Department” just won’t give up. He called me again at about 8 PM this evening. This time, I played along. I had a thrift-store junker PC for him to infect with his malware. The only problem was, the hard drive wasn’t connected and neither was the power cord. So I quickly hooked all that up, booted up, and then played along.

“I want you to click on Internet Explorer.”


“What do you see?”

“Page cannot be found.”

Thus I learned that Peggy isn’t very good at troubleshooting network issues.

Peggy’s answer was to turn the computer off a couple of times and try again, then try again in safe mode. I tried to stall to really fix the issue, but Peggy kept putting me on mute and talking to other people. At one point he asked me if I have a Windows key on my keyboard. I do not. Then he asked me if I have a Mac. I do not.

“People tell me I have a really old keyboard,” I said. That just confused him. He put me on mute again. He told me to call my ISP to get my Internet fixed. I said I would. Then I asked for a phone number so I could call him back.

He put me on mute again.

Trust me, I’m as disappointed as you are. I really wanted to get a phone number that I could post for all the world to see.

He said he couldn’t do that, but asked for a time he could call me back. I suggested 8am. He agreed.

Once he hung up the phone, I opened up Control Panel, switched to Classic view, opened up Network Connections, and found my issue. The onboard NIC was disabled. Windows helpfully offered to enable it for me. I did, and Internet Explorer worked.

Now I wish I hadn’t played dumb and had just asked him to give me a minute to fix the issue myself. Then again, that could have backfired too. Sometimes when these guys call, they seem to enjoy trying to outwit a real IT professional, and sometimes they hang up when they find out they’re talking to a real professional.

But now I’ve learned something. If Peggy calls you from India and you feel like wasting his time so he can’t get other unwitting victims, just walk over to your computer, unplug your Ethernet cable, then do whatever he asks. Don’t even bother rebooting or powering down as he suggests, just play along like you’re doing it, and see what he says. It’ll probably go a lot like my latest experience did, if I had to venture a guess. I’ll be amazed if he asks you to open a command prompt.

That’s actually a good test. A legitimate technical support department never calls you–you call them. But, in the event that the impossible happens, a real, live technician will be able to walk you through getting your network connection working again. Those are the kinds of problems I was fixing for $8 an hour as a 20-year-old college sophomore.

But he’d better call me back. Last Friday, I had lunch with some of my soon-to-be coworkers. I mentioned these phone calls. “Dude, I want that malware so I can reverse-engineer it!” one of them said. I promised him I’d let “Computer Support Department” infect a junker machine, then pull the drive and give it to him.

My first day will be, hopefully, sometime late this week. I want to have a present for my new coworker on my first day.

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