Last Updated on December 5, 2015 by Dave Farquhar
“Mario from Microsoft” called me last night. I’ve never heard a Mario with that kind of accent, and, I thought he worked for Nintendo. I’ll bet he gets that a lot.
“Microsoft has no reason to be calling me,” I said to “Mario.”
“Oh, we’re a Microsoft certified partner,” he said.
“That’s nice,” I said. “I’m certified too. What’s going on?”
“You are having computer issues,” he said.
I said I didn’t have any computer issues. He insisted that I did. I was expecting some important phone calls and he was interrupting my dinner, so I didn’t feel like baiting him. So I did something I don’t normally do–I called rank.
“I work in computer security for a Fortune 100 company,” I said. “So, what, specifically, is going on?”
Another one of these guys called me a few months ago, and I fired up a Windows XP box that happened to have a very simple networking problem. He led me on a 15-minute wild goose chase trying to fix something I was able to fix on my own in about a minute. Of course, I led him on a longer one the next day when he called back.
So, let me remind you again. You will not receive unsolicited phone calls from Microsoft, or anyone else, if you’re having computer issues. No external vendor has that kind of visibility into your home PC. If someone calls you unsolicited about computer issues, it’s a scam. They’re glorified salespeople hawking products you can download yourself for free, following a script. They do seem to have a good script to follow, and good responses to most of the common objections they get, but if they have to do any actual computer troubleshooting, the wheels come off. If they’re actually able to help you, your computer didn’t have very much wrong with it in the first place.
I’m of two minds regarding engaging these guys. Some, I suspect, intend to steal data. Then again, if you’re knowledgeable, the more time they waste with you, the less time they have to scam people who can fall for this. I don’t generally find that trying to argue with them is very productive–they’re pretty good at arguing. Fire up a PC that you don’t care about and let them remote into it, though, and there’s quite a bit you can do to mess with them. Clean off your old computer and do a basic, clean Windows install on it, and plug it into your old router and plug the old router into your network to keep them from trying anything too funny.
I’m sure “Mario,” or one of his cubicle neighbors, will be calling me again soon. It seems like once one of these companies gets your phone number, they call you repeatedly. So I guess I’ll reassemble that old Windows XP box so I’ll be ready.