I’ve just had a scam call from some random company called PC Wizard letting me know that there are some files causing my computer to run slow, and because they are kind and altruistic they would help me to fix it. I am so lucky, here I am with a computer that is barely able to run The Witcher 3 on high settings and can only just get Skyrim to run with a few hundred mods, because the computer International Rescue has fired up Thunderbird 1 (let’s be honest…Thunderbird 2 was always the best one) and found out that my computer is not as fast as it should be.
Let’s be honest, the moment they started speaking I knew its a con. Firstly how can someone else tell me computer has problems without even looking at it and secondly they are going to either do something illegal to my computer or charge me for it. If you ever have a call from a company claiming that your computer or internet is running slow then just hang up. Also tell your friends and relatives to do the same, especially if they are not very computer literate. They prey on people’s unfamiliarity with computers to trick you into purchasing their wares (or possibly worse – installing a virus to steal personal data) and it’s very easy to confuse those who are not technophiles.
The con works in this basic way, you get a call saying something is slow with your computer and you think “why yes of course it is, I always think my computer isn’t as fast as it should be”. And then they start to do their snake oil salesman tricks on you, let me show you how…
Once they have made you start thinking that you have a slow computer or internet connection they’ll start asking you to open some very technical sounding programs on your computer, in my case it was the Windows Event Viewer. You’ll be talked through the process by someone who sounds very knowledgeable about what they are doing, but this is just smoke and mirrors – it’s very easy to read off a script and a days worth of training and a bit of confidence means anyone could do the same.
So the computer magic trick is set up, you have been given the sleight of hand that puts you in front of the screen they want you to look at and now here comes the misdirection…look at all the errors in my computer log. There are red exclamation marks and warnings symbols everywhere. Oh, the humanity how does this computer even boot up, what can be done? You can help, oh please please do before this laptop falls apart. Why of course, give us $39.99 for this software and it’ll all go away or go to this website and download this little file that will let us have unrestricted access to your files and passwords and it will all be better until you find your bank accounts emptied.
STOP, DON’T GIVE THEM A THING
What you are normally seeing is the normal behaviour of anything technological, it is like someone claiming that the dirt on your headlight is making your car slow and there is some magic panacea that will get rid of the muck. Or that if you give them a car key they will go and clean the car for you. There are alternatives to the hair tonic they are selling, and many are free. Try CCleaner which is easy to use and will clear up many of the so-called ‘issues’ you will be shown.
The error messages are there because your computer may not have shut down properly, or that it has not done some system maintenance for a while. Just like if you did not tidy your house for a few weeks it would get a bit messy with DVDs not in the right cases and probably things missing from the cupboards. These callers are using your lack of knowledge of computers to tell you something that is perfectly normal is actually really dangerous. This led them to trying to convince me that both iTunes and Football Manager 15 were somehow stealing my data: This is how the conversation actually went:
PC Wizard: “So those error messages could mean that programs are stealing your data, and will need to be resolved”
Me: “So I can see an error next to fm.exe. This is my Football Manager game, is that stealing my data? I like playing it but I don’t want it to steal my bank details, would it take my money when I buy a player?”
PCW: “Yes it could do, you should fix the errors to solve it…”
Me: “Hang on, that would explain where my money has gone, I bought Falcao for Milan and now I’m near my overdraft. If I sell Pato and El Sharaawy to Man City would SI Games put money back in my account?”
PCW: “Well we would need to fix the errors…”
Me: “It’s Okay, I’ve asked my Sporting Director to sell them for any price…that was close…should I invest in youth so I can sell them on later for a higher price and thus getting more money from SI Games?”
At this point the caller started getting confused and decided it was best to put me through someone more senior (aka a better ‘magician’)
PCW: “My colleague has passed you through as your computer has some secret files on that are causing it to run slow”
Me: “Yes, she told me that iTunes is stealing my Facebook login, is this true?”
PCW: “Yes, it could take your Facebook details”
Okay, at this point I wanted to check that he was seriously suggesting that iTunes was basically some keylogging malware as opposed to a really crap music player.
Me: “So just to be clear, iTunes has stolen my Facebook login?”
PCW: “Yes, because you see…”
Me: “I knew it, this explains everything…I use a Google phone and they must have been the ones who hacked into my Facebook and put ‘Matthew likes Bum’ on my wall. I thought it was one of my mates, but now I know it was Apple”
Me: “No I’m not being caught again, I’m uninstalling iTunes…take that Apple…no more can you post about my penchant for derrieres on Facebook”
PCW: “It could…”
Me: ” No you said iTunes is the worst, it’s okay I’m uninstalling it right now…phew, thank you PC Wizard you saved me”
PCW: “But installing it might not solve the security problem…”
Me: “What, but I’m installing it…that means I’m saved doesn’t it”
PCW: “You may still have issues…”
Me: “Oh I see, should I smash my computer?”
PCW: “No, you don’t need to be worried…”
I was getting a bit bored of messing with them at this point, so I thought I should start wrapping it up…and also by this point I had developed a Samwise Gamgee accent. So Imagine this next bit is full on “I can’t carry you Mr Frooouughdooough…”
Me: “Not be worried, I was sitting here thinking everything was great with the world, enjoying a cup of tea and then you call me and tell me that iTunes is posting “I like bum” and every time I buy a new striker some company steals money from my bank accounts…and you tell me not to worry. How can I not worry, you have pulled the covers from these scams and now I can’t trust anyone. Can I trust you? I don’t know anymore I am too worried about my Facebook wall and who to play up front in my Champions League know I’ve sold my two strikers. If I don’t have a computer then no one can get me on the internet right…that’s how it works.”
PCW: “Actually that’s not…”
/Sounds of smashing start (just me hitting table)
Me: “It’s okay I’ve solved the problem…I hit my computer with a hammer and now I’m safe…phew. Thank you PC Wizard”
PCW: “Err actually you shouldn’t worry.”
Me: “Well now I’m more worried. i just broke my computer. It’s in pieces and I need a computer, you just told me to smash it…to stop iTunes…how could you do this to me. I thought you were going to make my life better…you lied to me PC Wizard…you conned me…you are just preying on the stupi…”
At this point they finally gave up and hung up on me. I had spent 15 minutes of my life winding them up which I will never get back, but at least I know that is 15 minutes less they will have to rip someone else off.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Groupthink.”
Write a post that includes dialogue between two people — other than you. (For more of a challenge, try three or more people.)