Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beware - This scam is alive and well

Scamming alert!

The following was a message that I received from a friend of mine in Melbourne, Victoria Australia.

You may know that I am the world's greatest skeptic about online warnings, but today I have experienced something so believeable it almost sucked me in, so I thought I should pass it on just in case it happens to you (you may have already heard of it).

I was home from work today with my cold when I answered a phone call from a woman with a sub-continental accent on a scratchy line (warning bells!). She was calling from a company called Max Global IT, an official partner of Microsoft based in Clayton (Victoria). When I said I couldn't understand her, she put me onto a guy, who went through the spiel again and said they had recieved an alert through the Microsoft network that we had viruses in our computer (Has the computer been running slowly?; has there been a warning message pop up when you first boot up? etc. Yes to all, plus we had a warning we were about to max our downloads - most unusual for us - so it had some plausibility). I did a quick Google for "Max Global scam" and didn't find anything, so kept the guy on the line. He directed me to a Microsoft Partners page, where the company was listed and included a phone Melbourne phone number, then proceeded to take me into my computer to look at various things, including a list scattered with scary red "Error" dots with white crosses and yellow "Warning" badges that definitely looked like we had a problem, I thought.

Then the line dropped out and I thought that was it, so I called the number on the Max Global website and got a recorded message about being busy, "so call back later" (I'm back to scam mode). Then the guy called back and we talked about why I couldn't get through ("tech problems" that were behind him dropping out, he said), then he passed me over to a bloke with a slimy American-type accent ("a Manager") who said I had every right to be concerned etc but hoped that what they had shown me showed I needed to upgrade my security and that I should talk to one of his "sweeties" (scam mode back on) who would tell me how I could do that and "you have a nice day!"

Of course, his "sweetie" goes straight into what I needed to fix the problem and it would only cost whatever, so how would I like to pay for it? At which point I said, "thank you for alerting me to the problem, I'm going to hang up now" and did!

I was on the phone for more than half an hour. I then rang Microsoft and they quickly said "don't touch it", it is a scam, and pointed me to their news centre where I found the following media release - I experienced virtually every point made.

Sorry it is such a long explanation, but they were highly convincing (and while I usually don't suffer cold callers, I didn't want to dismiss them just because fitted the stereotype, with their Indian/subcontinental accents - hey, I know nothing about computers, so maybe it was real), so watch out and alert others.


Posted Under Security and Privacy
26 August, 2010 | Sydney, Australia
Microsoft today warned Australians to be wary of a phone scam that has left some victims hundreds of dollars out of pocket.

Scammers are using several well-known brands, including Microsoft, to fool people into believing that something is wrong with their computers. The scam typically unfolds in the following manner:

• A cold caller, claiming to be a representative of Microsoft, one of its brands or a third party contracted by Microsoft, tells the victim they are checking into a computer problem, infection or virus that has been detected by Microsoft.
• They tell the victim they can help and direct them to a website that then allows the scammers to take remote control of the computer.
• The cold caller will then spend some time on the computer trying to demonstrate where the ‘problems’ are and in the process convinces the victim to pay a fee for a service that will fix the computer.

“In reality, there is nothing wrong with their computer but the scammer has tricked the consumer into believing there is a problem and that paying the fee is the best way to get it fixed. Often they will also push the customer to buy a one year computer maintenance subscription. They are just trying to scam innocent Australians out of money,” said Stuart Strathdee, Microsoft Australia’s chief security advisor.

Strathdee also said that the callers presented themselves in a professional manner and sounded genuine.

“Don’t be fooled, Microsoft is not cold calling consumers in regards to malfunctioning PCs, viruses or any other matter,” he said.

“We strongly advise Australians to simply hang up if they receive a call of this nature and not to respond to any communications from these scammers.

“If you’re not sure, contact Microsoft on 13 20 58 or the Police,” he said.

For more information, Microsoft recommends the following resources:

Microsoft Online Safety site
Australian Government


  1. This happened to me a couple of months ago! I got a call at dinnertime. They asked me the same sort of questions and told me to go to my computer and go on this certain website where they can fix my computer. I thought it was really sus so I just hung up while they were talking. Since then I've heard of a few people who have experienced the same scam. I have now made my home number silent to keep these creeps away (hopefully).

  2. I caught one hook line a sinker. I didn't even touch my computer. It was quite entertaining listen to him dribble on. He thought he had me but when I finally filled him in on me just leading him along he said "F*** you and f*** your family" and then proceeded to abuse me. I won though. He eventually hung up on me :D Hopefully my number is on their black list now.