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How to beat the telephone fraudsters claiming to be from Microsoft

PUBLISHED: 08:00 12 March 2017

Beware of phone scammers who try to trick you into handing them control of your computer, says Sheena Grant

Beware of phone scammers who try to trick you into handing them control of your computer, says Sheena Grant

I make it a rule never to pick up the phone if caller display shows the number is withheld or unavailable , writes Sheena Grant.

Experience tells me those calls are always someone I’d rather not speak to - someone trying to sell me something I neither want nor need or, worse still, someone trying to trick me out of cash.

This works very well, unless I happen to answer the call on my upstairs phone, which has no caller display.

Then I can be in trouble.

I took just such a call last week. The caller, who sounded like he was in a noisy call centre on the back streets of Mumbai, was, he told me, from Microsoft.

“Oh, yes,” I was tempted to say, “and I’m the heir to Bill Gates’ fortune.”

Because, really, that would be about as likely as the idea that this man had anything at all to do with the technology billionaire’s multinational company.

Like many readers, no doubt, I’ve have had these calls before. They are always scammers, hoping to catch you unawares or bamboozle you with jargon so they can steal your data, passwords and take your cash.

The scams vary. Some will actually ask you for a fee to ‘fix’ your computer while others will try and get you to download malware or hit some keys on your keyboard to get access to your files. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are lost in this way every year.

Official advice is to hang up on these people - no one legitimate ever calls in this way. And that’s what I often do but occasionally I like to play along with them, just to waste their time for a few minutes.

Mr ‘Microsoft’ became the latest trickster to have the tables turned on him in this way.

I listened, seemingly intently, as he read from a pre-prepared script how he was going to rid me of the virulent viruses he had miraculously detected on my machine, which wasn’t even turned on at the time.

“Hit the key at the bottom left of the keyboard,” he instructed. “Now, tell me, what is the key next to that?”

“Another key,” I replied, slowly. We’re like that out in the sticks.

I could tell he was getting annoyed but he persisted and eventually I judged the time was right to make him think I was indeed following his instructions and could move on to the next stage.

“Tell me what comes up on the computer screen?” he said.

“A, B, C, D,” I answered, in my best yokel accent. This was method acting De Niro would be proud of.

By now his patience was running out.

“A, B, C, D... what are you talking about - did you go to school?” he spluttered.

By now, it was my patience that was wearing thin out at the contempt this man had for me, his ‘victim’.

“Yes, I did go to school,” I replied. “And I think I went to a better school than you (although, in reality, that’s probably debatable) because I haven’t fallen for your conman tricks. Goodbye.”

It’s hard to understand people like Mr ‘Microsoft’, who seem devoid of common humanity. I’m not suggesting you do as I did if you get a similar call. But if my tale serves to caution just one person against falling for the scammers’ patter it will have served its purpose.

Consumer organisation Which? has more advice about scams here.

Share your tips with Sheena via email or tweet her using #ThriftyLiving.

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