I was at my parents the other day and when their home phone rang I answered it. The person on the other end was saying that she was calling with regards to some viruses on my Windows computer!
Being a computer professional I knew this was a scam but was extremely interested in learning more so I played along with everything she had to say. Here’s an account of what happened. Hopefully it will help others learn the tricks of this evil trade and prevent them from being duped.
The first thing the woman got me to do was to bring up an ID number on my computer which she told me was a unique number related to my Microsoft license key. She told me she was going to read out a number and if it matched my number then I would know that everything she was saying was genuine.
The CLSID number
The first step was to open a command prompt by holding down the Windows key on my keyboard and pressing R and then typing in cmd. Once the command prompt was open I had to type in assoc. This produces a list of all file extensions and the associated program to open them. For example, .xls files are open up with Excel.
At the end of the list is a CLSID number. It certainly looks like a unique number so everything the woman told me so far would seem legitimate to most people.
However, this CLSID number isn’t unique and will be the same on every Windows computer. It is why the woman was able to repeat it back to me.
The woman then passed me onto a guy who works in the technical support department.
Windows Event Viewer
The guy got me to open the Windows command prompt again and run the command eventvwr. This opens up the Windows Event Viewer and after a few more clicks it suddenly showed lots of errors. According to him these errors were proof that I had viruses on my computer.
Whilst the Event Viewer gives lots of useful information to Windows users it certainly doesn’t give an indication about viruses on the computer.
Once this complete he went on to tell me his full name again, his employee ID and some other reference number along with a telephone number (01962 441 001). He was now going to solve my problems and to do this I had to press the Windows button on my keyboard and then R to bring up the Run dialog. I was then told to type in something like hh.microsoft.help.com although I don’t believe I wrote it down correctly.
The next step would have involved a remote login to my computer which I certainly didn’t want. At this point we had been on the phone for around 20 minutes and I told him I knew this was a scam and then hung up the phone.
A message for all readers
If you ever get a call from someone saying you’ve got a virus on your home computer then we strongly advise you hang up. If you are concerned that you might have a virus then feel free to give us a call for some free advice.