/ Technology

Your view: will we ever get rid of ‘Microsoft’ scam calls?

Toy telephone

Once again, mention of the ‘Microsoft’ scam call got you all talking this week. From funny ways to waste the scammers’ time, to deciding who should deal with this problem, we round up your responses.

In his Convo, Rich Parris talks about the sheer scale of this scam call, where supposed Microsoft support staff call you about ‘problems’ with your computer.

According to figures from Microsoft, one in five Brits have received one of these scam calls since 2010, losing an average of £745. That’s not to be sniffed at.

So who’s responsible for stamping out scammers?

This was a hot topic of debate, and different commenters had different outlooks. John Ward feels that crime prevention agencies and Microsoft should be doing their bit:

‘We must look to the crime prevention agencies to protect us from these deceptions; they should not be sheltering behind the IT industry and dragging their heels on enforcement across international boundaries. But it is only right that Microsoft should exercise more responsibility in developing systems and protocols…’

Colin is a Microsoft Certified IT technician and he argues that Microsoft isn’t to blame:

‘This is not a Microsoft issue, the callers could be calling saying they were from Apple and try something similar. The problem is people are being talked into buying computers which often they don’t need or don’t know anything about and then through lack of knowledge, fall for this scam.’

What needs to be done?

Commenter e420303639 makes a popular suggestion about one way to help combat the scam:

‘It might help if Microsoft stated on their software quite clearly that they will not call the user at any time, unless the user has arranged this with Microsoft.’

For William, it’s a government issue:

‘Surely the UK government should be talking to the Indian government as that’s where the calls seem to originate.’

Dealing with scammers

Many of you, it seems, have thought long and hard about the best way to waste the scammers’ time, like NFH, who is our Commenter of the Week:

‘I pretend to be a novice PC user and deliberately make myself sound like a technophobe. I follow their instructions and […] every few minutes, I manually make my mobile phone ring, and ask them to hold while I take the call. I mute the scammer while I do this, letting them hold for five or 10 minutes. While they’re on hold, I get on with other things so they don’t waste my time.’

Tulip Bicycle enjoys winding them up:

‘I usually answer the phone with the Spanish “Hola”, and if they don’t hang up and start the spiel I tell them that this is the Truro Sexual Health Clinic, which quickly gets rid of them.’

And Hoppingpinkrabbit has a ‘novel’ idea:

‘Reciting parts of the Bible to them can shut them up. You don’t need to explain to them the meaning behind it, just reciting parts and without stopping. Similar goes for kids’ books – if you ever wanted to experiment with using different ‘voices’, here is your chance!’

And finally…

We couldn’t finish without retelling Steve Ellis’s scammer experience:

‘On one occasion I asked the scammer if he thought I was born yesterday… he actually asked me for my date of birth. Unbelievable.’

Have you got a ridiculous scammer story to beat Steve’s? Or maybe you have your own unusual methods of dealing with these calls? On a more serious note, how did you deal with the scam if you fell for it and lost money?

Comments
Guest
wev says:
25 May 2013

And… has anyone written to their MP about it?

Even something as simple as stopping the sale of the public electoral register to advertisers would cut down the amount of scams.

Guest

Yes. He was entirely useless, I got a more or less circular letter back from the relevant department.

Guest
wev says:
2 June 2013

What did it say?

Guest

Can’t remember exactly, but it was basically an apologia for doing nothing about scam texts and calls (i.e. telling me about the ineffective things that don’t stop them).

Guest

You have the option to have most of your personal information excluded from the Public Electoral Register. My telephone number is not in the public register and that may be why I receive very little nuisance calls or scam calls.

Each and every ISP should make their customers aware of scams like the Microsoft one.

Families of older people should tell them about the scam emails that warn about security problems on such and such bank account and try to get you to use the link in the email to log into the account. Once a month I receive a scam email, supposedly from Talk Talk (my ISP) telling me there is a problem with my account and providing a link so I can log into my account. Now, if they gain access to my account they get my bank details and the telephone numbers of all my contacts – all useful information for scammers. I have never opened any of these emails but I hear that if you use the link supplied, you go to a facsimile of the real website.

Scammers are getting cleverer each day and as the phone scammers are shut down, more of them will be turning to the internet. We must remain alert and spread the word of any new scams.

Guest

I use 20 character cryptic passwords, different ones for each site, and keep them in a secure key database that is not available online. Of course if they could get to my email they could send password resets, so my mail has two-factor authentication. They need my username, my password, my mobile phone, and the PIN that locks the phone.

Not infallible, but decent basic safety.

Guest

It seems to me that a lot of these calls are international, and the calling line ID is inaccurate. So first up we need to get the telcos to ensure that incoming international calls are properly identified.

Also, with computer malware you can report exploits to the likes of Sophos, McAfee and so on, and they share information. In the same way, there needs to be collaboration between operators on identifying and blocking the lines that make these scam calls.

It would also help if telecom operators routinely and proactively offered retired subscribers, free of charge, anonymous barring and caller ID, and gave basic advice on how to use these to screen nuisance calls. And of course telemarketing permission should switch form opt-out to opt-in. I do not know anyone who actually wants to receive cold calls by telephone, so this might be a bit contentious, but the fact is that every single cold call I have ever received has been deceptive in its framing. The industry is corrupt at its core and needs to be given a sizeable kick up its collective posterior.

Example: even though I am on the TPS list I get calls form UK registered numbers telling me they “know” how much I am owed in compensation for income protection policies. So do I: none at all. I never take them out, they are an obvious con! These numbers are all listed on the websites discussing nuisance calls, I block each one in turn using my brilliant Panasonic phone with number blocking, and they just come back on another number. These numbers are well known, used for sustained bouts of fraudulent activity, and should simply be blocked by the carriers.

But the most important thing is a programme of education – ideally paid for by fines on the perpetrators who are caught. TV slots aimed at the target market of the scammers would be a good way to do this.

Guest

There are two ways to curtail this problem:
– Educate the public so that they recognise the scammers as easily as they recognise spam e-mail.
– Potential victims can make the practice undesirable for the scammers, either by wasting considerable amounts of their time (as I have done) or by rudely swearing at them so that they find their “job” increasingly unpleasant.