An international phone scam, reportedly doing the rounds since 2010, has come to the fore with a number of South Africans being preyed on.
Internet users should be suspicious should they receive a phone call on their landline from an individual claiming to be from a security company, or Microsoft itself, alerting them to serious errors on their computer.
According to would-be victims, the caller has an Indian accent and sounds like he is calling from a call centre. He tells the targeted Internet user that their computer is yielding error messages and that it contains corrupt files that could seriously damage it. He then leads the user to a diagnostic program, Microsoft Event Viewer, and guides them through the steps to run Windows processes, an action that gives a garbled series of characters, likely to shock the victim into complying with further instruction to download software.
The danger is that the software, which the caller claims will fix the problem, serves as a remote control that allows the scam artist complete access to the computer and all its data.
One Internet user, who together with a close family member was targeted by the scam, but did not buy into it, says the caller sounded legitimate, but roused her suspicion when he started asking questions. She says when she turned the tables and questioned him, he could not tell her who her Internet service provider was – an instant deal breaker. “He tried to get me to go to a Web site and download an application he said would clear my computer of all viruses.”
The scam has warranted a Facebook page “Windows Event Viewer Scam”, featuring posts from Facebook users, worldwide, who have received the call.
One post warns: “Just happened to me but got suspicious and googled whilst I went to event viewer. He went on and on about the meaning of the report I was getting and how infected my computer was – whilst I read on and on about the scam. I then politely dismissed him without giving access to my computer or any card details……So beware and google any suspicious calls and offers!!!!” (sic)
Another reflects others’ experiences: “I just got a phone call today. It was total bs. Guy from India saying how infected my computer was, and told me to check event viewer.” (sic)
This humorous YouTube video shows how one Internet user was repeatedly warned of an imminent and total computer failure by the scam artists. The phone call recipient says, although suspicious, he decided to humour the caller. “A lady calling from India rang up informing me that my computer was going to crash imminently. It did occur to me to hang up. However, considering as I had my macbook ready – I wanted to have a little fun and so recorded the exchange.” (sic)