Byte Me #314 Phone Scams

18th March 2017


Following a spate of different phone scams this article should serve as a timely reminder to not only be vigilant yourself but to also talk about the subject with friends and neighbours.  The only reason these vultures exist is that they are still making good money from trusting victims which will continue until there is greater public awareness.  You don’t hear about these crimes on the news as our traditional law enforcement agencies are powerless to do anything about it.

So what is a phone scam?  This is generally a random telephone call from an overseas call centre outside of our Western laws with the caller pretending to work for either Microsoft or Telstra.  The whole call is based on the presumption that you have a computer at your house so they immediately launch into a carefully prepared pitch about your PC having a virus.

The caller will tell you that your PC is so badly infected that they can see it putting out more viruses onto the Internet and that you must allow them access to the PC to stem this flow.  They will then get you to go to a site on the Internet and enter a code to give them remote access to the PC.  At this stage they mention nothing about needing money or a credit card for this service.

After they have gained access to your PC they normally go to a background utility like the system logs so that they can show you some red highlighted errors.  Most PC’s will have at least a few red errors in the system logs.  At this point they up the ante by suggesting things are more advanced than originally thought and they will need a credit card detail to complete the work.

In many cases they will also have downloaded some software or made some system changes on your PC so that if you don’t comply with credit card details they can become malicious.  The degree of malicious activity can range from extreme badgering over the phone for card details to actually deleting all of your important photos and data.  They can also lock you out of your own computer so that expert help is needed to regain access.

So why are they so successful?  One of the big reasons here is that when it comes to legitimate over the phone technical help some of our biggest service industries use overseas call centres.  Just cast your mind back 10 or 20 years.  If you had a phone problem you would talk to someone in Australia with good English skills.  Now we get lumbered with overseas help desks where we often have great difficulty understanding the support person.

I often hear the following.  “I rushed to the phone from outside the house and could barely understand the caller.  When they said that they were from Telstra I figured that they were and I gave them access to the computer.  I gave up on asking them how they got my number because I couldn’t understand them and felt embarrassed about asking them to repeat themselves.  After a while they were not embarrassed about asking for my credit card over and over again.”

There is something wrong here.  Australian service industries should not be allowed to use overseas call centres.  Telstra, other Telcos, insurance companies, power & gas companies & any service industry supplying products or services within Australia (even Telemarketers) should also have their call centres based in this country.  If this were the case it would be so easy to totally block calls coming into Australia from overseas call centres.

Can you remember when Telstra lowered their fees and charges when they shifted their call centres offshore?  No – that would be because they didn’t!  They just made extra profits, made calling tech support a bad joke and at the same time they handed us these phone scam problems.  Until next week future Byte Me topics can be emailed to [email protected] and Bruce is contactable at Kerr Solutions, 205 Musgrave Street or on 49 222 400.

  • August 25, 2017