Saturday, October 23, 2010

Computer virus cold call scam - Coming to a phone near you

Last night I received a phone call from International Routing Service, a supposed security company contacting Microsoft customers who appeared to have malware or computer viruses installed on their machines, based on analysis of network traffic patterns. Because I work with computers I was able to ask a series of difficult questions, and the call centre operator I was talking to eventually handed off to her supervisor, who after talking to me briefly and giving up, told me he was in love with my wife and hung up. I was laughing.

This is a scam. From what I have read since the intention is to 'demonstrate' that you have malicious software on your computer, and then offer the solution - an anti-virus software package - for a price that is allegedly around $270 dollars.

The approach of scaring you, the consumer into making a purchase isn't new. Its called scareware by the security community, and its prevalence is increasing (see this section of Microsoft's latest Security Intelligence Report )

They never reached the demonstration phase with me, since I asked too many questions and I know to be suspicious. But it is easy to see how someone not familiar with technical details of computers could be taken for a ride. Being taken for a ride in this case means giving away their hard earned money (and credit card details, which might be sold to other crooks) for a program that at best does not do anything and at worst infects their machine with further scareware or viruses.

The morning after the phone call my wife pointed out a notice in the dead tree edition of North West News about this very scam. Its unclear whether this scam is being perpetrated in any systematised way, and whether it is currently doing the rounds in a specific geographic location. It is definitely happening to people, here, in Ferny Grove and Ferny Hills, so please, be suspicious.