Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Nice laptop you got here. Be a shame if something... happened to it."

     There are some days that are just so strange, when all the evil agents of the universe come descending on you in such short order that only the word "surreal" can even start to define it. Now, it's obvious my traffic has dwindled down to a faithful few but some of you guys are tech-savvy and maybe my limited crowd sourcing options will be enough to help me solve this dilemma.
     Some time this morning, some elderly Indian lady called my house (on my house phone) at about 10:00-10:30. She said she was from some PC company and that they'd received error messages from my computer here at home. I asked her how they got my home phone through these so-called error messages and she said, I shit you not, "Mind your own business" then terminated the connection.
     Then I drifted on to other weirdness visited on me such as my sons being charged with dogsitting three cathartic canines, an interrupted lunch so one son could spell another, a letter from the MA DOR informing me because I didn't get RomneyCare that I now owe them $540 (don't forget, they levied both my bank accounts over two years ago) and other weird shit that came in the mail. Then I had my other son over, I took him to his girlfriend's house and then the second call came.
     This time it was an Indian guy giving me the same pitch the nasty old lady had initiated and rudely terminated earlier today, telling me they've received many error messages from my laptop. When I asked him how they or Microsoft could get my home phone number when I'd never given it to either them or Microsoft (I registered my Windows OS when I first bought my laptop in 2011, many months before I got my home phone number through Verizon ), he couldn't really give me a straight answer but it strongly suggested that Microsoft and his company knew a great deal more about me than they perhaps have a right to know.
     He eventually put me on the line with a technician who, to put it mildly, was a real piece of work. Another Indian guy, this one refused to entertain my questions kindly and had no compunctions about insulting me in a wide variety of ways for asking the most reasonable of questions. Among them: How did Microsoft get a phone # I didn't have prior to registering my software? And why I should construe as normal some company allegedly based in Arizona, using snotty Indians, calling me not once but twice offering to fix my error message problems for free? What are you selling?
     Nothing he said, after haranguing me for the umpteenth time that I talk too much and that I sounded as if I was the technician (knowing fully well our conversation was being recorded). To say the least, this guy's interpersonal skills were somewhere between a honey badger and a Republican. He also seemed to take umbrage at the suggestion that they could be a bunch of scam artists and why should I let them have access to my laptop by downloading some other company's software?
     Now, I did indeed download the software that enabled them to do this because they talked me through the process that had me open up a window that showed how many error messages and warnings that had popped up on my laptop just in the last several days (when they took control of my laptop, they said they found over 5000 such notices going back to just March). That much was real and they couldn't've put that information there. So, I did what they said, I strung them along figuring, if this wasn't legit I could always terminate the wifi connection and delete their software.
     So, after a few more minutes, my cursor began moving by itself, they opened up another window showing me a long list of programs such as Adobe Flash that were labelled as corrupted, compromised or disabled. I only went as far as I did because I figured they were telling me about issues I deal with on a daily basis (scripts not running or Shockwave not working, etc.). Then he finally got to the bottom line.
     He said when I'd registered my software with Microsoft for free back in the summer of 2011, it was only for a year then it expired. He asked me if my laptop's speed started getting slower after a year and I admitted it had. Then he told me that if I wanted them to fix my laptop, I'd have to first pay Microsoft's software division $175 for the next year OR a one-time lifetime fee (good only for the life of this strange company of Indians) of $275.
     With no guarantee that, once they got receipt of the money, they would honor their promises. The technician told me if I did not renew my warranty soon, my laptop will crash and "you will be the loser." I wondered at the time and asked him why he was working so hard on behalf for the Microsoft Corporation and busting a nut to put $175 in Bill Gates' pocket if his company, as he intimated, wouldn't profit by so much as a penny. It had all the earmarks of a protection racket: "Nice laptop you got here. Be a shame if something... happened to it."
     But even after being told I was not in a position to part with $175, with no guarantee of a return of promised services, that I've been out of work for years, just got some bad news in the mail that I owe my state government almost $600 in back taxes and have to worry about paying my bills, he still would not take no for an answer. Plus, I told him, renewing a warranty for $175 seems awfully excessive even for Microsoft. Either way you cut it, it's a slimy protection racket. Plus these assholes had control over my laptop.
     I'd finally had it up to here with this prick and his nasty-ass attitude and told him to never call my house again. I then terminated the wifi connection, then looked at my list of programs and discovered to my horror that it never showed up, meaning I couldn't uninstall it. I kept thinking over and over again of him telling me that he was looking at the entire contents of my hard drive (I don't do porn or go to jihadist websites, but still.). Then when I discovered I couldn't find the software I'd downloaded so I could uninstall it, I really began to freak out. That means they can access my computer and help themselves to my banking information whenever they want, including my passwords.
     So, to recap, they call me this morning, basically tell me to go fuck myself when I naturally ask how they got my number, they call me back, essentially saying I'm crazy for asking why I should trust them, was repeatedly told I talked too much and then tried to extort $275 out of me which I was then expected to just shell out with no questions asked and no guarantee they'd clean my hard drive of this malware.
     I don't know who the fuck these people were because their thick Indian accents prevented me from making out the name of their "company" but it struck me as highly suspicious that any company would call me or anyone out of the blue offering to fix their computer issues. They knew a lot more about me than they had a right to, starting with just my name, address, home phone number and how many computers we use at home. I'd like to know if anyone can tell me how to uninstall this software from my hard drive (I can't find it on the D drive, either. The company that makes it is shown above) and if they've ever received such a phone call from anyone. This doesn't pass the smell test in any way, shape or form. And with the financial storm clouds that are gathering over our heads, we so do not need a bunch of nasty Indians having ready access to my computer at any time.

19 Comments:

At August 22, 2013 at 11:01 PM, Anonymous Erich said...

Have you tried any of the free malware services for a scan? Say Super anti-Spyware or Malware Bytes. They may locate the hidden program.

 
At August 22, 2013 at 11:43 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

No, but I'll try that. Thanks, Erich.

 
At August 23, 2013 at 12:18 AM, Anonymous Roycrofter said...

Just this morning read my current issue of Ask Leo newsletter about the malware issue. You can get it online at Ask Leo. Not all malware is bad, but it is deeply hidden and hard to get rid of. The one sure way is to back up all your files, photos, etc., then reformat your machine and reinstall fresh. I'm using XP still, so a system restore is also a good way, but it's not 100%.

 
At August 23, 2013 at 3:46 AM, Anonymous RobP said...

Yes, I agree. Back up any important information, bu ttry to do just files, not whole directories and then do a system restore. If you still can find the windows CDs (I know I can't) then get some online help (howtogeek.com is one suggestion) and search for reformatting or restoring.

Good luck, it's tempting to mess with these obvious scam artists but is usually safer to say no thanks, and hang up.

 
At August 23, 2013 at 9:57 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Their marketing strategy certainly seems to be a strange one: Demand money over the phone, do not ever take no for an answer and respond to skepticism with scorn and insults.

Indians have always struck me as arch and arrogant but these bozos take the cake. I asked the first one how they got my number and she told me to mind my own business then hung up.

I was minding my own business until they called me up.

 
At August 23, 2013 at 10:54 AM, Blogger Eck! said...

OK, this is a well know bait and switch like "Speedupmypc" with the usual now your stuck exortion.

If you run windows it behooves you to either have a trusted system wrench person or learn to do it yourself.

First the malware is already there and needs to be removed. how to do it is on the net.

Second, learn basic windows security and treatment.

Third if you can get the hell off windows. Linux and mac are more secure.

Further windows has "hidden files" and once you know how to turn that off its possible to see all manner of stuff that windows like to store
that both eats the drive space and slows the machine in general. The whole idea of hidden files is to keep uninformed users from accidently deleting critical parts.
However its also used to hide stuff by varios programs and ofcourse malware.

if at all possible and this is a bit of the technical. It requires work and time to do plus you need the original install media (and not a reserved file on disk). Literally wipe the disk and re-install as if new. Any malware and old history is lost so copies of cherished information need to be saved externally for re-instllation later.

At the very least use the free versions of malwarebytes, Also turn off the option to allow remote users to take control of your computer (its in the system control panel), get help if needed its not hard just a lot of things to do.

Lastly when the machine is not in actual use shut it off (do not go into hibernation) and if need be remove the battery.

I got off the windows meerygoround
with security years ago as it was
a constant exercise in plugging holes and it being the most popular its always the prime target for attack.

Eck!

 
At August 23, 2013 at 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My brother in law had the same experience. Unfortunately he didn't call me (I'm an IT sys admin) and he allowed them to load the software. Long story short I had to reformat his laptop as I wasn't able to find the what they installed.

 
At August 24, 2013 at 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi JP,

I don't think anyone is going to log onto your computer without your knowledge because of the call you received. I think LogMeIn is a browser add on. Check their website for support. It should be pretty easy to remove. https://secure.logmein.com
I had a similar call a few months ago. My Indian had me RUN an MS command NETSTAT and then I saw all these weird connections, and "foreign" IP addresses. They claimed my network had been hacked. I didn't give them access to my computer. With a little research, I found it was all normal internet traffic.
As previously commented, you should run something like Malwarebytes, Microsoft malicious software removal tool, and Kaspersky Virus removal tool. They're all free to use.
GL, Mike

 
At August 24, 2013 at 12:30 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Hey, Mike, thanks for the anecdote and the good advice. Jill at B&B had turned me on to Malware Bytes sometime last year, I believe, and it worked super. Then I had a C++ issue with my laptop then used my nuclear option to set it back to factory standards. Then, for the last year or so, I forgot Malware Bytes even existed. So a couple of days ago, I d/l'd it again and on the first and second sweeps, it found a total of 559 malicious objects on my HD. The computer's running a bit faster, not so's anyone but me would notice it. But I'm no longer getting script issues. I'm also running Norton scans and manual defrags to supplement the weekly one I have set for Saturday nights.

I should've asked Punjab why Microsoft, if they really subcontracted these people, allowed over 5000 warnings and error messages to get racked up before finally deciding to do something through a proxy in India.

 
At August 24, 2013 at 1:51 PM, Anonymous Dee in NJ said...

JP,

My brother actually works for Microsoft and I can assure you that these fucktards have nothing to do with the company. They are a scam company that calls you once they somehow have your phone number. I get these same calls two to three times a day and have informed these asshats that my brother works for Microsoft and I know they're scamming motherfuckers. Yet they still call. My next move is to get an airhorn and start blasting it into the phone when they call. At least I'll get to have some fun.

 
At August 24, 2013 at 4:36 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Dee: It'd be real innerestin' to hear his answer to the question of warranty renewals, if they cost anything and if they use proxy companies to collect them. Doesn't seem to me as if a rapacious outfit like Microsoft would be willing to cut contractors in on any % of the pie since they'd be perfectly capable of calling me themselves, even if that was an accepted way of doing things (and it isn't. No one calls you out of the blue to remind you your warranty or registration expired. At most, they'd do it through email.).

Unfortunately, these nasty curry-eating fucks are obviously operating out of India, therefore beyond the reach of the FTC, DOJ and the BBB.

Hope your brother gets better, btw.

 
At August 24, 2013 at 8:23 PM, Anonymous Dee in NJ said...

JP,

Talked to my brother. There is no such thing as an extended warranty offered by Microsoft. The minute I explained the phone call you got to my brother he started screaming "scammer, scammer". Microsoft is very aware of this but unfortunately, they can't do anything about it.

He recommended you back up and data you want on your computer, scrub it and reload your Microsoft program. The bad news is, that if there was any financial data, like bank account information on your computer, these guys probably already have it. Because it's what they do. You may have to get yourself a new bank account because that might have been compromised.

When you buy Microsoft package, it has a limited warranty, but you have technical support for the software for as long as Microsoft supports it. Now, if you have Microsoft 3.0, obviously that's so obsolete that they aren't going to support it anymore. But the more current versions are still being supported and updated regularly. But there is no such thing, I repeat, no such thing as an extended warranty.

Dee

 
At August 24, 2013 at 8:32 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Thx. Barb's yelling at me right now and asking me to go get a new bank account on Monday morning. Not that I have an amount in either account worth stealing.

 
At August 25, 2013 at 8:54 AM, Blogger Joe Ambrosino said...

Microsoft will never call you. It's always scam when someone calls like that. LogMeIn software allows them to rummage around in your computer more or less at will.

They will either grab your personal information from the computer, or disable it until you pay (if you're lucky). You need a technician or computer savvy friend to give your computer a once-over with anti-malware. Barring that, back up your data and format the hard drive.

You can download the free version of Malwarebytes as a starter, check into TDSSKiller from Kapersky Labs also. Both are excellent, & free. You just have to follow the directions.

 
At August 25, 2013 at 10:54 AM, Blogger Luigi said...

Sorry for you. This is a scam. Microsoft never calls. Hell, Dell never calls my old lady back and she has a service contract with them (something I never do).

 
At August 25, 2013 at 2:00 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

I went to Kapersky Labs' website the other day and tried to download their antivirus software and got a 404 page. I'm not even sure they're still in business. There's not even an option to go through a trusted partner site.

 
At August 25, 2013 at 10:54 PM, Anonymous Dee in NJ said...

Kaspersky is still in business, because I have several friends who use their software. We use Microsoft Security Essentials because my brother has enough confidence in it's ability to protect our computer, and because the last time we downloaded Norton, it fucked up our system big time.

I would suggest you hit the Kaspersky website and look for their toll-free phone number for customer assistance. They'll be able to help you when you call them. We used Kaspersky about 6-7 years ago, and found it to be a wonderful anti-virus program. If it weren't for the fact that I got Windows 8 free, I'd probably still use Kaspersky.

And I'd stay away from "trusted partner" sites. Just because someone posts online that they are a trusted partner doesn't mean they are. :)

 
At August 25, 2013 at 11:07 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Dee: Trusted partners help save on bandwidth, which can be a serious issue of you're giving away free demos of highly popular software and shareware. If a big antivirus company can't trust a trusted partner, then who can you trust?

I'll try Kaspersky again. They seem to get universal thumbs up but I'm not going to bust my hump looking for their software. I have Microsoft Security essentials, too, as well as AVG, Norton, Malware Bytes and, until today, MacAfee (their popups telling you have serious holes in your system are just not-so-cleverly-disguised ads and I uninstalled it tonight).

The first 2 times I used Malware Bytes, it found a total of 554 malicious objects and so far, the script issues seem to have gone away and my laptop's running a bit faster. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

 
At August 26, 2013 at 12:01 PM, Blogger Mr. 618 said...

As you know, I am FAR from a computer genius, but I *think& LogMeIn is what the Red Cross Help(less) Desk uses to access remote computers to try to fix problems, similar to Microsoft's Remote Access. In that sense, it's legit, not malware. From what I've been told by a friend who works for Microsoft, sounds like you're using a reasonable selection of tools to protect yourself.

The Kaspersky TDSS is here: http://support.kaspersky.com/5350?el=88446#block3.

Good luck.

 

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