December 2, 2010

Double Sneakiness

Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it.
— Gilbert K. Chesterton

Buon giorno. No, my title is not talking about sneaky Basement Cat. Instead, I'm talking about a telephone call I received from an almost-victim. Fortunately, she made the right choices and did not get burned. She related her story to me so that I can sound yet another scam warning.

And you know that I like exposing the scammers.

This one reminds me of the XP Antivirus (and similar names) scams. That one gives you a fake pop-up, telling you that you have many viruses while it is scanning your computer. (The last time I saw this, they were using animated gif files to simulate scanning.) Often, the victim downloads the malware because they were tricked into it.

In this case, the target receives a telephone call from someone claiming to represent Microsoft. The scammer (often reported to have an Indian accent) says that Microsoft has detected that the target's computer has many viruses. In this case, she was told to go to the Start button, click on "Run", and type "INF", which accesses the "INF" file. She was then told that all of those files were infected. Sneaky, huh? Nice way to display a number of files, but those belong there. In one of own secure computers, that process shows over 1,500 files. (If I had that many infected files, I would be fortunate to have my computer working at all!) In addition, she was told that their technician was looking at her files while they talked, even though access was not granted. That last trick exploits (but probably inadvertently, I don't want to give the scammers too much credit) the fear of Microsoft and it's amazing power.

From there, she was directed to a couple of sites, one was Log Me In Rescue as well as "Dot Com Slash US?" Now, I have no idea if the actual companies are into doing dishonest sales efforts, but invoking the mighty name of Microsoft would give you a red flag, because rich and powerful MS would not be using an outside site and solicitation. In fact, MS has their own denial of this trick. Here is another discussion on the scam. 

Apparently, they want to gain access to your computer. Then you know what comes next, right, class? Say it all together:

"Personal information!"

Great! Right the first time! My regular readers know that I keep on preaching about almost never giving personal information to strangers, especially when they call you unexpectedly. In this case, the double-whammy is that they called and said there are viruses (reminding me of the "XP Antivirus" trick online), and then have you "see for yourself" that you have said viruses.

It's worth repeating: Do not give out information (or access to your computer). If the call comes from your credit card company, for instance, you call them back and ask if there is a problem; do not give your credit card number to a cold caller, even if it's to a supposed charity like the Secret Policeman's Ball. Capice?

Yes, I do like writing these kinds of articles. Because they get many hits, I'm pretty certain that I'm doing some good.

Here is something ironic: I still sing the praises of the free product, Microsoft Security Essentials. Very highly rated anti-virus and spyware tool. Funny that the scammers were pretending to be from Microsoft, who gives away an excellent product that does what they were selling.

So, class, stay safe and don't be bullied. Stay out of shadows.

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