A Warning About Telephone Tech Support Scams And How They Tried To Target My Parents

in psychology •  last year


Introduction


It is a sad fact of life that as more and more business and financial transactions move online a greater number of conmen and criminals are taking advantage of this.

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Older people are often but not always the target of tech scams.

These people are growing more sophisticated and rely on the fact that not everyone is as tech savvy as they are.

Even if you keep all your software up to date and properly secured, the weakest security link on your network can be the human element - as we are all susceptible to social engineering to various degrees.

Those who are from older generations and did not grow up with computers tend to be most susceptible.

Recently my parents have received a number of phone calls claiming to be from their ISP and saying that there is a problem which needs to be fixed (the actual problem seems to vary).

I have an agreement with my parents where I have instructed them to pass such phone calls on to me or ask them to call back when I am around.

These scammers are so brazen that they have called multiple times.

The funny thing is they don't actually even seem to be that good at what they do but obviously they are not afraid of getting caught from halfway across the world.

I have only spoken to them a couple of times and despite them being quite obviously found out the first time it did not seem to deter them from trying again.


The Calls


Here are how the phone calls went. I have tried to recall the conversation to the best of my ability but obviously it will not be exact:

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John Smith didn't really sound like a John Smith.

Me: What seems to be the problem?

John: Sir this is John Smith. I am calling from [ISP Name Here] as you may know there are some problems with your parent's internet connection which I am calling to fix. Can you access this with a laptop or a desktop?

He doesn't really sound like a John Smith - his accent indicates he is likely calling from the Indian subcontinent. Nothing surprising about that, although the fake Western name thing has been abandoned by most legitimate companies nowadays as it just sounds dishonest.

Me: I can but I am not aware of a problem.

John: Sir there is a problem with the channels on your router [insert some technobabble gibberish that is complete nonsense here].

Me: Really that sounds serious?

John: Yes sir I will take you through the steps but I need you to log into your computer now. Do you have a laptop or a desktop? Is it a Mac or a PC?

Me: Mac.

John: OK I will need to hand you over to my colleague James who will take you through the steps on a Mac.

Pause as "John" whispers something unintelligible to "James".

James: Yes hello sir, this is James. Could you please turn your computer on?

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James also has a very Indian accent - but OK maybe this place only hires people that have western names.

Me: It's already on. Do you want me to switch it off?

James: No please keep it on and log in.

Me: I'm already logged in, do you want me to log out. OK I just logged out.

James: No, no sir please log in. Can you log in now?

Me: OK I'm logged in now.

James: OK please now open your Safari browser.

Me: I can't do that.

James: Why not?

Me: I don't use Safari.

James: What browser do you use?

Me: Chrome.

James: OK open Chrome then. Is the window open?

Me: OK it's open.

James: OK I need you to type in this address in the top address bar. Can you do that?

Me: Yes.

James: Please type in this address - I will spell it out - www - dot - t-e-a-m....

Me: www - dot - x-c-a-n......

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These guys weren't very good.

So what basically proceeds is "James" trying to get me to enter the address to download the Teamviewer software so he can take over my computer and me "mishearing" the address as many times as I can.

After a while I get bored with this:

Me: OK James you are obviously an idiot. I know exactly what you are trying to do and I know exactly what Teamviewer is. I'm not going to download it and I will be passing your information on to the authorities.

James hangs up once he realises he isn't going to get what he wants.

It seems this did not scare them because my father received a few more calls and as per my instructions he told them to call back when I was around.

The second call I received was a lot shorter. Once again there was a similar spiel. This time the guy was saying there was a problem with my [ISP issued] router.

This is complete BS as my router is fine and I also don't use the ISP issued router since they are complete crap - I always buy my own and make sure it is kept up to date.

I couldn't be bothered to go through the same rigamarole as before so I straight up asked the guy on the other end for "reference number" so I could confirm he was from my ISP.

He immediately hung up.

That was yesterday and I would not be surprised if someone else from the same group rings back. They are obviously not scared of being caught.


The Modus Operandi For This Type of Scam


The basic idea for the scammer is to hope that they will get through to someone who is older and less computer literate.

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They are hoping to find someone who isn't completely comfortable with computers.

They will then try to scare them by telling them there is an urgent problem that they need to fix (and they will help them to do it over the phone).

Part of this involves speaking very quickly and bamboozling the person on the other end of the phone with terms and language they don't understand.

By barking out instructions rapidly the person on the other end of the phone doesn't get a chance to think.

All they know is that there is a problem with their computer (or router) and that they are at risk unless they get it fixed immediately.

The scammer will also keep suggesting that the problem is serious and that they are at grave risk if the victim tries to resist.

They prey on people's fears and their ignorance and then use them to get the person to download a piece of software like Teamviewer.

Teamviewer is remote access software that lets you administer multiple computers remotely and is available for free - hence why scammers like to use it. Basically it allows you to completely control another computer from a distance.

It is a very useful tool when you have multiple machines but the average home user should not need to install it - further if someone else is instructing you to install it or any other software during a phone call you should be very suspicious.

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If victims are lucky they will just end up paying for unnecessary repairs.

Although I refused to install the software I have heard from various online sources what happens when people do comply:

Once they have installed the software the scammer will take over the victim's computer and put on a show that "fakes" some kind of malware infection.

They may then ask them to make a payment for removing it. If the person pays they will put on a show of removing it.

If the victim is very lucky that is all they will do and they will have been ripped off for removing something that likely wasn't there in the first place.

However the big risk here is that these people have taken over the person's computer and they could well have installed all kinds of software without them knowing.

This can include key-loggers and other tools for stealing their passwords and vital information so they can steal money from bank accounts etc.

Basically it is the equivalent of handing over all your information to a complete stranger who is already scamming you and hoping that they behave honourably.


How to fight this


There is no foolproof way to deal with this. The scams continue to evolve and they tend to get more sophisticated with time.

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Educating friends and family is important.

The people I dealt with were very inept and not very convincing but I can imagine there are some people who are more sophisticated.

I think it would be very difficult for these sorts of people to fool someone who is tech savvy and knows a bit about computers.

Those are not the kind of people these scammers are looking for though. They are looking for people who can use computers but aren't 100% confident with them.

Often these people will be older individuals - parents and grandparents.

I think one of the best forms of protection is to educate your parents/grandparents about these sorts of scams.


Here are some potential methods I can think of:

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A few tips for being safer.

  1. Instruct your parents/grandparents to tell any such callers that they do not deal with computer issues and ask them to call you or someone else who is more technically competent.

  2. Get the full details of the problem from the person on the other end of the phone and write them down. They will normally disguise their caller ID but if not make sure you record it.

  3. Ask them for a reference number - most legitimate calls will have one or an equivalent.

  4. DO NOT download any software. Do not do anything on your computer. Get the details of the problem and then dig out the details for your ISP or whoever the call is meant to be from and contact them DIRECTLY yourself to discuss the phone call. You will soon know if there is a problem or not.

  5. With most ISPS or other online services you can usually check on their website if there is a problem. They will also notify you of any issues using their internal messaging system. Do not trust emails though.

  6. Even if you are having service issues with your ISP/other technology do not believe a phone call. I have heard stories of these calls by chance coinciding with someone actually having technical issues - don't lower your guard because of this. As far as I know it is not common for ISPs to call people when their connection goes down - these issues happen so often that it would be impossible for them to do that. Normally they wait for people to contact them. Similarly Microsoft do not call people when they are having problems with Windows. You call them.

  7. If there is a really serious problem that needs to be fixed most legitimate companies will send out an engineer to do it. They will also be able to provide you with evidence that they are who they say they are. In cases where they won't send someone out, you might be able to pay a fee for them to do that. If they aren't helpful change your ISP/Tech service provider.

  8. Finally if you yourself are unsure of anything discuss it with a more tech savvy friend or family member.

I'm sure there are other things I haven't thought of - please give your suggestions in the comments.


Conclusion


As a greater proportion of people rely on their computers for the purposes of banking, sending money and managing their finances, a greater and greater number of criminals will try to capitalise on this.

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Vigilance is important.

We should all be wary and on our guard for these scams. If you have older family members please make sure that you educate them about these issues.

What might seem obvious to you may not be so obvious to someone who is not as comfortable with technology.

I would be interested to hear if any of you have run across these type of scammers yourself or with family members?

Let me know in the comments.


Thank you for reading


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I prevented my mom from a hacker who was talking to her on Facebook messenger. It was really creepy because the hacker had assumed the identity of one of her real world friends. The hacker had made a duplicate FB account, using the identity of her friend, so she immediately accepted the friend request. As she was telling us what her friend was saying, she thought it was strange, but she almost fell for the scam. The "friend' was promising large amounts of money from a gov. program. Scary thing though is she was conversing with the scammer via messenger, and she believed it was her friend!!!!!
Once I started thinking about what she was doing, I knew it was a scammer. Then we reported this account to Facebook, and also tracked down the others who had befriended the scammer account. It was really spooky, but after we did all this, Facebook banned them.

I have also not allowed my parents to do anything without me reviewing everything first. I am on the extremely paranoid/cautious spectrum, and i just assume everything is a scam. Having an obsessive-compulsive personality actually comes in handy with security issues.

They are a lot smarter now, because I live by this rule:
Assume everyone is a scammer. Find evidence pointing otherwise. Trust very seldom. Even FB friends can be fake.

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That's quite scary. I've seen similar things happen to older people that I know. These people would never have fallen for such scams when they were younger.
It looks like this is just something which happens to us as we get older. Us steemit users wouldn't fall for any scams like this right now, but I wonder if we'll be more vulnerable after we're retired...

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Wow that is even more scary than the call centre thing. Do you have any idea what he was trying to do - this sounds a lot more sinister than the usual cold call method?

I think sadly nowadays it is best to assume everyone is a scammer until proven otherwise.

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given it was "money from a gov program" they were offering, they were probably the more... dark... kind of scammer.

I imagine they were aiming for full-on identity theft, by getting her to give social security number, bank details, etc... (seeing as government forms need so much information, it would seem "reasonable" to provide it to them)

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Right so maybe cloning the identity to take out loans and things, make false papers etc?

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Yup, and, being the little malicious monsters that they are, proceed to scam all her friends and family too if they can.

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a friend of mine has the same experience as Leah's parents - the worst part is they got to hack her FB and have asked a few of her friends to send money to that hackers account using her FB tsk tsk
modus operandis like this have no souls

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It's scary!

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.... Having an obsessive-compulsive personality actually comes in handy with security issues.(smiles) it sure dose my dear. am sure you still don't think that steemit is scam..? lol nice comment @stellabelle,this is the fifth comment of yours am reading in various posts and they have been really engaging. hope you don't mind if i follow you.

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i never thought steemit was a scam. I did my homework for 2 weeks solid (and slept very little).

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abi..is alright dear,was just being funny.

My elderly father has been scammed by the guys claiming to be from Microsoft. He had to pay them for some ridiculous antivirus software. Fortunately I found out soon after and managed to immediately get his computer cleaned of potential viruses and scanning software. I also complained to the payment processor (some variant of paypal) and managed to get them to refund the purchase. They still regularly phone him to try to scam him again, but he is now wiser. It is unbelievable what devious tricks people will resort to.

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Thanks for sharing your experience. Yes they are scumbags. I hope it didn't hit him too badly mentally.

Brilliant post! someone tried to scam my Mum one day, she let the other person get to the end of the call and then said okay, can you pop that all in a letter and once it comes i will confirm with customer support, the line went dead...

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Excellent! Good thing she wasted their time too.

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She is quite sensible when it comes to these things. Thankfully.

I joined a company like this as a part time job while I was in college. Initially I was told this is a tech support job which I believed. But on the very first day I found what they actually do and my conscience did not allow me to pursue with it and left it immediately.
They used to run the TREE command on CMD after getting the remote access, since the TREE command takes some time to execute they type something like LICENSE EXPIRED. PLEASE RENEW in the mean time.
Thats how they loot money from other people and the worst part is they have no sense of guilt for what they do.

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Well done for not joining in. Sadly some people do not have enough of a conscience.

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Thats really sad!

Unfortunately even the most intelligent people can get caught out on this. As former tech support, I try to warn my customers about this... But even then it may not be enough until they get done in the first time. One of my customers now had to lock their Web Bank and credit card because they took 10,000 from his account, and would have taken the whole near 80,000 over time if he hadn't noticed and put a hold on it.

Remember: Microsoft and your ISP will never call you and offer to fix your computer. Even at worst of times this is a paid service you should never allow anyone who is calling you to do. This article is dead on about how to protect yourself.

Put the proof of identity on them! They called you, they should be able to tell you your reference number and your IP Address at least. When in doubt, ask them for a call back number. Hang up, and do a search for that number. Call your provider directly and ask if it from them. At least then you know your talking to the real deal.

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Thank you. Those are excellent points. As in my case it doesn't take asking for much to get them to just hang up.

nice post @thecrypto,well here in Nigeria,we don't normally get scammer telling you to repair your PC rather what they normally do here is to go after your ATM pin and its the older people that also falls pry to this. i think the best way to cube this as you have rightly said is to educate and as much time as possible,waste their time over the phone if you have the time...still a newbie,will like to follow and tap from your wealth of experience.

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Cool thanks for commenting. So are these ATM scams big in Nigeria?

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yes kind of,but since most of them don't succeed,the numbers have reduced pulse ,there were and still is a lot of sensitization about it in many platforms;churches,schools,Facebook etc and i think such awareness can help in the united states.

Yeh it's something you do worry about with your parents. They've even tricked a couple of friends of mine with very clever sincere tactics. Sometimes I'm slightly fooled but I know generally not trust anyone calling or by email unless you contact them through official recognised means.

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Yes it is easy for people to get tricked.

Is it worth storing phone numbers on their phone from family and friends so that when they ring the name of the person displays? Anything else that displays without a pre-stored name...they can safely ignore. If it's a genuine call, they can leave a message for review later on with your help :-)

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That is a good point. Unfortunately sometimes legitimate businesses block their numbers too.

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My attitude these days is to screen every call. I never pick up when the landline phone rings and always wait for a review of messages at my own convenience. Chances are if it's a cold call, it's something you don't need.
Pests.

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Yes and I suspect if it is important they will leave a message.

This is very important advice. In Indo scammer makin a phone calls sayin that receiver won a contest. Ridicilous actions, sometimes they goin into trap.

If your parents need me to choke someone, I gladly will. Even if they don't need me to, I still gladly will.

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Thank you:)

Thanks for spreading the word. Resteeming.

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Thank you!

Nice post! Thanks. Please follow me: @martinst

I've had these calls I let then rattle on then say I don't understand can you repeat the instructions, I get a lot of fun out out it its there money there wasting

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True, I did that a few times myself.

I remember there being an online community dedicated to scam-baiting, though they apparently are getting pretty dark, nearly racist in their baitings, so the rest of the internet's kind of shunned them too.

I regularly get phone calls from Argentina, that just hang up near-immediately, even if I accidentally answer them.

Clearly trying to get me to call back, so probably a "pay-per-minute" number or something.

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They can be dangerous if you don't know what there up to, we need to make people away as @cryptfiend is doing as tell as many older people what to do

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Ditto! If I have the time, I'll lead them in a merry chase. If I don't have much time, I confront them directly. Pissed off one dude so much he switched his spoof number to MY home number. Not bright, bozo, you just outed yourself as a scam.

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There idiots and so easily caught out

My son worked for a computer repair company for a few years. He told me that they had a huge amount of people bringing their computers in because of one similar scam that was going around. He said that they would get a call from someone claiming to be with Mircosoft and that they detected a problem with their computers. They would gain access to all the files within the computer and then lock it up so that the person wouldn't be able to even log on.
Seriously terrible to prey on the elderly. I'm glad your parents have you to help them out with this sort of thing.

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Yes these people have no conscience.

Calls from The Windows Technical Department.. the Microsoft Operating system.

I mean has anyone ever since windows 3.1 received a call from The Windows operating system ?

I've had quite a few of these calls and they're really crap but I can see people getting sucked in. I even recorded one call where I spoke to a guy at length.

they'll tell you your computer is full of JUNK files and they'll ask you to perform a command which will basically show your temp store..

here's a useful link to an article from pcadvisor

http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/how-to/security/microsoft-phone-scam-dont-be-victim-tech-support-call-3378798/

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Great reminder... the PSA of the day! My 76 Year old mother says computers will be the downfall of civilization... so, she's not at risk, she doesn't use them. ;) My dad, you don't want to get my dad on the phone and try to get him to do something on the computer, he'll give you an earful and hang up. :)

But for most elderly people this is a very real concern! I wish I saw more public service announcements aimed at old people with computers... it's not fair, they grew up in such 'relatively' innocent times.

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Yes absolutely. I think it is up to us to help protect them. Even my grandmother is on Facebook now!

I need to write about my mom's experience with being tricked on Facebook. I bet it happens a lot to older people.

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You should it is not something I have heard before.

Congratulations @thecryptofiend!
Your post was mentioned in my hit parade in the following category:

  • Upvotes - Ranked 10 with 515 upvotes

How to fight them: #9 troll the hell out of them until they beg for mercy!
Awesome article!

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Yes that is one way. Thanks!

Good Point and important advice.
Thanks For Sharing

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Thank you!

Luckily german is such a difficult language. These type of scams never occured to me or any of my relatives. But I do get sometimes annoyed by companies who are surveying about "reach of radio stations" -_-
I just don't answer blocked calls or numbers that I don't know.
Never had a problem :)

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I do the same quite often. I suspect as we get better translation tools using AI they might start using some form of AI based robocalls to do something similar.

They do it every day - i have some of them calling me since one year - 3 of them, every day lol

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That's annoying!

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Indeed - i simply ignore it but it could be dangerous for others - my mom also was getting some spam / scam calls and letters by police institution - that is scary especially when your mom has never used internet or mobile, older people are targeted currently which is a real shame and these guys should get ...hmmm i do not write it

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Yes they are scumbags. Those old people may not have much money anyway and these kind of things can be very traumatic for them.

I agree, this is huge problem and there are not easy solutions to this problem. Education and Awareness are the best in long term.

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Yes I think that even then people can get caught out.

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so maybe you can create few checklists... where you can describe potential problems, common solutions and what we should be care about. Then for each "case" we will be prepared, what do you think about it? Something similar to "talk scripts"

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I think the problem is there is no way to cover every situation otherwise someone would already have done it.

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You have right. Do you think police had written all special cases and ways thieves are works?

Good article even as a warning to others

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Thank you:)

Great insight dear! We should be more aware!

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Thanks! Yes for sure.

I use a app on my cell phone called "Hiya", Its a caller blocker and caller ID lookup. It blocks numbers you would wan to avoid like tele markets and scammers, it also includes other peoples comments and concerns on phone numbers. You should definitely check it out to avoid scam callers. Its free in the app store .

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Cool thanks for the tip!

Wonder how long till we get a Hacker group together that actually wants to track down confirmed scammers, instead of just playing at hacking any and every big target they see XS

We could use some kind of online task force that gathers evidence against scammers, sloooowly triangulating where they are, then suddenly destroys everything they own, steals all their data and money, and proceeds to figure out who got scammed and reimburse them.

Not legal at ALL, but I imagine such a task-force probably already exists for the very rich who get scammed...

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That sounds like a movie idea too!

indeed...the criminals are taking advantages of technology...there was risk for all of us when we used it.....nice post...deserve my upvote and resteem ....my friend...

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you are welcome...my friend...keep steeming post....will always support your posts.

yeah i also get a phone call from fake iso departmant

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they told me that they detacte many virus in my pc and you have to pay for 100dollar to clear and fix you windows virus free but i ignored that and ask some experts they told me it was a prank fake call from uk

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Right yes it is the typical thing they do/

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why are they do all this things ??

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So they can scam people out of money.

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ooh thats why they asking for my credit card

These people have no remorse. You've done right with them

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Yes they know what they are doing is wrong.

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I really really hate scammers when I came to crypto about 3 months ago I lost about 200$ in scam sites that day I decided that I will make people aware of these scammers. After 20 days later. Someone invited me to a program on telegram. And I know that's gonna be scam . So I decided to expose them. About 16k people have joined and invested. Soon One of their officials messaged me about what I have to do to become rich here are screenshots

Screenshot_20170515-094651.png

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Then I pm as many people as I could to not invest in this shit. Most of em don't believe me because they are brainwashed

I only say that it's a masterpiece of writing on life. Excellent.

wow nice memes. upvoted :)

And if you want then plz upvote this comment & help me to win the nomination
https://steemit.com/steemvoter/@steemvoter/steemvoter-guild-nominate-a-friend-for-the-guild-vote-monday-june-5#@arnob/re-steemvoter-steemvoter-guild-nominate-a-friend-for-the-guild-vote-monday-june-5-20170605t192330296z

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ah! thank you for supporting me :)

Here in Argentina is a classic, the usual exploiters, even here, but a family member had an accident and sent for all the money that is in the house the poor old people believe in this, agree to receive the Supposed friend of his relative and deliver the money.
These operations is very common here, thank you very much dear friend @thecryptofiend for sharing this material

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Sorry to hear that. You are welcome!

nice post....

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There is a special place in hell for people who target the elderly. My grandmother was recently targeted by the IRS phone scam. Knowing full well she didn't owe any money she replied "I don't owe you shit" and hung up.

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Yes. She sounds cool!

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Tough as they come. She grew up during the great depression so nothing really fazes her. :)

good nice @tantawi

I hate scammers they are calling me almost everyday to invest in trading, I don't know where did they get my number and they call from defferent numbers, I just hate them always angry when they call !

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Yes nuisance calls of all types are a big problem. I think some companies sell this information.

Great information and warning. I don't answer my land line any more because it was always some of this garbage to deal with and we are on the "No call" list!

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Good policy.

We had a massive problem in my country about this. They were targeting seniors that needed medical help. Supposedly they were requesting half the money for a given operation or bogus medicine that would help them recover. They stole 100's of thousands in a period of 5 months.

Eventually one was caught and the others stopped.

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Interesting. I think once the authorities start cracking down they modify the scam to something slightly different.

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Small place here. Nowhere to run :D

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I'll read it eventually. Great looking post. How do you do the text under the picture?

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It's easy just copy the formatting in this post: https://steemit.com/steemit/@steemitblog/new-advanced-formatting-features

It has the text included in the little section for photos - you just need to type it in.

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Ah! I remember that post. I didn't realized it was that easy. Hey by the same token do you know how to show those code so that they aren't "executed". They are shown in a rectangle but these aren't executed or else they wouldn't appear. I'm not sure how clear I am.

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I understand what you are saying. I still haven't figured that out myself. I just screenshot them in textwrangler or notepad +++ but I'm sure there must be some way to do it in markdown too.

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Awesome. I'll ask some of those dudes we kind of think they would know those kind of nerdy stuff. Take cake @thecryptofiend!

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Please let me know if you get it figured out. Would be useful and time saving thing for tutorials. Take care mate!

One of the local friends received a similar call about their computer being at grave risk. He kept them chatting for quite a while, then told them that he didn't have a computer, but the police should have traced the call by now. Quickest hang up you ever had after that comment.

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His other trick with the over the phone sellers is to ask them to hang on for a moment while he does something that can't wait. Puts the phone down and goes to the toilet. They have gone by the time he gets back.

This could not be more accurate! The best thing to do is ignore these calls!

I have told my parent s for hundred times not to trust any call from stranger, luckily they learned my advice :)

I am currently working in a call center myself for SKY YK. We are actually an inbound center, we don't really make calls, the tech support.
But yeah actually a lot of people I talk to report this thing too. Especially in the UK its something of a new trend which is really sad.

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Yes and I can imagine it makes life a lot harder for genuine call centres like yours.

Brilliant post although maybe a little lengthy :)

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Thanks - yes they always seem to get long!