Scammers try to connect me to the “Rescue Machine of Telstra”

It is a common scam for people to ring you up claiming to be from Microsoft or Telstra (or another major corporation that sounds plausible). They tell you your computer and/or internet connection has a problem, and it needs to be fixed or your internet connection will be cut off, or that something else bad will happen.

They then try to walk you through the steps to enable them to take over your computer, or install software that captures your credit card number, or a variation on these.

Microsoft has a good article on these scams.

I never get these, but M+J do on their number, quite often, and today I got to take such a call.

The man claimed to be from Telstra. The background noise of a call centre was audible (during one pause I heard another operator asking “Are you from Hyderabad?”).

I played along for a bit.

He said there was a problem with my “computer internet connection”, claimed “Telstra” had sent us a warning about it, and that we would shortly be disconnected from the internet if it wasn’t resolved.

He tried to get me to open a Windows command prompt and type ASSOC. This is something to do with file associations, no doubt as a first step to something more sinister, but at this point I told them that I was using Linux. (This was the truth — I had my old laptop in front of me, which dual-boots; I normally use Linux because it’s faster.)

At that point he said he’d transfer me to a supervisor. This took a minute or two, then a second man tried to get me to go to the Team Viewer web site and use the “Join remote control session” (eg install the Team Viewer client)…

He said I would need to connect to the “Rescue Machine Of Telstra” (very impressive-sounding — he used this phrase twice) which would provide protection for my computer.

He tried to convince me that once I connected, I would see a Telstra logo, proving it was legitimate.

Yeah right.

I moved into sceptical territory, and asked why, if as he claimed they knew all about my computer, his colleague hadn’t known I was using Linux instead of Windows.

The reply: “He’s my junior; he doesn’t know anything.” !

At this point I’d strung them along for about fifteen minutes, as I’d been interested to hear what they said, and it was quite entertaining. But I had a hot cup of tea waiting for my attention, so I terminated the call.

But no doubt some people fall for this. As the Microsoft web site notes, the consequences can be serious. They might:

Trick you into installing malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. They might also then charge you to remove this software.

Convince you to visit legitimate websites to download software that will allow them to take control of your computer remotely and adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable.

Request credit card information so they can bill you for phony services.

Direct you to fraudulent websites and ask you to enter credit card and other personal or financial information there.

So, be wary of any of these types of calls, and make sure your less-computer-savvy friends and relatives are also made aware.

In fact, to help limit any damage from any type of malware (be it via a phone scam, or a dodgy email, or an infected web site) it doesn’t hurt to ensure that home computers are set up so that no users have administrator access, and only an experienced computer user has the administrator password.