The Computer Corner

REG COMPUTERS

By Charles Miller

 

Fake Technical Support

 

Last week in this column, I related the experience one of my clients had with one of the fake technical support companies that advertise on the Internet that they are “authorized” support for many different companies. Much to my client’s credit, she was alert and when the people to whom she spoke started asking her for personal information and trying to sell her a yearly technical support plan for many hundreds of dollars, she wisely ended the call. I have read stories of how some of these companies are fronts for thieves and cybercriminals, so I was determined to get the goods on them.

I set up one laptop isolated from my network except for another laptop, which was running WireShark to capture network traffic so I could see what connections they used to my computer. Drawing on my Community Theater experience of years ago, I played the role of a computer-phobic octogenarian who was calling for help: “Is this Netflix?” I asked. The lady answered: “We can help you with Netflix.” Notice the craftily worded response. I told them I could not get Netflix to work on my Smart TV.

Their “techs” tried to talk me through using fastsupport.com, support.me, and supremocontrol.com, all of which are legitimate software providers of remote control services for computers. I am familiar with all three of those products and do not believe any of them to contain any ability to perform a file transfer or any program execution without the client (me) seeing what is happening on the screen. The “techs” with whom I spoke only tried to address my fictitious television problem using my computer.

Prior to phoning I had created desktop shortcuts to “Smith Barney Wealth Management,” “Chase Bank,” and “ING” but the tech who worked with me did not take the bait. Even when I rambled about my grandson taking the yacht out to stay away from the hurricane that did not provoke any change in their focus.

Much to my surprise, I did not observe anything at all suspicious in what the “techs” did while connected to my test computer online. Moreover, my WireShark packet sniffing did not show any network traffic out of the ordinary either during or after the calls. What they (the three different “techs” I exasperated) did was to tolerate my buffoonery while making a lame effort to resolve my fictitious Netflix problem. Remember, I called for help with a smart TV but they spent all this time in my computer.

In the end, I had to come to the conclusion that I was wrong about these people being engaged in financial fraud. It is true they use deceptive advertising hoping to fool potential customers into believing they have reached technical support at Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, etc. They are fishing for gullible computer users willing to pay hundreds of dollars for mediocre tech support. All of that is disreputable, but it is not criminal.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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