The phone rings.
I don't know if you've had bad experiences with phone cards, where one party can't hear a thing and the other party's shouting "hello" until their face turns blue but when I picked up the phone, it was kinda like that. There wasn't a dial tone or static.. just silence. Nobody said hello back. It was kind of annoying after the third time it happened, not to mention a tad creepy at that stage. But then, this voice answers back. A voice with Indian-accented English telling me it belonged to John Smith and he was asking for a Mrs. Lee.
*keep your mind open, keep it open. don't judge too fast, don't jump to any conclusions. be nice to the telemarketer and then hang up soon*
So John Smith tells me he's returning a call for a technical assistance request coming from my computer. I told him I've never lodged such a request before and asked how he got my number. He misunderstood, or misheard me and was incredulous that I had no computer. *shrug* What the heck, why not? I went along with that and said he must have gotten the wrong number because I didn't have a computer, so why would I lodge a technical assistance request?
The scary part was that he was able to read out my phone number, initial and last name, and my street address. Now that got my attention. I had to find out where he got my info. I knew they were shady because a lot of things didn't make sense, telling me to run programs because I had spyware on my computer that couldn't be eradicated via anti-spyware software or deletion of the files - that only specialized people could remove it. Bullshit. Alarm bells were having a field day in my head. The long and short of it was that I had fun driving them insane but I was still a tad freaked after the call. If they were really legit, which I highly doubt, then they really need to work on establishing their credibility quick smart.
So all these things didn't add up. I pushed all their buttons and John eventually got fed up, put me on hold and the next thing I knew, there was another guy with Indian-accented English on the phone with me who introduced himself as the supervisor.
John had wanted me to type in "prefetch spyware" in my Windows start menu run prompt. He treated me like an idiot and spelt it all out - "peter robert echo flow-.." you get the point. I was feeling a tad mean.. and I did tune out halfway through because I got bored. So I got John to repeat it all again halfway through. Googled it at the same time mind you, but I wasn't about to go run some program - legit or not - just because some stranger calls up and tells me to. Who knows if it's gonna trigger some remote-access thing, or if reading whatever pops up on my screen to them will give them further information about my system at the very least.
And I just keep saying yes, I got what he spelt out. He asked what operating system I'm using and I refused to answer that too. Shouldn't he know what OS I'm using if he indeed received an error report from my computer? I asked him that, and he wouldn't answer my question and just kept repeating his question. (Granted, I appreciate that some error messages don't specify OS and other information but I was very loathe to reveal any information to the guy anyway).
Seeing that we were going around in circles, I bluntly told him I refuse to run any program until he tells me what the program is supposed to do, and what I'm supposed to see. The guy kept asking me to read out what was on my screen! This is when he got fed up and the "supervisor" got called in.
The guy was a lot more fun to talk to. So much so, that he got really agitated and tried to intimidate me. Professional.
Supervisor (S): What do you see on your screen?
me: What do you mean?
S: What do you see on your screen?me: What do you mean? I don't see anything unusual.
S: What do you see on your screen?
me: I'm sorry, I don't understand. Am I supposed to see anything?
S: What do you see on your screen?
me: (grinning by now) I don't see anything! I don't understand. What am I supposed to see? I haven't done anything yet.
S: silence. The previous guy told you to type in prefetch spyware. Did you not do that?
me: No. I told him I wouldn't do it until he told me what I was supposed to see, and what the program is supposed to do.S: Why didn't you do what he said? Run the program!
me: What am I supposed to see on my screen when I run the program?
S: Type in prefetch spyware and tell me what you see in the window that pops up
I forget how the conversation went exactly but here's the gist of it...At some point in the conversation, we get back to how they ended up with my details again. He revealed that they apparently received these error reports and will randomly chase a customer up sporadically, getting their contact details off the white pages. (As for that, it's utter crap. I went to look myself up on the white pages - they got my address correct, which creeps me out because my details are wrongly listed on the white pages.)
me: So you're telling me I have spyware and you want to get rid of it for me. So what kind of file names am I looking for after I run the prefetch?
S: Any sort of programs. Exe files, PDFs..
me: So if you received a technical error report saying that spyware caused my Windows error, can you tell me what the spyware is so I can deal with it?
S: You need to run the program and then tell me what you see on your screen!me: So you're telling me that my problem is that I have spyware on my computer and you want to tell me how to fix it.
S: You have spyware on your computer. Now do you think this is a good thing? It may contain all your credit card numbers, passwords and other information about you. Now, you you think it is a good idea to have this on your computer so hackers can extract the information at any time?me: So you're telling me that my problem is that I have spyware on my computer and you want to tell me how to fix it, right? Then can you please tell me what spyware I need to look for and I'll deal with it. I have anti-virus protection that is up to date and am very aware of what is on my computer.
S: You think you can just delete it and that's the end of your problem. You think that your antivirus software will find it? (I was thinking to myself - well, Microsoft Security Essentials has deemed my computer safe and if you're calling from any branch of Microsoft, you would think you wouldn't rat out your own anti-virus program...) They can't find these spyware. You think you update the anti-virus program and you'll be fine but you're also downloading new virus files into your computer.
Mind you, I was getting more and more amused as his voice got louder and higher the more he ranted. So I let him go on for a bit. I stayed firmly obstinate but polite and kept thanking him, and that I'll fix the problem. It irritated him to no end.. to the point where he challenged me, asking if I worked in the IT industry, lol. I denied that, and man, you should've heard him go off! He ranted that if I thought all computer problems could be fixed by the user, then what did I think tech support was for. I reminded him that I didn't solicit this call, but thank you for alerting me to my problem and I will deal with it.
He gave up and hung up.
I must admit, I would have sounded like a horrible little prat but to my defence, I did explain my attitude to the guy. I know I didn't need to but I did. Did they think I would willy-nilly run things on my computer based on what they told me? In all the years (we're talking since Windows 3.1 here) that Windows has failed me with errors and BSODs, not to mention the numerous error reports automatically sent (no, didn't disable it after my most recent reformat and install), why would I suddenly get a phone call from tech support now? Or that their tech support customer database is reliant on http://whitepages.com.au. Now, really. The guy just talked over me when I brought up all these points in my attempt to tell him I don't trust him. Ah well. Live and learn.
My only regret is that I didn't take down their phone number. It's the only thing I always forget to do until hindsight kicks in. Poo.