Microsoft phone scam: How to beat the scammer?

May 6, 2014 2 Comments

Have you heard of the Microsoft phone scam? My father hadn’t!

The Rascal had just started lashing into his dinner of pasta while I stirred the rest and added the adult-only extras. With typical timing, my phone started ringing. It was my father. “Some Chinese person from Microsoft rang me to say that our PC had been left on for a couple of days…”, he started to tell me. Internally I groaned and kicked myself because I’d noticed it was on standby the day before when I dropped in to check on him, but had assumed he’d been using it. It happens to be one of those rare occasions when my mother is away for a long weekend. She must have accidentally left the PC on in her rush out the door to make a flight. This left only my technically inept father in the house to take any dodgy phone calls and potentially be taken advantage of by unscrupulous strangers. Not a good situation.  “Hold on a minute though”, I thought, thinking of all the times I tried (in person) to talk my father through basic steps using much simpler devices like a Kindle. It’s inevitably a very painful discussion that will be repeated many times in the future. I can barely coach him on how to turn something on, let alone download dodgy software or remember simple passwords. So what are the chances of a someone managing to talk him through anything suspicious over the phone? Probably quite remote.

It took about 3 seconds for me to process this and tune back in as he described how since the call he had been trying to put the machine into standby until he got a chance to ask me about it. I breathed a sigh of relief that this was his main question about the whole thing, lifted an impatiently squawking the Rascal out of his highchair, and left him to roam about with an already empty bowl. The savage. After ten minutes of talking my Dad through how to shut down the damn computer, I interrogated him on what exactly had been said on this phone call, and what steps he had or hadn’t taken as a result. It was like trying to understand a conversation that has been translated into one language after another several times. By the sounds of it, our intrepid scammer hadn’t even managed to get my father to the computer, let alone click on anything suspicious. My father is an expert at deflecting people that call to the door, or ring on the phone until he can let my mother deal with them. If the health insurance company won’t talk to my mother on the phone because she’s not the policy holder, they’ll waste a few minutes on each and every question as he goes off to ask her when WERE his kids all born anyway? It sounds like Mr Scammer got a good old yarn about where the wife and kids were, and how completely bamboozled my father is when it comes to that computer thingy. Maybe Mr Scammer should call back tomorrow to talk to someone else.  Even without being told by me that this was a scam (Microsoft would never, ever ring someone out of the blue and they wouldn’t know if the PC was on or not), my father is predisposed to making a caller’s life miserable until they go away and stop bothering him.

Mr Scammer 0 – 1 Dad. I would feel sorry for Mr Scammer, only what kind of scum Computermakes these calls and hopes to latch onto a vulnerable elderly person and con them out of whatever they can? They deserve the worst they can be given. It’s one reason why we don’t bother with a landline in our home. We’d rarely use it, and just be plagued with cold calls. In fact we often don’t answer the front door for the same reason if we’re not expecting anyone. I mentioned this incident on Facebook to my friends.  Not surprisingly, phone scammers and cold callers hold a special place near the top of everyone’s hate list. I’ve heard of some interesting methods for dealing with them ranging from dragging out an inane conversation for as long as you can, to keeping a whistle by the phone for a speedy and satisfying result. How do you deal with unwanted strangers harassing you in your own home?