These generic error messages spell my DOOOOOM!

Beware cold calls from people claiming to be from Microsoft about problems with your computer.

I got a fun phone call this evening. The number was blocked and my initial reaction was to not answer it, but my boss is in town and the phones at work don’t always show up properly on my phone’s caller ID so I went against my better judgement and answered it. The man on the other end of the line had a very thick Indian accent and sounded like he was working in a call center. He claimed to be an official Microsoft Technical Support technician and that they had been alerted to problems with my PC that could result in “very bad” crashes that could result in “total loss of all data.”

Naturally I was very concerned about this newly discovered risk and he helpfully offered to show me where on my computer I could see for myself the dozens of error messages they had been receiving through a “web server” (you could almost hear the double quotes in the way he said it). He had me sit down in front of my PC (I was already there) and gave me step-by-step instructions on how to launch the Event Viewer in Windows. Therein he directed me to the Custom Views and Administrative Events log where there were, indeed, dozens and dozens of error messages and warnings including some that were critical! Oh my!

These generic error messages spell my DOOOOOM!

This is why, he explained as though I were a five-year-old, that my computer was at risk and that I had hit the limit which triggered their contacting me. Not to fear, they could assist in fixing the problem! He asked if I had Internet Explorer, I said I do, so he instructed me to go to a webpage where I should download a product called Ammyy Admin 3 (it’s free!) which would allow them to assist me directly.

It was at this point that I informed him that I was a computer technician myself and that I knew there wasn’t anything wrong with my computer and that they weren’t receiving notifications through a “web server” of problems I might be having and… that’s when he hung up on me.

Now it appears that the Ammyy Admin 3 software is a legitimate product used by a number of folks that asshole scammers have latched onto for this cold calling scam because it’s free and allows them to take control of your PC once it’s installed. There’s even a forum thread on their site about this scam. Not to mention that if you Google the URL you were given you find that immediately after the link to the Ammyy software homepage are links to people reporting on this scam. Word has it that if you go along with the scam they’ll show you some more generic error messages in the Event Viewer logs and tell you it’s because your system is infected with a virus and then they’ll take you to a website where they’ll try to get you to buy an anti-virus software package that probably doesn’t do jack shit. The details vary as does the software — this account from another support professional back in 2005 said they used a remote desktop package called Teamviewer — but the scam is the same. Show you some scary looking logs and convince you to buy their bullshit software.

Here’s the thing, at any given point in time the Event Viewer is almost always going to be chock full of error messages. That’s just the nature of the Windows beast. If you’re familiar with the Event Viewer then it’s not too difficult to figure out that most of these aren’t anything to be concerned about, but for the average Jane or Joe it can look pretty alarming. Folks have said that once they take control of your PC they’ll also do stupid things like list the files in your Temp or Prefetch folder and then tell you that those files are the result of spyware or a virus. Again, if you’re not that familiar with how Windows works it could look pretty scary. One red flag that you’re being bullshitted is the fact that they have you download a free third-party Remote Desktop tool. Windows already has a Remote Desktop tool built in along with a Remote Assistance tool which Microsoft would probably make use of if it was really Microsoft. Which it isn’t because Microsoft would never call you for something like this.

As near as I can tell, the scammers aren’t using the opportunity of having full access to your computer to steal your personal information (e.g. documents, credit card numbers, bank passwords, etc.) but I didn’t dig into too many of the websites that are talking about this so I can’t say for sure that they aren’t. Needless to say, once you’ve given them access to your machine you should probably consider it comprised badly enough to back up your data, erase your hard drive, and reinstall everything from scratch. Hopefully you’ll have read this first and will recognize these assholes when they come calling.

51 comments

  1. I almost wish I would get one of those calls. I could have some fun with them since I use Linux Mint Debian Edition as my main OS. Since there is no way they could get me to the event viewer I would read some entries from /var/log/messages back to them just to fuck with them.

  2. How coincidental, I got one of these calls just last week. Indian accent, call center background noise, claims about Microsoft being alerted about something wrong with my computer, all of it. I gave the caller about 30 seconds, then told him he was full of shit and he hung up on me. I just wish I knew which company sold my phone number…

  3. There is another similar scam currently going on. However, this one involves SKYPE. you receive a call from Skype error protection where a computer voice message tells you to go and download an antivirus program. the program is malware.

  4. We get these calls constantly..it is so irritating. I now tell them I don’t have a computer, when they sound surprised, and they always do…I then tell them that I don’t have a phone either.

  5. hahah i got a call similar to that last month. But it was a lady with an indian accent.
    She said she was from the Windows Company and my computer will show error messages soon because when i go on the internet it downloads error messages. And then it’ll crash blah blah blah.

    I told her i already have an antivirus thing to protect my computer, and she reckons the thing wont help my computer and it’ll still crash. I kept on hesitating to believe her and she started speaking a bit violent. She kept telling me all this weird facts so i said I DONT CARE IF MY COMPUTER BREAKS and so the lady hanged up.

  6. I thought I’d mention that my wife and my father both got a call from these jerks today at almost the exact same time. Somehow they had my father’s name, which I didn’t much care for.

    Oh, and Lillith, you made us laugh. Thank you.

  7. I love these calls!

    I ask them,

    “Before we continue, I need to ask you some security questions. Full name, address, postal code, bank account no, sort code, latest transactions. neighbour’s name, neighbour’s address, neighbour’s phone, name of cat, name of dog,” on and on and on and on…

    :)

  8. I recieved a call of such a nice Indian chap, who I enjoyed playing fool with. He saying press central key and windows key and I was saying yeah, I’ve done that and screen popped but in truth not even got my laptop near me. In the end he said do you think I’m a fool sitting at a desk and called me a “motherfucker” and put the phone down, don’t be fooled!

  9. Just received the same call from a Delhi gentleman telling me that he was from the technical dept. ‘for automatic Windows opening’ (…WTF?)

    After informing him that I was quite happy with my manual opening system of using my arms to open the windows he said with some urgency that my computer had a ‘Many critical errors! And could ‘CRASH AT ANY MOMENT!’
    I told him not to worry as my computer has airbags and side impact protection, so we would all be safe in the event of a collision. Phew!

    When I asked how he got my number he hung up! Shame I was really enjoying our chat and was going to offer my bank account details and sort code so he could go buy something pretty as a thank you.

    Do people really fall for this bollocks??

  10. i just turn some music and put him on hold, then say i on the other line with Microsoft, its funny to hear him panic

  11. If they are from India, say something incredibly offensive about one of their gods, that’ll get them to not only hang up but quit and fly to the US to beat you to death with a stick

    OKOK haha jus’ kiddin’ I’m a nice girl but it is interesting to contemplate how seriously people take religion over there..And elsewhere.. See Les’ post about that guy being tried for blasphemy for the toilet-water-miracle-cross incident

  12. Well these guys are still at it. Some guy with a thick accent called me also. When I started questioning him, he hung up on me. Do they really think we are idiots?

  13. can/should we report this somewhere? I’ve been called twice (that I know of)… can it be traced or is it just going to be a bother?

  14. Laurie, you could try filing a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The IC3 (as it’s called) is a joint effort by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center to deal with issues like this. I have no idea how effective they are at putting a stop to stuff like this — most of these criminals are overseas and hard to prosecute — but all it takes to file a report is time.

  15. I have had 2 calls from an Indian gentleman, claiming my computer is infected, just like everyone elses. Tried to get me to open the Events Viewer, but I played dumb for a while and got more details from him.
    I have a phone number and website belonging to this so called, virus cleanser.
    Called him myself and explained that I was worried that my kids computers were probably infected as well, he was delighted!!!
    Asked him if I should be worried about the playstation and xbox as well. But he didn’t go for that and said they should be fine.
    He is calling me tomorrow, when I have all my computer gear ready for inspection. I’ll tell him my Vtech Mobigo may be infected, because it keeps crashing. http://www.vtechkids.com.au/mobigo.asp

    I believe I should be fine posting his details, as he is a “legitimate Windows authorised software engineer” as he said.
    So posting his details will help people, won’t it? I am sure he will be happy for the business.

    W: http://pcsittings.com
    E: info@pcsittings.com
    AUS 08 7200 1191
    Canada 704 325 9110
    NZL 04 889 0017
    UK- 0151 324 1911
    USA- 704 325 9110
    DENMARK- 045 3698 1163

    I got him on the Aussie number.

    So if anyone has any serious virus problems to deal with, or you just want to check the time in India, off you go.

  16. A few minutes ago I got the very same call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft. They did lead me to the Administrative Events window where I see a mass of error messages. Next they instructed me to go to showmypc.com. That is a program where others can take total control of your computer. When I got to that site and saw what it was, no way was I going to click on that button.

    Today is 8-17-12 and they are still at it.

    I am so grateful that my son had told me about these kinds of sites, explained how they work and told me that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES was I EVER to allow ANYONE access to my computer.

    If you get a call, hang up and call someone that you know and trust.

  17. I got a call from these people recently, they became angry when I said I knew what I was talking about and started to threaten my wife and kids, saying they wanted to put a certain part of their anatomy in my wife and kids mouths. Very hostile and scary.

  18. I have had this call several times. Each time I start by asking them which operating system I am running. One time they guessed W7, but in fact I use XP – end of conversation! Om another occasion, I said I use Linux (actually I use both Linux and XP) and they rang off.

    This last time, I let the scam go on for a bit, and let them take me to my event viewer. I thought I would make sure they were not trying to point out a specific fault – perhaps related to some denial of service robot, or whatever. However, all the errors in the log were serious, and needed their attention!

    I hung up, and they actually rang me back, and passed me to “the manager”, who spoke less accented English! I guess they don’t get many people who let them go as far as I did, so they thought it was worth ringing me back. However, when I resisted, they became remarkably abusive – I guess it is just their way of letting off steam – their job must be incredibly stressful!

    Even so, this is a really evil scam. My mother-in-law used to use a computer for email and the web, long past the point where she couldn’t reliably handle deliberate scams like this – she would keep asking why she had got an email message from RMS (say), when she didn’t bank with them :( She could have certainly been fooled by this.

  19. I have had these calls numerous times. Sometimes I string them along if I have time. Other times I just hang up on them, or they hang up on me when I tell them I do not use windows.
    Does anyone know of a really funny way of dealing with them. I’d like to have a good laugh whilst they are wasting our time.
    Lillith. Thats a good one.

  20. I had the same call today at 1:00 pm 12/19.2012. This Indian person told me to go to the event window and look at a couple of things. He gave the same load of hog wash. I told him that there was no way my computer will get slower and it is not slow now and I am computer savey so I will not want anything from you. I hung up and about 5 min later he called again I just let it rang. Next time I stage a crime scene on the phone.

  21. Exactly the same just happened to me 17:00 today. Ridiculous. Asked for his details; his name is Max, based in Liverpool, company called PC Settings (which there is no information online available other than this thread and similar) and he asked to hit the command panel and remote in. TRUST NOT THE INDIAN MAN FROM LIVERPOOL CALLED MAX WHO WORKS FOR PC SETTINGS!

  22. I think the company name was PC Sittings which has a real website. I won’t link to it as they seem to be the heart of the scam.

    Basically they rang me and I played dumb for a little while. The lady told me that she worked for PC Sittings. When I hung up from her, I rang them back and they picked up where she left off.

    Don’t trust PC Sittings!

  23. I´ve got this call today morning. Young lady with indian accent. I told her I am not close to my computer she said immediately go and reapir it or it will crash.

  24. Thanks for posting your message Les. I received a message from the same scammers (pc sittings) two days ago with the same story you outlined above.. ie the eventvwr file. I know a bit (just a bit) about computers but found the story quite alarming.. Consumer affairs calls this “1) misleading and deceptive conduct.. and 2) False and misleading representation. They will be calling me back in a couple of days in the hope of securing my visa number. I think I’ll have a word or two or three or four with them. But again thanks for your alert – it does confirm my suspicions at their first call.

  25. Had a call from these scammers today. Asked for the callers details, Martin David (quite an anglo sounding name for someone with a heavy Indian accent), from PC Sittings on 08 72001191, I kept asking silly questions…. what’s your marketing directors contact details, do you have a head of publicity. He hung up, I rung back, the person answered said company was Win Online Support, asked for Martin, said the line must of dropped out, starting asking questions again, he swore at me so I asked for manager. Spoke to an Allan Smith, Steve Slater and then a Mick Crompton…… All had heavy Indian accents and I managed to annoy all of them enough so they swore and/or hung up. That’s the fourth time we’ve taken a call from these guys. I’m hoping that they will put a note next to our name saying- ANNOYING! Don’t ring! It did bother me that they had our address though…..

  26. I have been getting these calls, received one today 4/20/2013. Ask the caller how he knew my computer was having problems. I had a witness to their last call, in which I told them not to call again. Today, I let him have it. Told him I was calling the FCC, FTC, and any other government agency that I could and I would see him in court. I am on the Do not call registry, for all the good that does. Thinking of having my phone number changed, or I may start playing mind games with them like some of the rest of you have done. I am sick and tired of these calls. Why can’t the government stop these calls. They do have heavy foreign (Indian) accent. Would love to meet up with them face to face..

  27. They sound Indian because the scam operates out of India. They may tell you that they have local offices, but they are just phone numbers manned by someone in on the scam.

  28. I just wish someone would stop them from making these calls, very annoying, I am planning my strategy for how I will deal with their next call.

  29. I got one of those just now. I’m hardly a tech-savvy person, but I remembered reading about this sort of scam earlier and picked up pretty quickly. For me, the red flags were:

    1.) I was pretty darned sure Microsoft wouldn’t call our house about error messages unless someone in my family contacted them first, and I was also pretty darned sure no one did that (if a computer was so badly screwed up that we needed to call tech support, SOMEONE would have mentioned it to me). I also knew for a fact that none of our computers were so badly virused up that flipping Microsoft would notice without someone contacting them.

    2.) The phone connection kept cutting out, so I could hardly make out what the guy was saying (and the heavy Indian accent wasn’t really helping). Kid you not, I missed his entire spiel about the “problems” with my computer, because I was only getting every third word or so, that’s how bad our connection was. Because I was talking on our reliable house phone and not a cell, I knew the issue was at his end. I was pretty darned sure if Microsoft was actually calling, they’d put a little more effort into customer service. Like, you know, making sure the customers could actually GET it.

  30. I, thankfully, have not received another call, since my previous post, when I told them I had a witness to me telling them not to call me again or I would see them in court. If I ever get another call, I will do everything in my power to see them in court. This has to stop. Les, I am so glad that you run this site, thanks for letting all of us share our various experiences with these idiots.

  31. May 2 – 2013

    I just got a call from these scammers as well.

    Thanks for websites like this, where you can type in “scam” and then the first 5 words the scammers say “there is a problem with your computer”.

    He told me, in a very bad accent, that my computer was crashing his server. I’m not an I.T. guy, but i told him I thought that was impossible.

    Then he said, like 13 things, and I could not understand him.

    I then told him to stop speaking, because i couldn’t understand his thick Pakistani accent. He became aggressive, and I laughed at him. When I spoke, I could hear the echo of my own voice, as if it were a time delay. Then there was a ton of static, and he hung up on me.

    Again…. thank you for websites like this. The more people talk about how people try to scam people, the easier it is for people to search it, and realize its a scam.

    If you get an experience like this… type about it… even if it’s just some keywords the call center used, so that if others “google” the keywords, they will realize its a scam. I’m sure they have 3 or 4 “scripts” but they arent creative enough for more than that. The more we expose their scam online, the less likely they scam one of our friends or family.

  32. I had a sililar incident…except I unwittingly initiated the action. I needed to make an inquiry regarding my Norton Security. I was unable to get a phone number to them so did a search: “phone number for norton security” if I recall correctly. The search led me to a link which I called. Person had an Indian accent. I had a simple question to which she replied. She then offered to do a free trouble shoot of my computer. I had to turn over control of my computer, which I did. She said she found over 75 “trojans” that were harmful and offered to refer to her team support to correct. I asked if there was a cost. She said $499. I declined, She continued to reduce the price to finally $99, upon which I agreed. She asked for my password which I gave. Then she asked for my credit card and number. At that point I paused, albeit a little late. I looked at the url address and noticed it was not a Norton official site and finally reflecting on what had transpired realized I was walking into a scam and aborted the process. I later contacted Norton – by phone – and shared the info with them to include the phone number I had previously called. Then I checked with my bank to be sure my accounts could not be compromised. Did the same with online sites using the same password and changed others. Close call.

  33. I just got off the call. My event viewer showed a shit load of errors. I had 6,650. They said they were from Microsoft and a program that I had downloaded alerted them. If they could see my computer I asked for my IP address as verification. At this point they turned me over to another Indian gentleman who walked me through the error process. I discovered at this point that my Windows key was not working. Anyways, we got to the ammyy.com site and he asked me to download the software. It was at this point that I terminated the call. I did notice on their site though a warning about these types of calls.

  34. I just got a call today on this and i logged my computer on and did the whole events viewer and such. He was trying to get me to run the AMMYY.Com site, however, while he was rattling on, i logged into the internet and looked up the url and found it to be remote access. NO WAY! He then proceeded to tell me my entire ID number from my computer. Not really sure how he got that, but while toying with him about my being in IT also, I then began google search and was thankful to find this page! THANK YOU LES!!!!
    I asked for the guys phone number, badge id and his name before telling him I would call him back if I needed his service:)

  35. After seeing this “unknown name 1076″ come up on my caller Id for the past four days, I decided to answer when it came up today. A man with an Indian accent said his name was Eric and he was calling from Window, because my computer was about to crash. He said he would walk me through and show me the problems. Since I don’t trust anyone anymore, especially when caller Id shows a call from 1076, I asked him for his phone number and he gave me 704-325-9110 and said to ask for Eric. After I told him I’d call back, I hung up. We must always be on our toes!!

  36. I rec’d the 2nd call this week from “Sam” trying to convince me that he was a Microsoft technician and our computer was about to crash. The first time I put him off “I can’t understand you. Please put someone else on the line…”. I was sufficiently concerned that we took our computers to Office Depot to be checked. No viruses…no problems. The guru there said he thought this was a scam going around.
    Sure enough the guy called again today and I was ready. I told him I’d have to call him back as someone was at my door but I really wanted his help to fix the problem. (At this point I should say I’m 68 year old grandmother who doesn’t understand much about computers. However, as I like to say…I wasn’t born yesterday either.) I got his name, Sam, and his phone number, 704-325-9110. which was not showing on caller ID. I then looked up Microsoft and called them. They assured me they NEVER initiate a call to a customer and this is a scam. The tech I spoke to said she recently had an older gentleman who conferenced her in to a call with the scammer who quickly hung up. She suggested I call the Federal Trade Commission, 877-382-4357, which I did. I lodged a formal complaint and they said at their web site, FTC.gov, you can type in “Microsoft Scam” into the search box to read about it. I sort of hope the guy calls me back again as I want to play with him. I sure wish I knew who sold my name and phone number.

  37. Just got this phone call, guy said his name was Gary and his call back number was 206-203-5477 since I told him I didn’t have the time to talk to him right now.

  38. I have received three phone calls from these guys since June. Each time, I asked them for their employee ID number so that I can call Microsoft to check them out. Such deviant behaviour. Thanks for posting this Les.

  39. Rang me today, I played along long enough to give me time to line up some thrash metal and play it at full blast to them down the phone! ;)

  40. I forgot to post about another call I got from this outfit a few days after my initial post. This time it was a woman. In my best innocent voice I said. I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I don’t even own a computer. Never have heard from them again.

  41. The scam is still going…….idiots called me today. When I said I was in a hurry and didn’t have time, he told me I was going to lose my computer today if I didn’t stay with him. LOL…..I told him to take it.

  42. These guys haven’t called me yet- maybe they don’t have any Austrian connections- but I want to say two things.

    First- just as parasites evolve in the biosphere, where there’s a flow of energy to be tapped somehow, scammers evolve in the ideosphere. If people can work an angle to make money without earning it, there will be some who will do so. I personally can’t imagine looking myself in the mirror and realizing that I’m a parasite, but I guess some can.

    Second- thanks for posting this, Les, this is a real public service.

    cheers from autumny Vienna, zilch

  43. Just got a call from “Private Caller”; when I picked up an odd, synthesized voice introduced himself as a “robo-caller” from Microsoft alerting me to a pending crash on my computer. Amazingly the robo-caller was able to respond directly to a few questions. I don’t believe the technology has advanced quite to that point–but perhaps I’m wrong. In any case, I told “him” that my husband would fix it and hung up.

  44. I just got the same call from an Indian guy. The guy spoke in English and I am living in France! Are they desperate enough to call non-English countries??
    I played with the guy and went to the event viewer, Custom views and administrative events (fortunately for him, my windows is in English, but everybody here has a French windows).
    I read to him the first warning message which was about a dhcp problem. When he said to me that is the problem, I laughed and explained to him what is really the problem with this error message. He hung up!!

    Anyway, I am not sure they can trap someone in France, because English is not spoken by many people, and it is quite hard to understand the accent.

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