PEBCAK

Tech Support Scammers Get Scammed

By Kate Cox

Many people have experienced the fake tech support call, and while some may fall for them, most simply hang up and shake their heads. However, one tech scammer made the mistake of calling a tech expert—and the tech expert responded by keeping the would-be scammer on the line for two hours.

Kate Cox writes, “Computers are everywhere, and lots of people don’t know very much about their inner workings. That creates an ample playground for scammers who use a combination of social engineering and scary-sounding words in order to bilk people out of money, or even sensitive data. The scammers are legion, and so, unfortunately are targets … but when one scammer recently tried to pull one over on a tech expert with time to kill, the tables were briefly turned.

“There are lots of tech support scams out there; some use pop-ups or place false ads to lure victims in. There’s also a kind, though, that relies on good old-fashioned phone calls.

“These scams tend to work in a pretty predictable way: You get a call from ‘tech support,’ asking you to take a certain series of actions with your Windows PC, including giving the scammer remote access to the machine, then demanding a large sum of money to ‘fix’ a problem that doesn’t exist.

“Folks who don’t know much about the workings of their computers, especially those who are kind of scared of or intimidated by their machines, can be susceptible targets. But this particular scammer, randomly dialing numbers, happened to hit an extremely knowledgeable, experienced tech expert: Sean Gallagher, currently an editor for tech site Ars Technica.

“Gallagher, both knowing his stuff and also being in a position to write stories about it, decided to have a little fun with the scammer who called him on Monday, and kept him on the line for two hours while pretending to be an easy mark.

“‘I was thrilled,’ Gallagher opens, ‘displaying what my wife Paula felt was an inordinate amount of glee about getting the call. Over the next two hours, I subjected the scammers to such misery that Paula later told me she felt bad for them.’”

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