State of the Spam

Spam comments since my last post:  95.  (All automatically caught by Akismet.  Yay, Akismet!  Don’t know how I’d cope with comments on this blog without them.)

I just got the most entertaining cold call ever (cold calls are basically audio spam, right?).  The nice woman on the other end of the line (who seemed to be having real trouble with English, the poor dear) was trying to convince me that my computer was infected with malware, and that it had contacted her company so that she would call me and get the computer fixed.  She refused to be specific about what malware I had contracted or how my computer (which was turned off) had contacted her company.  But as proof of her claims, she instructed me to run the command “prefetch” (which she very carefully spelled for me letter-by-letter), and tried to scare me with the number of files in the Prefetch directory, which were allegedly the cause of the slowness of my computer, and then asked me to look in the event viewer, and claimed all of the “warning” and “error” entries in there were viruses.  She chose to completely ignore my objections:

  1. My computer was turned off at the time when she claims it contacted her company.  She wouldn’t elaborate on exactly how it managed to contact her.
  2. The “prefetch” directory in Windows is there to make the boot process go faster, and to make programs start faster.  Having a lot of files in there does not indicate malware, and is no cause for alarm.  It’d be like panicking if there are files in /tmp under Linux.  Of course there are files in there;  that’s what it’s for.
  3. “Warning” and “Error” entries in the Windows event viewer have nothing at all to do with viruses.
  4. I don’t actually own a computer which runs Windows.  So no, I have neither a “start” menu nor a “run” command in that menu.  And I certainly don’t have a “prefetch” directory or an “event viewer”.  And whatever malware she claims I have (which she refused to specify), it presumably can’t run on my computer anyway.  Although I finally relented and claimed to have followed the instructions she gave me, after twice attempting to explain this to her.

I never really know how to deal with these sorts of obvious-scam cold calls.  I mean, I derive a bit of interest and education from listening to how these people are trying to hoodwink less-computer-savvy people out of their money, and quite a lot of amusement from trying to steer them off their script and to prolong the conversation for as long as possible.. but at the end of the day, the person you’re talking to isn’t really the bad guy;  they’re some unhappy person who’s trying to put food on the table in any way they can, and just happen to be working for the bad guy at the moment.  Yelling at the person on the phone doesn’t actually accomplish anything.  I always feel like I should be giving the caller career counselling, instead of amusing myself at their expense.

On the other hand, from a legal perspective, they person on the phone is either being an accessory to fraud (at the very least!).  So it also seems wrong to treat them as victims-of-circumstance and deserving of any sort of compassion.

Ah well.  The important lesson I learned from this experience was a reminder that my telephone number had expired from the local ‘Do Not Call’ register a few months back, so I signed myself back up for it.

Edit:  This particular call is apparently a scam that’s been going on for several years, documented here and herediscussed further here, and even noticed by the police.  (But sadly, not by The Police).    Stay safe out there, everyone!