Remote PC support: legitimate business model or scam?
I had a phone call from Michael in Bradford. He said my PC was running slow and he could fix it.
Think about it. This was a cold call. He knew my name and phone number. The rest was assumption: that I had a computer (correct), that I was running Windows (correct) and that it was running slow (correct). Here is a business model built on the assumption that any cold call is likely to find a Windows user with a slow computer.
But is this the business model of a legitimate business or a scammer? I went along with Michael without actually doing anything; and I have to say he was terribly plausible and terribly polite and terribly nice. It seems that he would fix my computer by talking me through the necessary steps, and then charge me approximately £23 (sorry, I can’t accept a cheque because so many bounce). Slight concern here: he was trusting me to pay when I could simply accept his cure and then say ‘sod off’; but he wouldn’t trust my cheque. Hmmm.
To be frank, I could find nothing wrong with anything he said; and I can actually believe that a lot of Windows problems could be solved simply by reconfiguring parts of the system. But my built-in paranoid cynicism was too much for me – I made my excuses and left (oops, that was a different investigation). I told Michael I was keen to do something with him but didn’t have time just now – could he call me back on Monday? He said yes (I’ll let you know if he does).
Meanwhile, the very next day, a good friend came round and told me about this phone call she had received – from Roy. It was a slightly different story. This one claimed that automatic reports from her computer had indicated a severe viral infection that was making her computer run slow – and, yes, he could fix it for her. But she’d have to connect to his website and download a scanner. She told me, however, that the only thing she had been infected with was my paranoid cynicism: so she told Roy that she was on her way out and could he call back later after she had spoken to me.
By this time, of course, Michael’s plausible politeness was far enough away for me to see that never, under any circumstances, should you allow a cold caller to have anything to do with your computer. The possibilities for misuse and abuse are so severe – don’t do it. If your computer is slow, take it to the shop up the road. At least you know where they live. And this, of course, is the advice I gave my friend.
One last postscript to this. I now distrust anyone contacting me offering free fixes and free scans. So Mr Zonelabs – thank you for your email this morning, but I shan’t be accepting your offer of a free system checkup. What? You think I was born yesterday???