Windows Empire Defeated by Jeff’s Mom

My parents weren’t big fans of computers, cell phones or HDTV in the mid 2000’s. Neither of them wanted computers and couldn’t see the value in having one. What made them cave was the enticing smorgasbord of information and communication. For my mom, it was email. For my Dad, it was reading about our beloved Celtics and 49ers. (Yes, I’m a coast-to-coast fan, and I don’t care. It was fricking awesome in 80’s, and kinda like that now. My dad made me commit when I was a kid, so that’s all the explaining you need. Besides, that combination is much better than the Cowboys-Yankees fans. I mean, c’mon.).

So, they both got computers several years ago. And the education began, mostly by me. We started with Windows XP, skipped Vista, and now both are on Windows 7. My Dad still brags to me about how he found a juicy nugget of information “on the computer!” I always act impressed. I know he’s half-kidding that his accomplishment deserves praise, yet the other deserves a ” Damn right, Dad. You’re a computer sorcerer!”.

They raised me, so it was the least I could do to raise them to be paranoid computer users. They were two people in their 60’s, venturing into the dark, dangerous internet jungle equipped with nothing more than a picnic basket, while wearing colored print shirts and docker shorts with white socks and sandals.

They learned about anti-virus programs, computer security, and the famous email scare mass messages that they still forward to me on occasion asking if it’s real.

“No, Mom. Not forwarding the message to ten of your friends will not cause your computer to stop working.”
“No, Dad. The file the message is warning you about is an actual windows file, not a virus.”

My dad has suffered through malware wreaking havoc with his system. My mom got her Yahoo email password cracked. I reminded them about secure passwords and being suspicious of email attachments. Nothing of note happened for quite a while until this week, when the attacker made personal contact.

It’s funny what constitutes an emergency for my mom. She didn’t know what the “inter-web” was until six years ago; now it’s a life staple. She never calls me during the day, unless there’s an emergency. She called two weeks ago because her internet was down (EMERGENCY! I can’t get to my Yahoo email, and it’s two in the afternoon!). Fine. She called last Friday and left me a voice-mail that Google Voice Service translated to me in a text message and delivered to my phone. Google has some work to do on the voice -recognition side. As I was reading the message on my phone, I couldn’t tell if she needed help with her computer or she was ordering food from India. I called her back on my lunch hour, expecting another internet outage.

I was wrong. Couldn’t have been wronger. My mom had been targeted by the now famous Windows Phone Scam. Just Google the term “Windows Phone Scam” and you’ll get loads of stories and some funny YouTube videos of IT Pros and power users messing with these guys from “Windows”. It’s a very successful scam though. Millions of dollars have been paid out to these guys who trick trusting innocents into paying them money to fix an otherwise fine computer.

My mom picked up the phone and was greeted by technical support from Windows. Hell, even my Mom figured that out. She asked if they meant Microsoft; they just assured her they were calling from Windows and had been monitoring her system. Apparently they tracked some malicious software being downloaded to her computer. They were going to save her by cleaning the system. I asked her what she did, fearing that she may have given them remote access to the system.

“There is no “Windows” company, and they didn’t say Microsoft.”, she said. Feeling better.
“They asked if the could access my system remotely. So, I asked them where they were calling from. They said Florida, but the were Indians.” A little racist, but feeling better anyway.
I asked them if I could call them back. They said I could, but I would have to pay for the call. The number on my caller ID was 000000, not a Florida number.” Mom is kicking their asses.
“No one has ever called me about malware before. I have a program for that. I hung up. I wanted to verify with you that is really all a bunch of crap.” BAM! Like Microsoft has the time to call YOU. Gee, I didn’t know for the 300 dollars it cost to get Windows 7, I also get 24-7 proactive tech support and a team of professionals. Wait, you’re monitoring all my downloads? Hold on, while I call my lawyer.

This is where the pride kicked in. It must be similar to watching your kid bring home their first A paper, get their first hit, make their first shot. Here’s my mom, now a wily computer veteran, apparently, working these guys from Windows like they’re in her Tuesday morning water aerobics class. In her first real test, she passed with flying colors. I told her how proud I was of her and that she bypassed a scam that had thousands of victims. I should probably also tell her that there may be some Indian people living in Florida.

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Categories: Home Networking

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