The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

October 5, 2013

Ex-Valley computer teacher calls shyster techie’s bluff

NORTHUMBERLAND — Computers have become standard in most households and, while more people than ever are using them, most of us wouldn’t consider ourselves very technologically smart.

And when computers don’t work, users usually require an expert to fix them.

So when an expert reports that your computer is having trouble and says he can fix it, you may consider the offer. When that expert reaches you by phone, says he’s with computer-giant Microsoft and then “proves” you have computer problems, you may be convinced he’s the real deal and not out to scam you.

You would be wrong. The fake Microsoft technicians making the current round of phone calls offering to fix your computers remotely have just stepped up their game and if you aren’t careful, you could become their next victim.

Recently, Philip Hallden’s wife was the one who received a couple of calls from “a tech from Microsoft”  with a foreign accent who told her Microsoft was “getting messages” there were problems with the Halldens’ computer and he’d “like to help correct it.” She told the caller he’d have to talk to her husband because “he handles all that.”

Philip Hallden does indeed. A retired teacher from the Line Mountain School District, Hallden taught computer classes and understands how computers work, and don’t work.

Hallden, of Northumberland, took the phone call. Though their phone number is listed on the national Do Not Call list, unwanted calls still get through. Generally, Hallden, 68, deals with them this way: “I’ll say, ‘Oh sure, hang on’ and then I’ll put the phone down and walk away for as long as I please,” he said. “That way, I’ve taken up their time — and their dollars — as they’ve tried to take up mine.”

The caller asked Hallden to turn on his computer so the problem could be verified and fixed. While Hallden obliged, he also turned off his modem and WiFi, disconnecting his system from the Internet to stop any outside flow of information that might stream into his computer.

Then he had a little fun with the “Microsoft tech.”

“His pitch was that a specific number, listing my computer, was coming to him at Microsoft and he would be able to help me clear (the problem) out and stop it from happening in the future,” Hallden said. This is where the average, non-technological computer user might bite the hook. Here’s what the fake tech told Hallden to do: Go to START, then click on RUN and type in “CMD” then hit OK. Next, he told Hallden to type in “Assoc” and near the bottom of a long list of files he would find the “special number” the scammer said was coming up on his screen at Microsoft.

“He assured me this was a special number, just for my computer, and it told Microsoft I had errors in my computer,” Hallden said.

That “special number”  Hallden found is not special at all. “This same number will come up in all computers, I think. At least it did on both of my computers,” he said. It also came up on The Daily Item’s computer when we copied the same procedure.

The “tech” then had Hallden go to a system information screen where it showed “all the happenings logged on my computer and yes, there were some events that were listed as ‘errors,’” Hallden said.  

“But what computer doesn’t have problems? The older it is, the more often errors occur and the more often you have to reboot to clear up the errors.”

Next came the sales pitch. “He told me what the cost would be to clean the computer and what a yearly membership would be, and even how much a multiple-year membership would cost,” Hallden said. “I don’t know the exact pricing but I think it ranged from $79.95 to about $159.95.”

All Hallden had to do was provide credit card information.

By now, Hallden had been on the phone for about 20 minutes. “Still playing along with him, I told him I thought (a membership) would be worthwhile. Then I asked for his name, phone number and physical mailing address. He asked why I wanted that information and I said if he worked for a reputable company, there should be no problem supplying it to me,” Hallden said.

“At this point, he hung up on me.”

Hallden hopes his experience will help others from falling victim to the scam. “The fact I knew what he was shooting for … I could see people falling for this,” he said.

Microsoft, or any other legitimate computer company, will not call to inform you of problems on your computer or offer to fix them remotely. The best advice is to hang up before a stranger convinces you with “evidence.”

1
Text Only
News
  • DEA packet compares school scores, salaries

    DANVLLE — Members of the Danville Education Association are circulating a pamphlet as part of their planned strike on Thursday.

    April 16, 2014

  • Snyder DA says email security breach could be a crime

    MIDDLEBURG — Even though acting Midd-West Superintendent Daphne Snook may not have broken school policy by monitoring district emails, Valley legal experts say she still may have broken the law.

    April 16, 2014

  • Midd-West board feels backlash

    April 16, 2014

  • Good Morning Central Susquehanna Valley

    Today is Wednesday, April 16, the 106th day of 2014. There are 259 days left in the year. On April 16, 1964, The Rolling Stones’ first album, eponymously titled “The Rolling Stones,” was released in the United Kingdom by Decca Records (a slightly different version debuted in the United States a month and a-half later).

    April 16, 2014

  • Donkey basketball draws 600, raises $1,800

    SUNBURY — The Shikellamy Fieldhouse was loud and rocking Tuesday night as Shikellamy High School students took on the Valley All-Stars in a donkey basketball fundraiser to benefit Newspapers in Education.

    April 15, 2014

  • mail16a.jpg Post Offices busy just before today's tax deadline

    SUNBURY — Bill Shambach plopped his three envelopes addressed to tax collectors on the counter of the Post Office on North Third Street at 12:15 p.m. this afternoon — four hours before the office closed for the day.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Guzzardi_Bob.png Governor's Republican opponent remains on primary ballot

    HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania state judge has ruled that a Republican gubernatorial candidate can stay on the May 20 primary ballot as the lone challenger to Gov. Tom Corbett.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Suspect in Kansas shootings faces murder charges

    OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Kansas prosecutors filed state-level murder charges Tuesday against the white supremacist accused in shootings that left three people dead at two Jewish community sites in suburban Kansas City.

    April 15, 2014

  • Woman found in attic dies following house fire

    WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) — Authorities in northeastern Pennsylvania say fire claimed the life of a woman overnight.
    Officials in Luzerne County say crews were called to the Wilkes-Barre residence just before 11:30 p.m. Monday.

    April 15, 2014

  • Cold0415.jpg Local weather takes a major plunge today

    STATE COLLEGE — Heavy rain and thunderstorms will sweep across the Northeast later today, putting many at risk for dangerous flooding and damaging winds.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

The Daily Marquee
Poll

Are you among those who will be completing and mailing your tax forms today?

Yes
No - Already Filed
     View Results
Photo Galleries
The Valley

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.