On Tuesday night, I think I was the target of a new phishing scam, so I am updating my page about phishing. Here is the new part:
(2012 update) Phishing can happen over the phone, as well as by e-mail. Case in point: Recently I got a strange phone call that showed up on my caller ID as 202-011-3341. When I answered it, a guy with a heavy Indian accent told me he was from "Microsoft Windows Help," claimed that my computer was infected with a virus, and that I needed to turn it on.
I hung up after arguing for half a minute. Too many warning signals were touched off by that call. First, there were too many voices in the background; it sounded more like a boiler room operation than your typical customer service center. Second, in the past I have gotten technical support from an Indian company called iYogi, but when they call, they use a toll-free number, not a number from the 202 area code. IYogi’s technicians speak better English, too. Third, no American phone number starts with a zero; they probably masked the real number from my caller ID. Fourth, I have used Microsoft products since the mid-1990s, but I can’t remember Microsoft ever calling me; I always called them.
Just to be on the safe side, I gave my computer a complete virus scan afterwards. It didn’t surprise me a bit when no bugs or malware turned up. I also Googled the phone number, and found others reporting it as coming from a scam artist. I’m sure that if I had complied with the caller’s demands, they would have taken control of my computer, for whatever mischief they had in mind.
Aside from the phisher calling me, this is the same type of scam as phishing by e-mail; the goal is identity theft, or to infect another computer. Fortunately my antivirus software is up to date, and I have identity theft protection for a worst case scenario.