These days I often think about the loud complaint often made by the late, great comedian Jimmy Durante: “I’m surrounded by assassins!” Another of his expressions was, “Everybody wants to get into the act.” Now that should be amended to “into my computer.”
A man called me the other day saying he was with Microsoft. Harmful content had been detected in my computer, he said, and he wanted to help me clear it out. I thought I noticed a Middle Eastern accent, but I’m sure many Microsoft employees are of Middle Eastern extraction.
“Oh, my goodness!” I said, “That’s awful! What do you want me to do?” He said if I would just help him to take control of my computer he would remove the infected material and the crisis would be over.
“Well thanks a bunch for calling me. I’ll be glad to help you,” I said. “But would you mind holding on for a while until I start up my PC?”
“Sure, go ahead. I’ll hold,” he said. “Take your time.”
I quietly hung up. That was two days ago. I hope the heartless scoundrel is still holding on, hungry, thirsty and bleary-eyed. That wasn’t the first ominous phone call or alarming pop-up screen that I’d received from a hacker trying to wheedle his way into my computer intending to steal my personal data or install malware that would turn my confidential files into open books.
Some of the thieves continue to masquerade as legitimate techies and try to sell their victims high-priced bogus security programs.
My Plan B for dealing with one of these phoney phone calls is to also express gratitude for the offer of tech support, but to request that I be allowed time to switch over to my cell phone.
“It would be much easier for me to work with you using my cell phone and earbuds,” I’d say. “I’ll hang up now, but please be sure to call me back on my cell phone. I’m extremely anxious about the problem you’ve reported, so promise me you’ll call right away. The number is 973-792-3000, I’ll be waiting.”
That happens to be the number of the FBI’s New Jersey field office. I’m sure they’ll welcome the call and hopefully, they can trace it. Plan B might also work with the FCC’s complaint number: 1-888-225-5322.