Geek Toxic Custard newsletter

Scammers try to connect me to the “Rescue Machine of Telstra”

It is a common scam for people to ring you up claiming to be from Microsoft or Telstra (or another major corporation that sounds plausible). They tell you your computer and/or internet connection has a problem, and it needs to be fixed or your internet connection will be cut off, or that something else bad will happen.

They then try to walk you through the steps to enable them to take over your computer, or install software that captures your credit card number, or a variation on these.

Microsoft has a good article on these scams.

I never get these, but M+J do on their number, quite often, and today I got to take such a call.

The man claimed to be from Telstra. The background noise of a call centre was audible (during one pause I heard another operator asking “Are you from Hyderabad?”).

I played along for a bit.

He said there was a problem with my “computer internet connection”, claimed “Telstra” had sent us a warning about it, and that we would shortly be disconnected from the internet if it wasn’t resolved.

He tried to get me to open a Windows command prompt and type ASSOC. This is something to do with file associations, no doubt as a first step to something more sinister, but at this point I told them that I was using Linux. (This was the truth — I had my old laptop in front of me, which dual-boots; I normally use Linux because it’s faster.)

At that point he said he’d transfer me to a supervisor. This took a minute or two, then a second man tried to get me to go to the Team Viewer web site and use the “Join remote control session” (eg install the Team Viewer client)…

He said I would need to connect to the “Rescue Machine Of Telstra” (very impressive-sounding — he used this phrase twice) which would provide protection for my computer.

He tried to convince me that once I connected, I would see a Telstra logo, proving it was legitimate.

Yeah right.

I moved into sceptical territory, and asked why, if as he claimed they knew all about my computer, his colleague hadn’t known I was using Linux instead of Windows.

The reply: “He’s my junior; he doesn’t know anything.” !

At this point I’d strung them along for about fifteen minutes, as I’d been interested to hear what they said, and it was quite entertaining. But I had a hot cup of tea waiting for my attention, so I terminated the call.

But no doubt some people fall for this. As the Microsoft web site notes, the consequences can be serious. They might:

Trick you into installing malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. They might also then charge you to remove this software.

Convince you to visit legitimate websites to download software that will allow them to take control of your computer remotely and adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable.

Request credit card information so they can bill you for phony services.

Direct you to fraudulent websites and ask you to enter credit card and other personal or financial information there.

So, be wary of any of these types of calls, and make sure your less-computer-savvy friends and relatives are also made aware.

In fact, to help limit any damage from any type of malware (be it via a phone scam, or a dodgy email, or an infected web site) it doesn’t hurt to ensure that home computers are set up so that no users have administrator access, and only an experienced computer user has the administrator password.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

9 replies on “Scammers try to connect me to the “Rescue Machine of Telstra””

I had one of these. As I had a bit of time I thought I’d have a bit of fun pretending to be someone absolutely clueless about computers – too clueless to even correctly follow their instructions. After a while I got bored and hung up. The only problem was that they thought they had a live one, and for a while I’d get about a phone call a day trying to complete the scam. Eventually I think they worked out that I wasn’t going to fall for it and stopped calling.

Incidentally, the targeted advertising on this blog page is telling me that ‘Team Viewer 10 has arrived’ and trying to get me to click on a link.

We’ve had those calls and once I played along for a short time, but I didn’t have much time to spare to fix my internet connection that was apparently causing Telstra huge problems, and so hung up. Some bank phishing emails are now very sophisticated and if I was an old person with limited experience of the net, I reckon I might fall for them, up to a point. We are now being flooded with telephone calls on the land line, going to the messages, telling us we owe the tax department money and along the lines that a warrant will be out for our arrest if we don’t act. For about three seconds during the very first call, I was a bit worried before common sense kicked in.

” Iā€™d strung them along for about fifteen minutes”.
Goodness, you have patience! Well done for playing along.
When a female scammer (Indian accent but called herself “Jane”) phoned me once I asked how she could face her children when she got home and tell them mummy makes her living out of lying to people so someone can steal thousands of dollars from them. She hung up.

My 73 year old mother got one of these calls. Very proud of the fact that she realised things weren’t quite right and then held her ground when the caller became belligerent. Dread to think what these people could have done to her PC if she hadn’t been so smart.

We regularly get these calls (but almost always only on the landline). I’m not sure of the best strategy to deal with them. Is it to string them along for a while, so as to tie them up so they can’t annoy others (such as, “wait a moment, I’ll get the person who knows about the computer”, and put the phone down), or just to hang up on them (my usual response)?

@gxh, I’d string along if you had spare time, but often, I’m not in a position (eg, cooking or helping someone else), so I say something like “I’ll get it looked at tomorrow.”

Rescue Machine of Telstra? Scam aside, that’s a darn good joke on its own! Sounds like Telstra’s own scam.

My parents get a few of these calls. In response to “your Windows is infected”, Dad says “but I cleaned them with a hose last week” – or – “Should I go outside and clean them with a rag?”. They generally give up on that.

I’ve also seen other jokes like “What type of Windows do you have … double glazing”, or “The owner’s not home, I’m just the burglar”. In Australia, you could say “Damn! there’s too many flies in the computer”.

It’s very tempting to have a wreckable virtual machine (with snapshot), ready to power up and string along, and after they’ve finished, restore to snapshot. But BEWARE: there are a small number of hacks that can break out of a virtual machine and compromise the host, or other items on the network. And of course they’ll be able to see the VMware tools (Guest Additions, or equivalent), or VirtualBox Graphics Adaptor.

I replied that i was a MCSE and CCNA who designed these networks for a living. The person on the other end asked what a MCSE was, at that point i hanged up.
The next one was i repeatedly as for my computers name as the answer to each question. They hanged up on that one.
After that i just kept on grunting an answer every 30 seconds till they hanged up.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a few of these. My record so far is 32 minutes. At the end of that one the subcontinental gentleman I was conversing with called me a quite rude four letter name starting with “c”.
Achievement unlocked!

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