By Hank Kee
Topic of the Month: Why All the Robocalls?
Because they’re cheap! You can now call anywhere in the 50 states 24/7. If you’re getting more robocalls now you’re not alone. The reason for the proliferation is that technology has made it cheap. The sheer number of people that scammers can reach makes it cost effective.
You can go to a website, upload an audio file, put in a range of phone numbers, and use a prepaid debit card to make robocalls. When it is that easy to commit a crime, criminals will commit it.
Even if a robocall is only successful with one out of every 500 calls, that can still make the misdeed profitable. Of those who’d answered a robocall, 21 percent admitted to either accidentally or intentionally disclosing personal information. About 25 percent of robocalls are about health topics.
Microsoft has been working with police in India to shut down fake tech-support centers there that are scamming victims in the United States and Canada. Raids began a month after Microsoft published a survey which found that more than three in five consumers have encountered tech-support scams. In addition to pop-up warnings, the fraudsters have been using phone calls, emails, and website redirects to trick users into thinking their computers are infected with viruses or spyware. Victims were fooled into buying repair services to fix the phony issue. According to Microsoft’s survey, one in five consumers has lost money in tech-support scams.
The recent raids are a good reminder to be vigilant. Microsoft offers the following tips on how you can protect yourself:
Microsoft does not send unsolicited email messages or make unsolicited phone calls to request personal or financial information or to provide technical support to fix your computer.
Any communication with Microsoft has to be initiated by you. If a notification appears with a phone number, don’t call the number. Error and warning messages from Microsoft never include a phone number.
Download software only from official Microsoft partner websites or the Microsoft Store. Be wary of downloading software from third-party sites as some of them might have been modified, without the author’s knowledge, to bundle support-scam malware and other threats.
Don’t bother to report your telephone number to the Do Not Call Registry. It doesn’t work. Politicians and nonprofit organizations are exempt from the restriction of robocalls.
If the robocaller doesn’t give you the option to select Do Not Call, press 1 to indicate you are interested. Then, ask them politely to cease and desist. If they persist, tell them politely that you are so glad they called as this gives you the opportunity to waste their time. At that point, just hang up. They only get paid if they can get you to buy their pitch. Most, but not all, will stop calling. If you just hang up on them, they will keep calling.
This article is part of a monthly column by the New York Amateur Computer Club (NYACC), one of the oldest computer clubs in the world, and is intended to help you turn your computer into a friend. See more and contact NYACC directly at www.nyacc.org.