I often wonder at the gullibility of people falling for scams, but to be fair, the scammers are getting better at it.
For years, I have had people with foreign accents ringing me, claiming to be from "Microsoft Windows" and telling me I have a virus on my computer that they can fix.
It was obvious to me that the calls I have received out of the blue were a scam. How would Microsoft know that my PC had been infected?
Sadly, not all are as suspicious as I am, however; 50,000 New Zealanders have reportedly fallen for the con artists — about one in 20 of those who received a call. And typically they have paid NZ$200 to fix a non-existent problem, and have also put their credit card and banking details at risk.
Now, anyone with basic computing knowledge should realise that the big vendors like Microsoft do not ring people up out of the blue saying that they have a virus.
But now we hear that these scammers are claiming to be reputable resellers, like pcMedia of Blenheim, which has let it be known that it is not ringing people.
If someone is claiming to be a local operator, someone that is reputable and trustworthy, that will increase the plausibility of such fraudsters as they trade on a good name that potential victims might be more familiar with, especially since resellers have long trumpeted the benefits of remote access: it's much more convenient for them to fix a PC from their shop or office, and save having to drive hours to a client's home or business.
Obviously, resellers will have to be as alert as consumers and businesses to these con artists, as their reputations are ultimately at stake. They, too, will have to join the nationwide campaign that is underway to warn the public.
They need to tell their customers that they won't cold call and tell the public that the safest way for them to have problems sorted is to either bring their PCs to their office or shop, or contact the reseller directly to register for remote access.
Who knows; maybe such measures will even foster strong relationships between users and the geeks behind the desk.