Peak Stupidity avoids a clever scam - Words to the Wise

Posted On: Tuesday - May 14th 2019 6:30PM MST
In Topics: 
  General Stupidity  Salesmen  Artificial Stupidity  Scams

Peak Stupidity hasn't made any headway, due to lack of effort as of late, on finding out more about that very-likely attempted scam-job relating to healthcare billing, as described in "Healthcare Billing via Rectal Extraction", parts 1 and 2. We will report here if there are any interesting developments. While relating this story to a good friend, I recalled an attempted scam involving computer-software, something I consider myself not prone to, but it was one near thing, I tells ya'.

This was a few years back, as we went on-line to find information on a driver for our color printer for the new versions of Windows we had no choice in buying with a new computer. (Yeah, ain't Microsoft grand, in bringing us all this new stuff to (re)learn, every damn iteration - Cha-Ching!) Come to think of it, we haven't printed a color page since! Anyway, what I'll say first is that, as evil and annoying as they are, these dot-Indian scammers are clever - I will grant them that. "You're clever, OK? Now you can bloody well piss off!" (They speak British English so they should get this.)

Well, you go to bing or duckduckgo and look up Canon Model ABC driver Windows 10 or whatever it was, and you get plenty of hits, at least one with a phone number, as we already had something installed but ran into an error. That was easy! We called up and got some helpful fellow who may not have been physically in India, but, in his heart of hearts was a "tech-support Indian". "Let me just take control of the computer to make this quick." I didn't like the sound of that, and hadn't let anybody do that before. That wasn't the scam though. As our supposed tech-wizard scanned through a few things on the computer, ostensibly to see what the deal was with our printer driver, he opened up the "task manager" showing our processes running.

"Oh, that's not good. You have this hkcmd.exe (I think that was the one) in there running. It's a virus. I really think you have to take care of this first. Your computer shouldn't be this slow." Who knows, right, with Windows? "I'm not sure about that, uhhh, what about the printer?" "Wait, let me show you" As the guy controlled the computer, he proceeded to go to google, typed in a phrase with that hkcmd file in it, and immediately came up with a blurb like the one above. It was right at the top there, telling us, yeah, we have a virus if this file is running. No need to read the whole article, the guy/cursor was moving pretty quickly around the screen.

"We can fix this virus, if you want to take care of it first." The guy named a price near 150 bucks, damn near 1/2 the price of just getting another computer and starting over. "Man, that's a lot. It is running slow though now that you mention it" (Subliminal suggestions were working their magic, OTOH, everything IS slow the more MS loads up your computer with their crap.) "OK, I never buy something on the spot. Let us think about it. Can we get your name, and can we get you at the same number?" Oh sure, that was fine - he had me suitably worried, but I just never buy things impulsively*, unless there was thought put into it sometime beforehand, at least.

It was only about 2 minutes after I put down the phone, when the urgency had gone away, that I had some more thoughts on what the guy had done. "Let me go on google and take a good look." Ahaaa! The article itself said something about 2 instances of this executable file being an indication of a problem, not just the one. That one was supposed to be running. This clever con-man knew exactly what just the blurb said, well beforehand. As a matter of fact, maybe his crew had gamed google a bit to make sure this one comes up first, or even WROTE THE ARTICLE with the fine print down below any blurb.

I then thought about how we came upon this phone number in the first place, with a scam about fake virae, when, if the reader can still recall, we were trying to figure out why the Canon printer driver wasn't doing the job. It's been 5 years or more now, but I do remember looking back at our original search. That phone number didn't appear just the one time. Just dealing with frustrated Canon-printer customers would probably not yield enough phone calls to keep these guys busy enough to quit work at the Quicky-Mart. What they, or someone higher-up, had done was to rig search results in the search engines to pull up their phone number based on lots of different software problem queries. Did I mention these are some clever scammers? (It's a whole lot different than just pulling a large health-care charge out of one's ass and mailing a letter or two.)

I'm really glad I didn't act impulsively, not just due to the money, but the really bad feeling one gets when conned in some way. I made a call back, after I'd gotten my thoughts together. "Hey, your guy tried to scam me - we don't have any virus on this machine." Hahaa, that was still a bit naive there. "Oh, I'll make sure our manager looks into this ... " Hey, it could have been the EXACT SAME GUY - I wouldn't know!

Not only should you not expect satisfaction with this method, but even with a legitimate business, a good boss will stand with his employees, depending on how wrong or unimportant the customer is. Nah, the customer is NOT always right, and I have been the one to hear that from the boss myself. I had one good boss for whom I could imagine this scenario (the job involved some driving, with a van with the company name right on the side - I had driven like mad a few times, cut some guys off on the on-ramp here and there, etc. ): "Hey, I looked up your number. Your driver in the middle of the night yesterday cut me off, then flipped me off when I honked at him. You've got to do something about that." "Uh, yes sir, we'll probably fire that guy later today when he comes in." he would say on the phone, while winking at me and trying not to crack up, as I sat a few feet away. Or, knowing that this boss had already cost us some business due to road rage of his own, I imagine he'd just cuss the guy out on the phone "Yeah, well stay off the road, asshole!". Good times ... good times ... but at least it was honest work.

* Just giving this guy a credit card over the phone could have been the scam itself, but no, that's not clever enough for these guys. They wouldn't be able to face their families at dinner time after a simple scam like that.

Wednesday - May 15th 2019 5:22PM MST
PS: In my post with an Allman Brothers song ("Louisiana Lou and 3-Card-Monty John") I related a story about getting ripped off out of 10 bucks on the bus. That 10 would be like a couple of hundreds to me now (not all inflation!).

That post is
Wednesday - May 15th 2019 5:21PM MST
PS: Haha, my way was always to get white-hot mad at the cabinet door (or whatever it was) as you did at the end and oftentimes beat it senseless. I can tell my son took this habit up genetically when I saw him get mad at this mean doorknob that "had hit" his head when he was really small. Genetics is amazing, as he had never seen me get mad that way in his life (I was trying to make an effort).

You know what's funny is even after beating the crap of some inanimate object, I DO feel better, though I think, "man, now I've got my day cut out for me."

Thanks for the great comment, BC.

Wednesday - May 15th 2019 12:49PM MST
PS: "...the really bad feeling one gets when conned in some way."

Yeah, that's the really awful part, right there. Like when you bump your head on the underside of the same cabinet you've bumped into a dozen times before. Hurts like hell, but for a split second, there is a white-hot rage directed at yourself--"no, I DO NOT believe I bumped into that damned cabinet again." (And then, "Man, that was real smart to rip the cabinet door off its hinges.")

I got screwed out of twenty bucks decades ago by a quick-talking conman who distracted me with some snappy patter, and to this day, I get that cabinet-collision remorseful fury when I think about it.
WHAT SAY YOU? : (PLEASE NOTE: You must type capital PS as the 1st TWO characters in your comment body - for spam avoidance - or the comment will be lost!)