Microsoft Scammer Calls? Time to turn this into a SPORT

Once again, the Microsoft scam callers called me to inform me of the terrible things hackers were doing to my computer. This time, I went for the record.
I’ve been down this road before, most infamously when “Mr” Bill Gates called me regarding my “Windows problem”. I don’t think I’ll ever quite top that one, but my resolve is quite firm. If I’ve got the time to spare — which is to say that I’m working on something mundane, or just want to annoy them for the sheer hell of it, because it’s a terribly persistent and horrible scam anyway — I’ll waste their time and gently amuse myself.
For those coming in late, if you get a call from somebody “from Microsoft” alerting you to viruses in your computer, or hackers targeting them, DON’T TELL THEM ANYTHING USEFUL. It’s a scam designed to deprive you of money and personal information, but one that seemingly refuses to die. Your best bet if you have the time is to waste theirs, because all the time they spend on the phone to you is time they’re not hassling those who might fall for the scam.
This time, though, I had an iPad to hand, and Twitter to record my thought processes, which went as follows. All the tweets are in bold, with my thoughts in italics.
Oh goody. Microsoft scammer for dinner.

Once again it is Tony from the global security department of Microsoft.

Side thought: I don’t think I’ve ever been called by the same “name” twice. That’s kind of impressive in a very dumb way.

Oh noes! I do not know my computer security number. And now I cannot find a pen.
This is a new quirk; apparently it is very important that I know my “computer security number”. It is apparently a 32-digit code. I suspect they’re fishing for Windows Licence Keys, but in any case… well, you’ll see.

And now the cat has been sick on the back of my notepad. I cannot write down this security number without a pad.
888dbrcharlie… Oh, I’m not meant to write out the words?
888.. So 27. Oh, not 27…
What’s a hyphen?
0 A …. This is going to go over more than one line… Oh, the cats been sick on it again.
Oh, I was meant to write down the whole number? I was crossing out the other ones as I went, because I didn’t think you needed them.

This burnt through about five minutes of me “fumbling” around to get the code down, only to realise I’d only written down the last four digits. Apparently this isn’t what they meant, so they switched to the idea that they needed to get me to switch on the PC. Which I duly didn’t do, but told them was happening. Sort of.

Oh, my computer won’t come on. Oh, my wife’s unplugged it to do the vacuuming.
I am being transferred to a supervisor. I wonder if I’ll get “bill gates” again.
Busting a gut. I now have him speaking…. Very… Slowly… As I cannot keep up.

Genuinely came close to killing the call there, because I spent about a minute telling him he was talking too quickly describing the CTRL key. The end result? He paused for a full ten seconds between each letter. I could almost hear the teeth grinding.
I only have one hand. Which makes typing hard. These MS scammers are not very tolerant of the disabled, I have to say.

This is in no way intended to mock those with physical disabilities, for whom computing is a difficult task at the best of times. But as a fake ailment, it’s a great way to waste even more of their time, because operating a keyboard and holding a phone with only one arm is tricky. So he asked me to put my wife on.
Now my wife is “cranky” because she had to stop vacuuming.

Oh, wait, it’s Monday. My wife has gone out to bridge club. I shall have to persevere with my one hand (no offence intended to the disabled)
My screen has gone all black. Should I have hit it with a ruler? #microsoftscamcallerscandieinafire
22m and counting. And now I have been transferred to another supervisor.

At this point “Felix” took over. “Felix” wasn’t quite as tolerant as Tony had been, and I could hear him audibly groan as I took too long to perform simple tasks.

I need to “forcefully” shut down my computer. Hang on, I’ll get a hammer. #microsoftscammerscandieinafire

Astonishingly, when I suggested the hammer, he said, yes, yes, do that. I think he might not have been listening properly at that point. But naturally, I had to follow that up.

What can i see? There’s a big dent in the side of the hard drive…
So now he tries to find out if there’s another PC I could use, but asks in the most nonsensical way possible. I think my deliberate forced stupid might be rubbing off.

“Apart from this computer, do you have any other computer in your laptop?” Wow. Now even the scammer is talking gibberish.
It’s at this point I have to decide which kind of computer I’ve actually been firing up. Given I wasted a good minute or two “looking at an energy star logo”, I settle on Windows 3.1.1. He asks me how I connect to the Internet…

If I click on the icon that says internet it brings up winsock..
This then wastes a further couple of minutes with me phonetically spelling out winsock. At one point, I suspect he thought I was saying something mildly obscene. It was somewhat tempting.
It’s at this point he also works out that I’m talking about a dial-up connection, and I start arguing that I can’t connect to the Internet, because it’ll hang up the call to him.

But if I click on that it’ll hang up the connection to you. I won’t have a mobile. They give you brain cancer, you know.

And it turns out that THIS was the step too far, as he finally hangs up, 31 minutes after the call was handed to me by my lovely wife.
Now again, this is nothing new, but I reckon, given the Australian love of sports, that we should make a sport out of it.
I’m calling the first “record” at 31 minutes of gibberish, and challenging all comers to take the title from me. Not only can you have fun doing so, but you’re actively disrupting their business model in doing so, so it’s a win-win situation.

Theme tune already picked out. Come and take my title — if you can.

Obviously, we’ll have to act on something the scammers do not have at all — namely an honesty system — for times. It’s not like the scam callers can be depended on to call when we need them, so it will also have to be something of an ad-hoc sport. Still, with enough time, and some training, I reckon this could be the next big thing. I’m also willing to consider taking on sponsors. Cash only — no bitcoin. But that’s in the future.
For now, the record stands. 31 minutes.
Can you beat that?
Image: Joseph Smith

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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