Scareware scammers adopt cold call tactics
Supportonclick scam spreading
Scareware scammers are phoning up prospective marks in an effort to frighten people into buying software that has little or no value or utility.
Rogue security (AKA scareware) packages are a growing problem. The number of such bogus packages in circulation rose from 2,850 in July to 9,287 in December 2008, tripling in number in just six months, according to the latest figures from the Anti-Phishing Working Group. Earlier this week Microsoft said that its malicious software removal tool had picked up two rogue scareware packages, FakeXPA and FakeSecSen, on more than 1.5 million PCs in the second half of 2008 alone. Some of these instances were probably trial versions of the rogue anti-malware utilities, but their sheer number illustrates the potential value of the market.
The growing trade in scareware is partly being driven by the gaming of search engines to direct surfers to sites peddling scareware. Such black-hat search engine optimisation techniques are often themed around a breaking news event, such as the Conficker worm or the recent death of actress Natasha Richardson.
While the internet has been the traditional route to market for cybercrooks peddling scareware, some have begun using high-pressure telephone sales techniques. A Reg reader said his mother got a cold call peddling scareware on Thursday. "My mum just had a call from someone claiming that there was something wrong with her computer. Luckily she was busy and called me," our reader Jamie writes.
He warned her that the ruse was a scam after searching for information on the net and finding a story by H-security on the tactic, dating back to last month. H-Security reports that scammers phone up to warn victims that their PCs are infected and might become damaged beyond repair unless they purchase security software of questionable utility.
Callers pretend to come from an outfit called supportonclick.com, according to a warning by Staffordshire Council Trading Standards (here).
Supportonclick.com is becoming notorious outside the UK.
A blog posting about Supportonclick by website developer Steven Burn reports that scammers occasionally pose as representives of the legitimate anti-malware publisher Malwarebytes. Burn lists several telephone numbers associated with the scam in locations including the US, UK, Canada and Australia. The Supportonclick.com domain is registered to Pecon Software Ltd in India.
There's more discussion on the telephone scam on Malwarebyte's forums here. And further reference to the ruse can be found at 800Notes, a site that allows people in the US to log complaints about telemarketing calls from particular numbers, here. ®
That's why I've been making all these comments. It's just malware disguised to look like me. Or is it the other way around? I get soooo confused sometimes. a la Hilton, natch.
fun with scareware merchants
Some time ago I got a call from the 347-289-3770 number, at home, and on my cell at that. Which means that there is a strictly limited number of ways they could have got that number, but we'll skip that.
A gentleman identifying himself as 'Ron', who had a distinct South India accent (he sounded just like someone I know who was born in Bangalore...) tried to tell me that he was calling from Microsoft and that the 'central computer registry' had notified Microsoft that my PC had a problem. I decided to have some fun. I played ignorant, and pretended to be rushing over to my machine and turning it on. (In reality I launched VMWare and activated one of my emulated WinBoxes, so I could have the proper Windows start-up noises in the background.) All the while I asked the most nonsensical luser questions I could think of, the better to drive poor 'Ron' up the wall. I completely ignored his attempts to sell me anything, I just kept babbling on and on and on... Poor 'Ron' got quite frustrated.
When I finally ran out of stuff to babble about, I asked Ron why it was that Microsoft was calling me when my main machine was a Mac and my main Winbox hadn't been connected to the Internet in over a week... I informed him that this call was being recorded, and that I had the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida on the other line and that they wanted to have a little word with him, his supervisor, and the senior management of his company. I'd IMed a friend of mine while I was babbling, and had him on the landline. I put him on speaker, and he said that he was an attorney with the US Department of Justice, and that they had received many complaints about 347-289-3770, and were in the process of setting up a formal international complaint and would extradite and prosecute all participants in this heinous crime to the fullest extent of the law. About there 'Ron' hung up and I haven't heard from him since.
I just wasted 5 minutes of their time by phoning them and enquiring how they'd install Windows XP over the Internet.
After being told they install it over the phone??, I told them that I didn't need XP as I already have it - it's just coming up as not being genuine and can they fix it for me? After all, I've heard that a good computer guy can "crack" the software and I can have it for free.
I'll be happy to pay their £23 XP Installation fee if they can just do this for me!
In the end I got told to just call Microsoft - wasted some of their time though, and if everyone did that then they wouldn't make a peeny!