Call Centre Scam

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photo from the CBC: “Jim Musson lost $648.50 while believing he was getting help from Microsoft support.”

Slug: Call Centre Scam
Source: CBC News

Fake Microsoft help line can fool even ‘computer literate’

Summary: Last week, an Indian call centre masquerading as Microsoft Support scammed an elderly Edmonton couple out of more than $600. The couple had “to cancel their credit cards, close their bank accounts and change all their passwords” just to save themselves from futher financial ruin. The couple did a Google search and contacted a toll-free number to get tech support for a Windows-based program on their Mac. When they asked the operator if he was “with Microsoft,” the operator replied with “Yes. Yes. Yes,” lying to the couple while he used remote access to claim their computer was infected by a virus and pushing them to buy a package to clean their computer. Even after the couple ended the call, hours later, someone at the call centre continued to explore their computer via remote connection and navigated it until they physically unplugged their Mac.

PR Element: Ethics
Good or Bad PR: Bad PR
Harmony or Discord: Discord

FRAUD. DECEPTION. MANIPULATION. LIES.

These words are the essence of this story. Going deeper into the article, Jim and Alice Musson (the couple) called a “separate company, V tech-squad, with addresses in Palo Alto, Calif., and Gurgaon, India.”

Despite asking for a specific service i.e. help with an email program, the V-tech agent just wanted to show them bogus stuff on their computer. CBC web developer Michael Leschart said

the demonstration the V tech-squad agent used to claim the computer was infected was effective, but fraudulent … these messages are usually just benign logs, but because most users have never seen them before, scammers can say they are proof the computer is infected, or that someone in China or Russia is accessing the computer’s files.

V-tech, the company the Mussons were speaking to, deliberately used a scare tactic and miscommunication to get the credit card number of the couple. CBC reports Jim Musson saying

the agent said he would need to run special software that would cost “five ninety-nine. Alice Musson gave him his MasterCard number thinking the cost was $5.99. But then he said, ‘$599.’

Even after telling the agent they wanted to stop the transaction, they were ignored and their credit card was charged so they hung up. At present, it’s a he-said/she said issue (in this case, Musson vs. V-tech squad) as ATB Financial (Alberta Treasury Branches) mentions that the vendor has 90 days to respond to the claim. ATB is investigating the case and if it finds “the vendor did not fulfil its duties or misled the customer, the Mussons would be entitled to a refund.” For the Musson’s sake, I sincerely hope they get their money back.

Suggestion from my BCIT PR Instructor, Gary Fowlie:

Microsoft needs to launch a community relations outreach campaign to shore up the credibility of its ‘real’ helpline service to assure its customers that it has their best interests at heart.

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