“When he called you, you said to him that his firewall has 2 percent remaining, yes or no?”
“Yep, that’s right…”
“You said the firewall has 2 percent remaining. What does that mean?”
“Yeah, I’m explaining you that. We installed the security on your grandfather’s computer, alright, and that security would have 2 percent left on it.”
If you know anything about the way computers work, and the way they are secured, then you know firewalls do not erode through usage. Saying that a firewall has ‘2 percent remaining’ is literally meaningless. However, if you are a normal person then you may also try to attribute a sincere meaning to these words because it can be difficult to accept how much some people will lie just to frighten others into paying them money. This lies at the heart of another scam investigated by vigilante hacker Jim Browning. He hacked into an Indian business formerly called VSupport LLC, now called Clohub IT Services, to show how they are conning thousands of dollars out of new users of video streaming services like Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.
The essentials of the scam work like this:
- The scammers know that a lot of people with little knowledge of computers and networks are currently trying to install video streaming services for the first time.
- The scammers have seeded the web with bogus webpages and adverts that look like they offer authorized support for people struggling to install branded video streaming services.
- New customers who search online for support will find the content seeded by the scammers.
- The bogus webpages and adverts include a toll free number to call for support; this number leads the victims to contact the scammers and ask for their help.
- When victims call the scammers, they are told lies about the security of their device being compromised, such as their firewall having ‘2 percent remaining’.
- Victims are duped into paying thousands of dollars for recurring security services that are neither useful nor relevant to the user’s needs.
The standard response to scams like these is to demand more education for the public, even though we should know that decades of educating the public still leaves many incapable of distinguishing between nonsense like ‘2 percent remaining on your firewall’ and the advice that would be given by a genuine customer support function. Let us instead learn the real lesson of this scam:
- Big businesses like Disney and Amazon need to do more to ensure their support services always top any web search, and so prevent their brands and reputations being hijacked by scammers.
- Web advertising businesses need to do more to prevent scammers misleading the public and governments need to create and enforce rules that will lead web advertising businesses to be fined each time they fail.
- Police in countries like India need to do a lot more to shut down rogue call centers of the type identified by Jim Browning. If Browning can find the names and locations of the scumbags who routinely defraud victims worldwide then why do law enforcement agencies say they are incapable of doing the same thing?
To understand this scam in more detail, you can watch Jim Browning’s interrogation of one of the scammers below.