We have Spam, Spam, Spam, Bacon, Eggs and Spam.
Spam, Sausages, Spam, Beans and Spam…
who has not laughed at the unforgettable Monty Python’s SPAM sketch.
However, the SPAM I’m talking about is no laughing matter. I’m talking about that irritating avalanche of unwanted mails that everyone receives daily in their email Inbox, which in turn threatens to explode by the sheer amount of crap that those criminals (because that is what they are) try to shovel down our throats, predating on the less experienced, or the youngest, or the oldest among us.
I will never ask you to open one of those mails. On the contrary: beware of clicking any link contained in them or open any attachment, no matter what mountains of gold they are promising you, no matter how long and strong your erection will be after you buy their product, or how easier your banking life will become after you update your password (as long as you tell them which one it is), or how rich you will be if you help this poor Nigerian Prince to move his bank accounts to your Country and escape the bitter destiny that awaits him in that far and war-plagued corner of the world he lives in.
Never, EVER, reply or open any of those mails. That will only cost you dearly, or worse.
But every now and then, a brave spirit raises to the challenge.
The SPAM hero picks up the glove and fights back.
James Veitch is such a hero.
A comedian by trade, he was so fed up by spammers and the likes of them that he created a fake email account and gave them what they were looking for… with a twist.
Have a look at this TED video and have a great laugh at SPAM and the spammers.
Personally, I never answer mailed SPAM, but regularly I get those extremely irritating phone calls from one or another “Microsoft Agent”, invariably making a mess of my name and sounding like Peter Sellers in the movie “The Party”. Not that I have anything against Indians (the ones in Asia, not the Native Americans, for which I harbour nothing but admiration). Fact is that with the present Corporate racism, you automatically expect any Help Desk or Customer Service Agent to be stationed in a low-wages Country, of which India is the most popular (immediately followed by China, Malaysia and Thailand), therefore you are already unprepared to really understand the poor chap.
Anyway, whatever the accent, there is no way in the whole freezing hell that Microsoft would call you at home just to guide you through “…some very easy steps that will make your PC very secure, Sir”.
I wouldn’t believe that even if Bill Gates in person was knocking at my door to bring the good news. He would receive the same treatment I reserve to other people and groups trying to bring me “the good news”, which is a gentle but decided invitation to move further, or else…
Anyway, I have found my own “James Veich way” to deal with those alleged Microsoft Agents who are desperately trying to help me secure my poor, unprotected PC.
Read and learn, or laugh…
The first part is a bit tricky: you need to check the incoming number on your display. If you cannot do that, then try to always pick up the phone in a neutral way, so that you can further ‘play by ear’ as you move along.
Once you are sure you have this enthusiastic and rather comical character on the phone (I can’t help it. English spoken poorly and with a heavy Indian accent, always makes me laugh), you need to play cool and go with the flow.
Below is a short summary of what I do during one of those calls.
“A very good morning to you Sir. I’m Rajesh (Kumar, Arjun, Vijay, whatever) from Microsoft Corporation. We are calling our valued customers to make sure they are fully protected against most evil virus assaults.”
“A very good morning to you too, Rajesh (Kumar, Arjun, Vijay, whatever). How nice of you to take such proactive approach to security. Please do tell me. What can I do for you?”
“With a few easy steps we can make sure that your PC is fully protected”.
At this point you have to sound very interested but at the same time out of your comfort zone and tell the wretched Agent that you cannot remember the password and that you need to go and ask your son (or anything else that makes sense with the “age” of your voice).
Make sure you lay down the phone before the Agent gets any chance to say a word and leave it there for at least 5 minutes. Go and have a quick drink, or eat some candy, read a couple of pages of your favourite book, anything that can make those 5 minutes well spent.
After that, try to sound a bit out of breath and tell the guy on the other side that your son has just gone out and that you are going to call him on the mobile and ask him to go back and help you out with the password.
If you like, you can throw in also a nonchalant “by the way, which one of the 4 computers in house do you need, or would it be better to check ALL of them?”…
Listen to the answer. No need to say anything else, since you have no intention whatsoever of doing whatever the guy asks, but then interrupt him to say you now need to go and use the other phone to call your son back.
Stay away between 3 and 7 minutes this time, then go back and tell the guy that your son is on his way back home and that it will take him less than 10 minutes, but that in the meantime you are going to start up all 4 PCs, so to be ready when he comes back.
Don’t go into discussions if the guy asks you why couldn’t your son give you the password while on the phone, you just remain vague and say that it’s not safe and that you highly value security and so on, crap like that.
Obviously, you are not going to do anything of the above and just go back to whatever you were doing for the next 7-8 minutes.
Go back to the phone and say your son is just coming through the door, that he will input the password but then will have to leave for an appointment, so they will have to do whatever they need with you, instead of the expert help of your son. Make them believe you really need them to tell you every step to take because you have a very poor understanding of computers in general.
Taking into account that the average phone call from India costs (to a Company) between 5 and 14 dollars per minute, including accidental costs, wages and so on, you have by now already managed to waste at least 20 minutes of their time (if not 30), causing a damage between the 100 and 280 dollars.
I have never seen any of those fake agents spending more than 20 minutes without a tangible result, so I never had to go past the stage of “fire up the PC and wait for the password”.
If you have, just go ahead, go and sit in front of the TV, switch to your favourite sport channel, turn the volume down and enjoy the game, while you will be at the same time diligently following their instructions (they will try to have you go to one or other fake web-page and click on a link that will download some ransomware to your PC or to get your email address so they can send you the “protection package” link to be downloaded also from their fabulous website and install the ransomware that way.
Whatever you do, never go in the vicinity of your PC, just sit back, be the idiot they think to have on the line and make them sweat for every word they say.
Start all over again, because you just clicked the wrong button, or fake an error or anything else you want.
I can guarantee you that no-one, ever, will spend that amount of time with you on the phone.
My record was 42 minutes and 38 seconds (estimated damage: between 212 and 596 dollars).