Another day, another phone scam - this one from Nerd-i about my 'faulty' PC
Today I had a second phone call from someone telling me that my computer was faulty. The first time I got this call, a couple of weeks ago, I must have sounded suspicious because they put the phone down on me.
This time I decided to play naive and let them take me through the spiel. The caller told me that he 'knew' that my computer had more than 1000 faults and that it might crash at any time. He rather spoilt his line by then asking if I had a computer, but I ignored that and battled on. He said he would show me the problems.
First he told me to go to Start and click on Run, then enter eventvwr. This launches the Event Viewer and is a perfectly safe thing to do. I was then to click on Applications and notice how many errors there were.
As it happens this did alert me to a problem with my backup service, but I didn't tell him that. Apart from that there were in fact very few errors, but even if there had been more I imagine they would have been perfectly normal events.
Next came the dodgy bit. I was instructed to go to Run again then key in a web address. This is highly dangerous and no-one should do it. I wrote down the web address he gave me (but I will not share it with you) and asked him what would happen if I typed it in. He said it would allow me to access some remote software which would fix the problem.
Aha!! I explained that I would take some advice before going to a strange website because I was afraid of downloading viruses - I didn't tell him that I was more concerned about downloading spyware that might access my personal data. Not surprisingly he assured me that there wouldn't be any viruses.
I still said that I would not go to a strange website so he tried another tactic. This time I was to Run and enter msconfig. Once again, this is perfectly safe and launches the System Configuration Utility. Now I wouldn't advise anyone to make any changes to this utility unless they know what they are doing, but no harm can come from looking at it.
I was told to click on the Services tab and then look at how many applications were logged as 'stopped'. He told me that these were all applications that were needed by the computer and without them the PC would crash.
Total nonsense, of course. Applications which are stopped are just that - applications that have been running and are no longer needed.
At that point I had heard enough, so I asked him the name of his company, which he spelt out for me: Nerd-i. I repeated my story about not going to unknown websites and said goodbye.
Then I started googling. Nerd-i also crops up as Nerd Support Services and The Nerd Support, with plenty of complaints about its methods. Here is one warning from PCPro: Pensioner targeted by fake virus phone scam. It seems that they charge £185 for providing a so-called solution to the non-existent problem, presumably through a simple process of clearing out the error logs.
Unlike other scams I have dealt with there does seem to be a legitimate company called Nerd-i, with a comprehensive website. It is registered at Companies House with an address in London. The Nerd-i website has the appearance of a professional company and offers a range of internet security services.
I was wondering if someone was using their brand illicitly. So I phoned the number given on the website and asked the woman who replied whether she was aware of the techniques being used. At first she agreed that the phone call had come from them. When I explained that I was an IT professional and knew that they were using unfounded scare tactics she said that it 'wasn't her department' and that she would try to trace the person who called me to have words with him. I then told her that I would be reporting them to the police.
Have you received a phone call like mine? Do you know anyone who has fallen for the scam?
I phoned the new Met 101 helpline, and explained what had happened. They tried to put me through to the Intelligence section at Kingston Police Station but the call transfer failed, and the 101 line was then busy.
But before that happened they did advise me to get in touch with Trading Standards. So I called Trading Standards on 08454 04 05 06 which goes straight to Consumer Direct, and told them my story. They thought I should report it to Action Fraud, the Government counter fraud organisation.
I called Action Fraud and after some explanation I was asked to submit a crime report and was given a crime number.
By that time I had noticed that Nerd-i had only been registered at Companies House two months ago, which would explain the change of name.
If you want to report something similar I would suggest you go straight to Action Fraud or call them on 0300 123 2040.