I am on holiday from work this week. This morning the phone rang while I was lazing in bed reading the news and finishing a second cup of tea.
“This is BT Technical Department”, announced a distant voice in an accent that sounded Indian, “we are calling to tell you that due to problems with your computer you will be disconnected from the internet for three months”.
“Really. I don’t have BT internet, who is calling please? I don’t think you are calling from BT.”
“You will be disconnected from the internet. Ma’am, BT is the mother service for other providers like Talk-Talk and Virgin. You will be disconnected. You don’t need to be on BT broadband.”
“But my internet service is wireless, direct from my ISP. BT isn’t involved in providing my connection to the ISP.”
“You service will be disconnected for three months because of problems with your computer.”
“What problems with my computer? You don’t know anything about my computer. Tell me what the problems are.”
“You need to be in front of your PC. Are you in front of your PC now? I can demonstrate to you your problems”
“No thank you”.
“But you will lose your internet access for three months if we don’t fix your problems now”.
“You haven’t told me what problems you think I have with my computer …”
And she hung up.
I decided to call BT to report an instance of a scam in their name. After navigating through the IVR and waiting for ages (thank goodness it was a free phone number), Jane in customer services answered. She wouldn’t speak to me because she said I didn’t have a BT account, even though I was phoning on my BT number. Before she would speak to me I had to speak to billing because my account was showing as closed and she couldn’t make a note of the call: the system wouldn’t let her.
“I only wanted to report an instance of scam…..”
“I have to log all calls and you don’t have an account. It is showing as closed, I’ll put you through to billing.”
“Don’t bother. I already waited long enough and I only wanted to report a sca….”
“We know all the scams”.
I got the message. She wasn’t interested. I hung up.
After another cup of tea I called BT billing. A very apologetic lady in the billing department said their was nothing wrong with my account. It was very much active.
By early afternoon I had forgotten about the scam and the inter departmental confusion at BT when the phone rang again. I thought it was the garage calling about my daughter’s car.
“Hello, …. Hello”. A distant voice with an Indian accent. “This is BT technical department calling to advise that your internet will be disconnected for two months”. Only two months! Better offer than this morning. As my plans to spend the week gardening had been thwarted due to a shoulder injury, I decided I would see how long I could string them along.
“But I don’t have a BT internet service so why are you calling me? I already explained when you called this morning, and I checked with BT. You aren’t calling from BT.”
“We are BT technical department calling because you have some problems with your computer and we will have to disconnect your from the internet for two months”.
“What sort of problems? I didn’t know I had any problems with my computer. Why do you think I have a problem?”
“We have been getting reports from your computer connection that you have some problems. You need to be in front of your computer and we can show you.”
“I am not aware of any problems with my computer”.
“They are hidden problems Ma’am. Are you in front of your computer now? I’ll put you on to my technical colleague and he will show you”.
Another Indian sounding voice came on the line. “I am Peter, senior technical support at BT technical department. I have to tell you you will be disconnected from the internet for two long months”.
“I don’t think you are really BT. I called them this morning after one of your colleagues rang with the same threat. Who are you, who do you work for and how did you get my details?”
“I am calling from 81 Newgate Street, London, BT Technical department on the third floor”. The quality of the line suggested it could be another planet.
My husband checked the address and it is actually a BT address but I knew he wasn’t calling from BT. To me this was proof that he knew he was lying. I told him I didn’t believe him but he continued undaunted.
“Why will you cut off my internet connection?”
“You have many problems. If you are in front of your computer I will show you. Is the left most key CTRL? What is the next key to it?
“You tell me. You seem to know about my computer.”
“It is the Windows key”
“No it isn’t”
“Have you got an Apple Mac?”
“I thought you knew about my computer. How do you know it was my computer sending you the reports of problems?”
“You are registered with the software and I have your computer ID.”
“Oh really? What is it?”
“Amazing. How did you get that?”
“If you are in front of your computer I will show you. Open Safari browser”.
“How will that help. It is just a web browser?
“Ma’am. You need to listen. Your computer will be disconnected for two long months. I need to correct the problems, infections, with your computer if you don’t want to be disconnected for two long months.”
“Are you saying you can detect problems my Sophos antivirus and malware checker can’t detect? I keep it up to date. It has detected several trojans arriving in spam emails this morning. I don’t think I’ve got any problems.”
“I can see the problems on your computer and I will show you. Then you will believe me. I can show you. You need to listen otherwise you will be disconnected for two long months. Please open your browser and go to www.pcscan.us. Have you done it? What do you see?”
“Hang on. I just did a check. Some people have reported scammers asked them to visit this site”.
“What do you see?”
“What should I see? When I talk to real technical support people they always know what I should see next and explain it to me. What do you think I should see?”
“What can you see?” (I didn’t visit the site)
“It looks like a tool for detecting viruses and PC problems, but you didn’t answer my question about virus detection. Don’t you think Sophos is good virus protection? Also if you can see my computer how did you get through my firewall?”
“You have a problem that your personal data is leaking. We have to stop your personal data leaking. If you don’t let me do that you will be disconnected from the internet for two long months”.
“My personal data. If my personal data is leaking that is my problem and no reason for you to disconnect me for two months. What legal grounds do you have for disconnecting me from a service I am paying for and which has nothing to do with BT?”
The conversation loops again several times as he explains how serious it is for him to prevent me from letting my personal information leak.
“As far as I can see the only personal information of mine that has leaked is my phone number. Where did you get it? Who are you working for? You are not calling from BT and genuine companies won’t make cold calls because I have signed up to the TPS.”
“Hang on a few seconds. I need to talk to my colleague”.
Another voice comes on the line and I repeat my questions asking who he is and where he is calling from. He repeats the conversation I just had with his colleague. I keep asking my questions. He won’t answer and tells me to shut up otherwise he won’t be able to help. I ask him to answer my questions. He says he will answer, but all he says is that I will be disconnected from the internet for two months within the next hour if I don’t let them fix the problems. I ask him again to answer the questions and he says he has and repeats again that I will be disconnected because I didn’t let him fix my system. Then he hangs up.
They called from 00811784 at 14:10 BST and hung up at 14:44. I dialled the number but it does not connect.
The garage called half an hour later and that is another story