Caution: the kind voice on the line could be up to no good

We received another suspect call, as do so many every day.  His voice was kind and patient.  His goal? To remote into our computer.  This is not good.  Listening to him was disturbing.  Not because I saw him as a threat but because I know he would have been able to manipulate many others out there who may not be tech savvy or who may have cognitive impairments or who may just be so inexperienced with deceivers that they may not realize what is happening and comply with his requests.

Use the following example of what happened to us as a reminder to keep your guard up at all times when communicating with strangers who are trying to reach you in this digital age.

  • The call came in from this phone number:  282-648-2794 and the caller id was a long series of numbers instead of an actual business name.  Phone numbers are easy to mask so this could or could not be the callers actual phone number.
  • The caller was a very sincere and patient young man with a thick accent, it sounded like an Indian accent.
  • He began the conversation with something creepy.  He made a comment that we had been on our computer yesterday.  This is something he would have no way of knowing.  But we replied yes.  This was his way of determining if we did or did not have a computer in our possession.
  • He then asked if we were the only ones that used the computer, this is his subtle way of determining if the computer is being used for business or personal use.
  • He then asks us to visit a web site and download software.  What he wanted us to download is software from alpemix.com in order to gain remote control access to our computer.  If you do an internet search of alpemix you will see that this is remote control software and it has been used in phone scams for many years.  I do not know the history of alpemix so I cannot say at this time if it is a software of good intent that is just unfortunately the software of choice of scammers or not.  Either way, the scam goes like this:  you download the alpemix software, the caller remotes into your machine and releases malware or viruses, your computer then shows you have malware or viruses, the caller then says that for a fee he will repair your computer.
  • We kept this caller on the phone so long pretending to be inept computer users who could not reach the alpemix.com site, that the caller finally gave up, said something so disgusting that it cannot be repeated and hung up on us.

If you think you have people in your home who would believe a caller like this, sit down and go through this scenario with them.  Encourage them to immediately disconnect the call.  Not engaging with the caller is the most successful strategy and then use features on your phone to block the call so hopefully you will not receive another call from the same people (many phones have call blocking features now and this is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of them).

Avoid engaging or arguing with the caller.   This will in no way change the trajectory of their behavior.  Make no mistake, you are dealing with a criminal over the phone.  We can only hope that they will suddenly take up a sweet hobby like knitting or cliff diving and be so preoccupied by it that they forget to show up for work at their job which is obviously a company called something like “Phone Scam Surplus Manufacturers of the Free World Organization”.  Just hang up the phone and go on your merry way:)

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Dealing with the IPERCTV disorder during the holidays – remote control mayhem

The holidays are going to be here before you know it and that means many of you are going to have a house full of relatives.  This quick post will help you prepare for the impending onslaught of freakish family behavior regarding electronics.

Most of my relatives are afflicted with a very strange disorder.  The “I must point every remote control at the TV and see what happens” disorder (also known as IPERCTV).  The scene usually unfolds at dawn.  One early riser must immediately know the weather conditions of all cities in the world via the gorgeous people on The Weather Channel.  Since no one else is up, and since the guest is incapable of complex thought at such an early hour, he or she proceeds to pick up all 37 remote controls lying around the house to try them out.  The behavior with each remote control is the same:  point the remote control at the TV, press every button on the remote control, move on to the next remote control and repeat.

It does not matter that the remote control says “General Motors” on it, clearly indicating that it is in fact a key fob for the car in the driveway, the guest is going to point it at the TV and click every button on it anyway.  One of these button presses inevitably sets off the car alarm of the car in the driveway and wakes up everyone in the house.  The rest of the family comes downstairs to investigate the alarm.  It is at this point that the guest quickly demands someone turn on the TV for the latest weather report.

For the next two hours the host attempts to sync back up the 985 audio and visual systems to the one remote control that they all used to successfully communicate with.  During the first hour and a half of troubleshooting, there is a tremendous amount of cussing.  The final thirty minutes is dedicated to testing, lecturing guests on remembering to use only one remote control and drinking beer for breakfast to deal with the stress.

To save your sanity, lock your extraneous remote controls away NOW.  Do not wait until your guests are in your living room.  To make for an even smoother visit, put a piece of paper next to the TV remote control that shows guests what buttons to push.

Good luck.

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