Several people in the area were complaining about the calls, so I imagine someone had managed to get hold of a list of phone numbers and was working their way down it. Repeatedly. Three or four times a day, according to some people.
Inevitably enough, one of these people called us while I happened to be at home and my partner thrust the phone into my hand and asked me to make him go away. She has a touching faith in my social skills.
What follows is from memory and, therefore, not entirely accurate, but it’s close enough.
Having been passed from one person to another, our scammer felt the need to start his script again from the beginning. And it was painfully obvious that he was following a script — so much so that it felt like I was listening to a recording. (As a side note, if you are going to call random people in Flanders, it’s worth knowing a little bit of Dutch.)
Off he went:
I’m from Microsoft and we at Microsoft have detected a problem with your computer…
Okay. I get that you really want me to believe that you are calling me from Microsoft, but what is the problem?
I’m from Microsoft and we at Microsoft have detected a problem with your computer. At Microsoft we have detected that your computer has been hacked over the internet…
Three “Microsofts” and two “detecteds”. You are never going to win at Just a Minute, but what do I need to do about this?
Click. Rewind. I’m sure you get the picture.
So I put the phone on speaker and let him run through his script until he had to stop to take a breath. At this point, I expressed suitable concern and a willingness to let him and all his pretend friends at Microsoft help me solve this devastating but previously unnoticed problem.
Now that he thought I was convinced he passed me over to his Super Leet Haxor, or Supervisor, who informed me that I would first need to open Internet Explorer.
I could see where this is going. Open a browser, visit some frighteningly dodgy URL and download a bucketload of malware. So I said, “OK, give me a moment while I turn my computer on.”
And while he waited, I carefully placed the phone handset on top of the coffee grinder.
And turned it on.