It's lunchtime and the phone rings. I take a cursory glance at the caller ID as I lift up the handset. It starts with the numbers 0099 and is followed by a load more that I don't register before I press the answer button.
The line is bad.
"Hello," I say.
There's silence. "Hello?"
Things sound a bit confused on the other end of the line. There are background noises. Then, finally, someone is speaking.
"Hello, this is Frank at computer technical support," says a voice.
I want to laugh. If I'm being charitable, I might think Frank has just called the wrong number. After all, I'm at home and I don't have a computer technical support department. And if I did, I think it would be with someone a little closer to home than, judging by Frank's accent, Pakistan or India.
If I'm uncharitable, I might think Frank hasn't called a wrong number at all but is about to give me the spiel on some anti virus package that I need to download which will turn out to be a piece of malware that I have to pay him and his cronies to disable. You hear stories, don't you?
But the thing is, if Frank is a conman (and I'll never find out because the line abruptly goes dead) I have to wonder how anyone could be so gullible as to fall for whatever scam he's operating.
How many of the people picking up the phone to Frank or whoever else is designated to make the call really have any relationship whatsoever with a computer technical support department? So if they don't know of any so-called relationship, how can it be even the slightest bit convincing to them? It certainly doesn't sound very convincing to me.
(By the way, if you're reading this Frank and you really are from computer technical support, you might want to work on sounding a bit more authoritative and convincing - if you're not, please don't.)
But the point is that a lot of scams and malware rely on people to give credence to something or someone that, in real life, they would be far more inclined to dismiss out of hand.
Still, they must be reasonably successful to keep people like Frank in employment, making calls from 009999 to people all over the globe.
Tell you what, if Frank is legit, I'd be impressed at just how global his technical support provision is. Especially as he's calling up before I even know I have a problem.
Wow. Now that's support you can't buy. Nor should you.
This was first published in December 2011