By Julie Bort
Have you ever been online when a window pops up saying your computer has a virus and urges you to call Microsoft Support (or maybe Apple Support) at the number provided?
That’s a support scam, Microsoft says, and it’s really trying to trick you into downloading malware, or handing over your credit card info — or both.
And now one telecom programmer professional has come up with a brilliant, and hilarious, way to take these scammers offline, and possibly, put ‘em out of business for good.
Roger Anderson, a telecom consultant and owner of The Jolly Roger Telephone Company, built an army of human-sounding phone bots that stops telemarketers from harassing homes or business. It’s not his main gig, he makes his living as a consultant designing telecom systems.
He built the bot army after a telemarketer called his house and used nasty language with his son, now he sells it as a service to businesses and consumers. When a telemarketer calls, you transfer the call to the bot service and the bot gabs with the telemarketer as long as the telemarketer wants, until the telemarketers figure out they are being played and hang up. It wastes their time so they’ll stop calling.
The bot says things like “yes” or “uh huh” or “I’m listening” and “Oh geez, hang on, there’s a bee on my arm. You keep talking. I’m just going to stay quiet because of this bee.”
Anderson did a hilarious TEDx talk about it in December.
This week, when his computer stumbled onto one of those support scams, a light bulb went off.
“I ended up getting a popup saying my computer was infected. I felt invaded. I thought, ‘screw that.’ Of all the people on planet, I’m probably the only guy that has the tech to make blast phone calls. And I have robots that sound like people convincingly enough to waste time,” he told Business Insider.
Anderson had never used his bot army to make outbound calls, since it “makes him nervous” to think of the evil that could be done if the technology was in the wrong hands.
So he called the number on the pop-up to make sure it was a scammer’s call center. It was. Then he had one of his bots call. The person was fooled enough for the call to last more than five minutes. (He posted some samples of the calls here. It’s like listening to a p