A Public Service Announcement from The Pop Culture Historian

Now we do something a little different, and it will start with a really stupid story.

I recently got my hands on a Lenovo laptop. One (of a few) problem I found with it is the fact that its wi-fi receiver is a little feeble, especially when I’m in my lab where the wi-fi signal is a little weak to begin with. I did a Google search on my phone, and I found a URL that said something like “lenovo-support.com”. I (stupidly) called the number thanks to the handy fact that you can just click “call” when googling things on your phone.

A guy with a strong Indian accent answered. Before long, he spoke quickly and convinced me to sign into some website and give him remote access to my computer. As he did some clicking around on my computer, I what looked like a massive load of infected files. Convinced my computer had some sort of serious infection(s) on it, I did exactly what this guy wanted me to do: panic.

In my panic, I let him convince me to sign up for bogus services for $250 and authorized those charges to my card. In the meantime, this “technician” just downloaded Malwarebytes and did a virus scan using that. As many of you should know, Malwarebytes is a free software that I shouldn’t need to pay someone to do.

The more I thought about what just happened, the more I realized what just happened to me. The Lenovo Ideapad U310’s wi-fi is a known hardware issue with this model laptop; it has nothing to do with viruses. More importantly, this company is NOT at all affiliated with Lenovo, but company called Supportbuddy, Inc. Supportbuddy, led by a dude called Ranjit Singh, claims to be based in California, but I’m more than certain they’re actually operating out of India.

I got right back on the phone with this company and demanded a refund. As I did this, they tried to simply put me on hold for extended periods of time (like about 40 minutes) and hoped I would give up. When I didn’t, I exchanged some heated words with the customer services rep and he promised me a full refund “within 7-10 business days”, though I don’t know to what extent I can believe him that I’ll ever see my money again.

More importantly, Supportbuddy more likely than not, under the guise of installing antivirus software and cleaning my computer up, very likely left malware on my computer. What I did was do a system restore to the day before I made this call and had my debit card disabled. I also contacted my bank and the Federal Trade Commission. Unfortunately, as I DID authorize the transaction, I couldn’t simply request my bank to reverse the transaction. However, in the meantime, I still have an active case against this company with the FTC as I continue to dispute the charges with Supportbuddy themselves.

What happened to me was actually one of a huge wave of similar technical support scams that have hit where scammers, mostly based in India, basically scare people into believing their computer has some sort of security risk and then paying hundreds of dollars for something that is nonexistent, useless, or even harmful for their computer.

I learned one important lesson here: When looking for contact information for technical support, actually go to the company’s website and look for it there. Don’t just do a search for it as you will inevitably run into these scammers using their ads to pose as legitimate support staff.

Once you do fall for a scam, there honestly isn’t a whole lot you can do, especially since most of these scammers are in India; India is a country where if you are good enough to donate (read: bribe) a politician, he will leave you alone as you continue your criminal activities. Yes, these scams very much are cybercrimes.

I quote the GI Joe PSAs when I say knowing is half the battle. I let this happen to me completely out of my own ignorance, and I sincerely hope you fans don’t fall victim to this as well.