Ask Rick 173 01/10/11
Microsoft Cold Call Scam Revisited
I frequently receive telephone calls purporting
to be from Microsoft advising me that problems have been identified with my PC,
asking me to switch it on so that they can help fix the fault. The one time I
did spend some time dealing with them, after about 15 minutes it seemed clear
that the object was to sell me some software. Can you tell me whether these
calls are likely to be genuine?
Ernest Short, by email
It is a scam, plain and simple! We last dealt
with this issue a year ago and since it shows no signs of going away – if
anything it’s getting worse judging by the number of emails we have been
getting – it’s time for a reminder.
The caller usually claims to be from Microsoft
and knows your name and that you have a Windows PC. It all sounds very
plausible but your name and telephone number are almost certainly in the public
domain or have been 'harvested' from forms and documents and sold on to spammers and scammers. If you have a computer there’s a ninety percent probability that it
uses Windows, and it has almost cerainly slowed down or developed a few quirks since it was new, so these cold callers get a very high hit rate. Sometimes you will be asked
to check a file on your computer, which apparently lists lots of error
messages. This looks alarming but in reality it’s a log file that shows Windows
is working properly and fixing routine problems on its own. Users may be asked
to grant the caller remote access to their computer. Don’t do it or you will
end up with a nasty dose of spyware, a virus, trojans, keyloggers or a useless
piece of software that you’ll have to pay to get rid of.
Microsoft never cold calls Windows users.
Provided you keep your system up to date, you have adequate virus protection
and you are not seeing any error messages it is almost certainly working
properly. Windows PCs do slow down over time but this is normal and can usually
be fixed without recourse to costly software. If you are feeling vindictive you
can always waste their time and run up their phone bills by feigning ignorance.
Simply leave them on hold as you pretend to go and switch on the computer. My
current record is 45 minutes.
When I send photos from my PC to other members
of my family I always right click on the file and in the drop-down menu select
Mail Recipient. A box appears asking whether I wish to make the photos smaller
or keep original size. I always click on make smaller and the photos are sent
very quickly. As I understand this method does not affect the quality or the
resolution of the photos for the recipients? Is this assumption correct?
When I try to send them at the original size
particularly several at once, they are returned stating that they have exceeded
the server's space. Is this space on Outlook Express rather than my hard drive?
As far as I can see I have masses of space on my C: drive.
T G Jones, by email
When you opt to make pictures smaller for
emailing Windows compresses the file using what’s known as a ‘lossy’
compression scheme. It does affect picture quality as it discards data, however
at lower compression settings it can be quite difficult to spot the
differences. The lost data represent information that we tend not to notice
very much, such as subtle variations in brightness and colour. At higher
compression levels it does become apparent, though, and above 50 percent
compression images begin to look coarser and contrasty, colours appear blotchy
and edges start to look ragged.
The message you are seeing when you try to
email too many large files is coming from your ISP and it’s their mail server,
not your computer, which is complaining. The size limit varies but is typically
between 4 and 10Mb per message; your ISP’s help or support should be able to
tell you exactly what theirs is. To get around it you can either reduce the
number of attachments per message, increase the file compression to stay within
the limits, or try splitting your message into two or more smaller ones. In
Outlook Express and Windows Mail go to Tools > Options, double-click your
account, select Advanced and check ‘Break apart messages larger than…’ and enter
the maximum size you are allowed to send in the box.
My Windows XP PC is operating very slowly and
when I try to open a Word document it shows a message saying ‘Requesting a
virus scan’. This takes a lot of time and the delay is annoying. How do I cope
Colin Salsbury, by email
This is the work of an Office plug-in in your
anti virus software and both AVG and Norton are well known for this sort of
behaviour. In Norton go to Options > Miscellaneous and under How to Keep
Office Documents Protected, uncheck ‘Enable Office plug-in’. There is no
switch, as such, in AVG but you can disable or unregister the file that’s
requesting the scan by going to Run on the Start menu and type (without the
quotes) ‘regsvr32 /u
avgoff2k.dll’ and click OK.
Dead Drive Dilemma
My three-year old Panasonic HDD/DVD recorder
has developed a serious problem. The DVD part has broken down, and it is going
to cost about 70 percent of the cost of a new machine to fix. The problem is
how do I retrieve the contents of the hard drive, quite a lot of which we have
not even seen.
Raymond Turner, by email
It’s annoying but personally I wouldn’t worry
too much about those lost recordings. These days most TV programs and movies
are either repeated or available for download from the Internet or on DVD.
Unfortunately the DVD recorder drives used in
many recent Panasonic HDD/DVD recorders are not standard off the shelf items so
replacements are unusually expensive. However, it may be possible to reduce the
cost of a repair quite significantly if you have a teccy friend who can
transplant the drive and control board from a second hand or dead machine of
the exact same model number. It’s not an especially difficult job and machines
sold for ‘spares or repair’ frequently appear on ebay and often sell for just a
few pounds. If you go for a faulty one just make sure it’s nothing to do with
the DVD drive...
© R. Maybury 2011 1209