All I had to do was open up a Google page on my computer and search for ‘validator’. Once I had done that Esmay felt that more expertise was required and she passed me on to her Mac specialist. He, with much better English than Esmay, wanted me to choose the top Google result (http://validator.w3.org) and then type ‘google.com’ into the validator. I do that and find a lovely red warning signal saying there are 30 errors and 5 warnings. Oh no, my computer connection has been hijacked by ‘nefarious people’, but luckily these great folk ‘from Telstra’ can fix it for a fee and access to my hard-drive.
That’s the point at which I got bored with it all and put the phone down – I didn’t hang up, just put the phone down and listened to plaintive cries of ‘are you there’ for the next few minutes before they finally gave up.
The validator scam is not new, although using Telstra rather than Microsoft is more fresh. It probably comes with a higher failure rate because, presumably, you’re less likely to fall for it if you’re not using Telstra for your internet. The scam revolves around the use of validator: That’s a legitimate service which is used by web delopers to check if their pages conform to web open standards. As virtually no page actually does properly conform it’s easy to generate that warning message. From there the scammers just need you to believe that the problem is really at your end, and that they’re there to help.
It was interesting to observe the scammers triage process. Clearly ‘Esmay Gomez’ was filtering for a first-level response, but once the hook was placed they bump the call up to someone else to close the deal. And it was amusing to listen to their smooth closer get increasingly frustrated as I turned out to be unable to follow even basic instructions.
While I was momentarily amused by the whole thing, there must, sadly, be enough people falling for this to make the time and effort involved worthwhile for the scammers.