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How Is This Not Spyware?

Spyware is purely evil. Barney's dealing with it, and now I've gotten a bit of it.

Actually, not me personally, but a couple of our homes. One of our homeowners that came onto our program brought an old computer into the house. It was loaded with Spyware and Virii. A quick scan and clean couldn't get rid of it, but since he said he didn't need anything on there to go ahead and erase it. So a quick reinstall of Windows, and we're good to go.

However, one of our homeowners had a computer that made a mess out of things. The owner of the home faxed us his Qwest bill. It has an add-on charge for $39.90 for a 900-number call. He said that he knows the home was rented during that timeframe, and insisted that we charge the guests (this all happened a week ago before I got involved). Our front desk staff charged the renter's card and left a message on his machine telling him why. Renter called back, saying he had nothing to do with calling any 900 numbers. Front desk said that's fine, removed the charge, we'll investigate.

So then I get involved. After looking at the bill and Googling the company and the 900 number, it looks like these folks have tried this crap before. Apparently, the computer at the house (which I didn't know existed as I hadn't been to the house in a long time) had a Spyware Dialer installed on it, and it dialed out when the guests turned on the computer (it was hidden so the guests had no idea). So I went out to the house, disconnected the phone line from the computer there, turned it on, and sure enough the thing popped up saying it couldn't get a dial tone. I didn't have time the gut what was undoubtedly a horribly infected system, so I just unplugged it and locked it in the homeowner's storage closet.

But we still had the problem with the phone bill and the charge. So I called the 800# for billing for that 900# on behalf of that homeowner, acting like the homeowner. First off, I played dumb -- even though I already knew what had called the 900# and why. I asked the lady on the other end where this call came from. The Intregretel company obviously just provides third-party billing for this company, so she was reading from a script. I told her that there was no way I'd make a phone call in the middle of the night to some 900 number. Where did this call come from? She went on to tell me that it wasn't a voice call but a data call.

"So there's a computer that is dialing some 900 number in the middle of the night without my permission?" I ask.

"The software installed that's dialing out is value-added software used in some games and software [insert a crapload of marketing bulls**t] and provides a better service to the users of that software."

"So it's spyware?" Obviously having heard this question before, she goes into another monologue about how it's not spyware, but a value-added, blah, blah, blah.

"How is this not spyware?" I ask again. "Some piece of software gets installed, without my permission, and dials a toll number at $4/minute, without my permission, and racks up toll charges on my phone bill. How is this not spyware?

Then she goes on with the same scripted response from above. Wash, rinse, repeat.

"I want this charge removed from my phone bill. Now." I demand. "My law office will have a field day with this." (I wasn't lying on this one as, already having talked to the homeowner, who was a lawyer himself, he was ready to smack these bastards to pieces.)

"Sir, I can offer you a 50% reduction in your payment of this."

"I want 100% reduction, and an apology."

"So you're rejecting the 50% reduction?"

"Quit reading your scripts and give me my money back!"

"So you're rejecting the 50% reduction?"

"Yes I am, because I want 100%."

"OK sir, we will remove this charge from your bill, block your number from being billed in the future, and will credit back your bill. Is there anything else we can do for you?"

"Quit supporting companies that do this kind of crap?"

"Have a nice day, sir."

Really, I almost felt sorry for the lady on the other end. I was getting fairly aggressive with her for a bit there, and she obviously was used to people who just quietly complain to have it removed. She's probably getting paid squat, but works for a company that's probably rolling in money. Sad, really.

Anyhow, if you ever see a random 900 number show up on your phone bill, clean the Spyware off your computer, and then call their billing number and yell at them. They need it.

Posted by Jake on 03/19/05 @ 01:19 PM
Posted in Stupid | Permalink

2 Trackbacks

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"Why Is My Fan So Loud?" from UtterlyBoring.com on 02/11/07 @ 10:41 AM:
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