PC repair scammers are using Irish phone book to find victims

2 Jul 2010

An erroneous entry in the Irish telephone directory two years ago led one near victim of an elaborate cold-calling scam to deduce that cyber criminals from India are using the phone book to find Irish victims.

Siliconrepublic has reported how in recent weeks Irish consumers have been bombarded by unsolicited calls telling them their computers have a virus and offering to repair them for a price.

Posts on Boards.ie detail how callers have claimed to be from Online PC Doctors or Online PC Care.

The callers usually instruct the victims to download a tool called Log-MeIn, which gives them remote access to a PC. Unsurprisingly, error messages appear and the user is asked to pay €249 to have the virus removed from their computer.

But it was an unusual mistake in an Eircom phone book two years ago that led computer and maths student Patrick McCarthy to deduce the scammers are using the phone book to target victims.

McCarthy, who lives at an apartment block in Dublin 8, started receiving calls two years ago asking for a person with the same name as his apartment block and street of residence.

Phone book error spotted

This went on for a few weeks and he decided to look up the name in the phone book and lo and behold, his number was beside the name.

It was only when the phone rang this week and he was being targeted by the scam artists calling him by the name of his apartment block and street that McCarthy realised they were using either a physical copy of the phone book containing the erroneous entry or the online phone book which still lists the apartment block with his number.

“I did get on to Eircom to change it. I still get calls from marketing companies. But as soon as these scam artists got in touch using the name of my apartment block I knew they must have been getting people’s numbers that way.”

He says that he has received as many as 40 calls from the scammers. “The caller directs me to a website which even has an Irish flag.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years