Somewhere, somehow, tech-support scammers seem to have access to the details about Dell customers' computers.
Most tech-support scammers just dial random numbers and try to convince whoever answers that their Windows machine has problems, even if the person on the other end of the line doesn't own a Windows computer. The scammers try to be as generic and vague as possible, avoiding mention of computer brands or models or Windows versions unless the victim happens to bring them up.
By contrast, for more than three years, a persistent trickle of Dell owners have reported scam callers who seem to know precise details about the victims' individual machines, including model names and numbers, serial numbers and Dell service tags, Ars Technica reports. The callers appear to also possess the contact information provided by the Dell owners upon device purchase, including telephone numbers, email addresses and even personal names.
As in regular tech-support scams, the "technicians" claim that the users' computers are infected with malware or are otherwise vulnerable, and try to sell the computer owners expensive software to "fix" the problem. But the detailed knowledge about the PCs the scammers present makes it more likely that targets will fall for the scam.
We've reached out to Dell for comment and will update this story when we receive it.
MORE: How to Protect Yourself from Tech-Support Scams
Ars Technica cited complaints posted Dell comments sections and forums, where customers have been reporting highly personalized scam calls from as early as June 2015 (opens in new tab).
"I just got a call from 'Dell' who knew EVERYTHING about my computer, and my full name," wrote one commenter on a Dell support forum in February 2018 (opens in new tab). This is much worse than a typical scammer."
"This guy had my phone number, email address, model number, customer number and service tag and possibly also my name," a targeted Dell user told Ars Technica, descrbing a scam attempt that took place on July 10, earlier this week.
"They identified the model number for both my Dell computers, and knew every problem that I'd ever called Dell about," detailed a personal blog posting from January 2016. "None of this information was ever posted online, so it's not available anywhere except Dell's own customer service records."
One customer wrote in a comment to Dell's own tech-support-scam page (opens in new tab) in April 2018 that a caller had their name, phone number, service tags, and express service codes. The commenter also noted that the calls began only after they called Dell's customer service. Another commenter (opens in new tab), also in April 2018, wrote that their caller knew they'd been downloading files from Dell's website.
A Dell spokesperson told Ars Technica that "We're taking proactive measures to shut down these scammers and make our customers aware of the scam, including direct communication, a blog posting (opens in new tab) with tips on how to deal with scammers, and an alert on our Support website (opens in new tab).
"From our work with other leaders in tech, it's clear that scams of this nature are industry-wide, and we're all taking them very seriously. Our customers can be assured that Dell will continue to work with our peers in the IT industry, as well as law enforcement, to focus on putting an end to these scammers."
It's true that tech-support-scams are an industry-wide problem, but we've never heard of another company's customers being targeted by scammers who already knew exactly what kind of machines the call recipients owned.
"At some point Dell has either had a data breach (hacked) or someone at their support center is leaking information," speculated one forum commenter (opens in new tab) in September 2017.
If you're a Dell customer who's received such calls, you can report them to Dell online (opens in new tab) or by calling 1-866-453-1742 during Eastern business hours.
We also recommend that you hang up immediately if you receive a suspicious call from someone who claims to know your personal information, and that you block that number. If you're not sure, play it safe: Dell (or any computer manufacturer) will never pressure you to reveal personal information unsolicited.