After answering the phone, I had the inevitable few seconds of silence, followed by "Hello, my name is Andrew, and I'm from Microsoft Service Department". Quite politely, for a change, I asked him how I could be of assistance to him, which briefly seemed to stress test his knowledge of English, but after a slight hesitation he bravely carried on with his important message to me.
"Your computer is sending out viruses", he informed me, and then gave me a short talk on how computers can be taken over by hackers.
"Are you near your computer now?" said 'Andrew'.
"In your browser, type www.150.co.il, and press Enter" said Andrew, sensing victory. (don't try this at home, kids)
"I'm not quite as stupid as you think I am" I informed him, at which point the storm of cursing and swearing that erupted from Andrew rather suggested that he was not particularly happy at that precise moment. I was impressed at his grasp of English swear words, though.
I felt rather sorry for him then. No, that's a lie. I didn't feel anything other than satisfaction. The rest of it is perfectly true, though.
Today's call from 'Microsoft Service Department' was slightly different from the usual pattern.
Most of the time they inform me that viruses are being sent from my IP Address.
"What is my IP Address?" I always ask them, before they have a chance to get started on the usual waffle. Usually I then get told that they can't tell me that "for security reasons", I laugh or make some other comment and they realise I'm not falling for it and hang up, with or without accompanying swearing and cursing. Hmmm. Maybe that's the easiest part of English, so it's the first thing they learn...
Yesterday's caller was obviously a bit smarter than usual, but only a bit. He replied to my question about my IP Address by giving me the numbers 192.168.2.1. Not a bad effort, but as I pointed out to him, that's just a common address for any router on any local network.
"What is my actual IP Address that is sending out the viruses?" I asked him.
"265" ("oh dear!" I thought, "I suspect he's just making up numbers at random") "896" he said rather hesitantly, at which point I burst out laughing, then someone else, probably a supervisor called 'Leonard' or 'Reginald', took over the phone and started swearing and cursing on behalf of the original caller, who I assume is new at the job and hasn't learnt that bit yet.
If you want to know your IP Address, so you can tell when someone is trying it on, try this site. Sites like that are often used by webmasters of web sites which are having problems with nuisance visitors, and want to trace the culprits, but in this case as soon as the page opens it will show your IP Address, and an approximate location for you, or at least for your ISP.
This shouldn't really need saying, but don't tell the 'Microsoft Service Department' your IP Address. By all means tell them they're wrong, and ask them to try again, of course.
My Weapon Of Last Resort is a spare smoke alarm which normally sits quietly on my desk. If I really can't get rid of Microsoft Man, placing the phone beside the smoke alarm and pressing the Test button for a few seconds is very effective, but unfortunately I can't then hear the swearing.
Actually, I've been doing a bit of thinking, and I'm beginning to wonder if these calls really are from Microsoft, or if they are some kind of practical joke.....