A small but rising number of customers have reported receiving calls from people purporting to be Microsoft employees, warning customers of a virus issue or a variety of problems with your computer. This scams ends up with the victim defrauded of money for this “service”, and a computer actually infected with viruses.
The scam works like this:
- A call is received from someone who pretends to be from Microsoft or “your Internet service provider”. Many times, these callers have distinct and heavy accents.
- The caller attempts to convince you that serious computer problems exist on your PC by having you look at files or error logs as “evidence”. These files are misinterpreted by the victim (all computers have some simple errors).
- Once they convince you, the caller says that “remote access” is needed to fix the issue. Many times they send you to a web link where this software can be installed. This software is actually a virus that allows the caller to access your files and passwords later.
- The caller will demand money for this cleanup service, usually by credit card. You may be told this costs as little as $50 or as much as many hundreds of dollars for a “subscription service”
- Your credit card will be charged, possibly many times for fraudulent, bogus services.
- The caller pretends to fix things and hangs up. They can return later by connecting with that software you installed to spy on your online activities, steal files, and snoop on your passwords.
Legitimate Microsoft and other tech support companies will not make these kinds of calls. While they may offer virus cleanup services, you have to contact them to obtain services.
If you receive a call like this, do the following:
- Do not allow the caller to access your computer remotely or get your credit card number.
- If you are in doubt about the legitimacy of the call, hang up, and look up the real phone number for the tech support company. Call them via a number the caller did not give you.
- If you have allowed a caller to obtain payment information, contact your bank or credit card company as soon as possible.
- If you allowed a caller to install software on your computer, contact a local, reputable tech support company to clean your computer of malware.