Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Microsoft scam is back...and we have a first hand experience to tell you about!

"Hello. This is Microsoft tech support and we have detected a serious virus in your computer and we need you to log on right away so we can help you."
That's what the male voice said on the phone. He was insistent, almost in a panic, to help Grammie defend herself against a destructive virus that was attacking her computer.

Something about the call made her "suspect the caller's intentions". First, they didn't get her name right. Second, they sounded foreign.

When Grammie asked to speak to a manager, he dodged her request - he just kept talking, fast. And when she asked for a phone number so she could call to verify that it was Microsoft, he gave her an Atlantic City phone number, 609-318-6024. He also was insistent that she act right now because "we are trying to help you."

In reality, they were trying to scam her.

Grammie asked the "technician" how he knew that her computer had been compromised. He said "all computers have a number in them, that they're able to trace it". The fake technician persuaded Grammie to allow him to gain access to her computer using GoToMyPC. He continued to talk fast, using made up or false technical terms. The slick scammer continued on to tell Grammie that her computer "had no ssl," something that is actually for websites and has nothing to do with individual computers, while pulling up a fake website that says "Your computer is infected. No SSL available".

After pulling up a Western Union transfer, Grammie became even more weary of the caller's intentions. She said that she'd have to talk to her to-be son-in-law, a computer tech (me) and "that was the end of the conversation".

The best way to bust a scam is to shine a light on it, which is what I'm doing here. Tech-support scams have several things in common: The people on the phone talk fast and urgently to panic the victim into making a fast, unwise decision.

Scammers often say that "they have detected malware or a virus" and they even provide a product number for the victim's computer as proof they are for real. The product number of a computer is easy to find. The serial number, however, is not. If they do not have this information, I guarantee they are not calling from Microsoft.

In reality, "Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or software fixes. Additionally, Microsoft will never contact a consumer and ask for their credit-card number". (Source: Microsoft). Banks may call you to check charges, but once you give out your information, scammers are free to charge whatever they wish until the bank deactivates the card. It is very important to NEVER give out your credit card numbers. If phone scammers gain your trust, they will rip you off.

Currently, scammers are instructing the victim to type in a code, which allows them to take over the home computer. They may demand that you pay them for the nonexistent "fix." If you pay with your credit-card number, they may run up thousands of dollars in charges billed to you.

Even more notorious: They can take remote control of your computer, locking you out and all your records, documents and pictures in. They then demand that you pay a ransom to return control of the computer to you. If you pay the ransom, they release the computer back to you. Or maybe they don't and demand more money.

Unless you are certain of who you are talking to, don't be stampeded into revealing anything. If you have fallen victim to this scam, please contact us so we can try to clean up the mess left behind. And if you get a similar call, hang up and report the fraud to the FTC.

IES, Inc.

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