24 April 2012

Microsoft Scam Update

Last year I wrote a post on my old blog about the Microsoft Scam.  I'm going to republish it here as it's still happening and if you're not aware of it you should be.  However, there's now a new version, so read below this first post for details of the newer version to watch out for. 

Originally posted 17 September 2011

You may have heard about the Microsoft Scam that's been around for about a year now. It's looks like it's heating up again and more people are getting caught out by it.

The scam starts with a call from India saying “I’m calling from Microsoft. We’ve had a report from your internet service provider of serious virus problems on your computer” or something like this. You are then told that your computer is going to fail, lose all your data or something will go very wrong if the problem goes unsolved.

If they’ve succeed in convincing you to keep talking, you’ll be directed to your computer and asked to open a program called “Windows Event Viewer”. To the average user, it looks like a long list of errors, some labelled “critical”.

The caller then offers to guide you through fixing the problems. You'll be directed to a website and told to download a program that hands over remote control of your computer and the caller 'installs' various 'fixes' for the problem. Then you'll be asked to pay for this service by credit card.

Of course, there was never anything wrong with your computer and the caller does not work for Microsoft. Microsoft does not know if you have a problem with your computer and wouldn't call you if you did. Unfortunately, anyone falling for this will have handed over enough personal information on their computer to enable identity theft -bank details, Internet site passwords and much more.

This scam has been going since 2008 and has grown hugely this year. It is being run from call centres based in Kolkata, by teams believed to have access to sales databases from computer and software companies, and also getting names to call from the White Pages.  

My father has received two of these calls in the past month, and he doesn't even have the internet connected- which he had great pleasure in telling them after they had told him that he had a problem with the internet!

The Microsoft website states that “Microsoft does not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer".

If you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft Tech Support, hang up on them immediately.

The latest version of this scam may claim to be from Telstra, Bigpond, or another well known company.  However, they don't even need a recognisable name to try to catch you out....

You may receive a call from Windows Computer Management (this one is supposed to be based in Martin Place, Sydney).  They will tell you that they have detected viruses on your computer and that you should switch the computer on so they can talk you through the process to remove them.

This company even gives you a local phone number so you can call them back. If you try to check them out and use that number you'll be redirected to an overseas call centre, where you'll be told that the company is called Service Centre for Windows Operating Systems, located in Sydney.  You'll be given a very professional spiel about how they provide online technical support by connecting to the user's computer, after obtaining permission, and the average charge is $100 to $300.  They also sell software 'if the customer needs it'.  

No matter how convincing they sound, do not allow them to access your computer.  No reputable company will phone you unannounced to let you know there's something wrong with your computer or offer to fix it.  

If you are not sure about a company do a search for the company name for a web site (although having a web site doesn't guarantee it's legitimate).  I'll often do a search for the company name with the word 'scam' after it.  You could also check if they are listed in the White Pages www.whitepages.com.au.  

The Australian Government has a website devoted to scams www.scamwatch.gov.au.

You may be sure you won't get caught out by these scams, but if you have any older or less-tech-savvy family members or friends let them know what they need to look out for. 

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