For many, the computer has become an important device to manage matters of everyday life. With useful features such as email, social networking sites, online banking and shopping, there is barely any aspect of life that you can’t organize with the help of your computer in one way or the other. As discussed on our tellows blog – both US and UK – in the past, that turns the computer into an appealing target to scammers.
The number of telephone scams aimed at receiving access to computers has been increasing as a growing number of comments such as those of tellows user Sonya, who wrote about the number 7804094786, demonstrate:
This man with a heavy accent called here, saying that he was from “Microsoft”, that my computer had sent them a error message of some sort and that he was now calling to fix the problem. This was literally a day after I had bought a new computer that was still in the process of being set up, but I figured I played along for a little while longer, just to see where they were going with this. He then said to press start and type in CMD into the search and click enter. […] Long story short: It’s a scam – so beware!
How the Scammers Operate
In most instances, the scammer posed as a representative of Microsoft or Windows Microsoft, claiming that the computer of the person called has been infected with malware causing the operating browser or computer to sent a critical error message to the supposed tech support of the corporation. The goal, to gain access to the computer and subsequently other sensitive personal information about its owner or users, is achieved by instructing the target to change current computer settings or to download rogue security software to leave the computer vulnerable.
In some cases, they also attempt to charge a fee for supposedly fixing your computer: user Mr. Swanson reported about the number 8008008200:
Total scam! The caller said he was calling from “Microsoft” and that it had come to their attention that my computer had been infected with a dangerous virus. Of course, they had the solution for my “problem” and, yes, while it might cost nearly $300, it would be a good investment and apparently really the only way to save my computer. I figured I humored them long enough, said they should go to hell and hung up. So if you’re not in the mood for playing with some scammers, don’t pick up!
Reported Scam Numbers
Several users reported other numbers connected to the scam on tellows, including the following numbers:
- 9712179514 calling from Oregon (USA)
- 4163641111 calling from Toronto, Ontario (Canada)
- 6617480241 calling from California (USA)
Detecting the Scam
In some cases, if your computer has been infected by malware and you are a customer of Microsoft, you may receive a call from a legitimate representatives of Microsoft. However, actual employees of the corporation are able to verify you as a customer and will not charge you to fix your computer over the phone.
Moreover, you should keep the following things in mind when dealing with calls that seem suspect:
- don’t provide any information regarding yourself, your computer or your credit or bank account on the telephone (unless you can be 100% sure that you are talking to a legitimate representative of the company in question and you are a customer)
- don’t follow any instructions that change computer settings, especially if you don’t know how it will affect your computer
- don’t provide a third party access your computer on the telephone
- don’t download software that you have no knowledge of, especially if you are charged for it
An ongoing issue for the company, Microsoft is well aware of the problem and has provided an information page on phone scams related to the corporation.
Reacting to the Scam
If you have already given away information and think you might be a victim of scammers, change the password on your computer as well as for other user accounts they may try to access such as email account, bank or credit card account. Run a trustworthy and reliable scan program on your computer – Microsoft recommends the Microsoft Safety Scanner.
Furthermore, don’t forget to report the scam: if you are aware of a number that is used for this type of scam, you can alert the Federal Trade Commission in the US. In order to warn others, you are encouraged to share the information you have on our tellows community as well.