If you receive a phone call claiming to be from Microsoft, HP, or some other computer related company, telling you that you have a virus on your computer which they will help you fix over the phone, it is a scam. Hang up the phone, do not let them have remote control access to your computer and do not give them any money.
This scam has been quietly doing the rounds in the UK and Ireland since at least 2009 but it appears to be on the rise in the States. The scam goes like this;
- User receives an unsolicited phone call from someone claiming to be from ‘Microsoft’ and they are told that there is a serious virus problem with their computer and the caller offers to help to fix the problem.
- The user will get the hard sell from the caller regarding all sorts of bad things that will happen to their computer if they do not sort out the problem immediately.
- To try to gain the unwitting user’s trust, the caller will direct them to the Event Viewer in Windows which shows details about various hardware and Windows software issues. This Event Viewer is always full of messages, even on a healthy computer, but the caller will convince them that these are the warning signs of the impending disaster.
- When the caller has their trust, they ask the user to go to a website and download a remote control program that will help them fix the problem. After downloading this, the caller will take control of the computer, the user will see their mouse pointer move around while various programs and folders are opened. The caller will claim that they know exactly what the problem is and how to fix it.
- Then they will ask for credit card details for a piece of software that will supposedly remove the ‘virus’.
Users should hopefully already have alarm bells ringing at the mention of credit card details and end the conversation. The software that they sell to fix the computer will do nothing except tell you every now and then that everything is fine, all viruses have been removed. But in reality, it could be downloading all sorts of malware to your computer.
However, part of the scam’s damage may already have been done when the customer downloaded the remote control software. This software could well have the capability to sit in the background for months or years, stealing personal information from the computer like bank login details and other personal details that could be used for identity theft purposes. These callers could also be using this software to infect your computer with real viruses and malware.
Quote from Microsoft:
“Microsoft takes the privacy and security of our customers and partners personal information very seriously. We are advising customers to treat all unsolicited phone calls with skepticism and not to provide any personal information to anyone over the phone or online. Anyone who receives an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft should hang up. We can assure you Microsoft does not make these kinds of calls.”
“For more information on this scam and how to protect yourself against this, please click here”
If you receive one of these unsolicited phone calls, hang up and do not download anything they ask you to. And definitely don’t hand over your credit card details, just because someone mentions the well known name ‘Microsoft’.
If you have allowed them to take control of your computer, or download their ‘fix’ software, it is possible they have infected your computer with a virus or other malware. To avoid the potential for identity theft issues and computer problems due to the viruses or malware that they may have downloaded, we would strongly recommend that you take your computer to a reputable computer repair shop to have it thoroughly checked out.