Scam Alert: Microsoft Is Not Calling to Fix Your PC

March 29, 2016 • Author: Salin Bank

Technical support scams are popping up more and more - from scammers peddling bogus security software, to setting up fake Websites, to sending alarming messages that your computer is infected.
 
One of newest tech support cons involves remote computer assistance. Here’s how the scam typically unfolds: You receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be a computer technician associated with reputable companies such as Microsoft, Dell, or McAfee. The “technician” proceeds to explain that he or she has detected viruses or some form of malware on your computer and needs remote access to fix the problem.
 
Because these scammers are well aware that computer security is an issue of top concern for most people, they often find easy and willing victims. Once they have you on the phone, they may try to gain your trust with soothing words of comfort and understanding. Instead of support, however, the scammers only want to take your money. In some tech support scams, the fraudsters actually install malware - software designed to give criminals access to your computer and your personal information such as user names and passwords.
 
Tech support scammers are likely to try and confuse their victims with a barrage of technical terms and convoluted information, says the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In the process of doing so, the scammers may be making changes to your settings so your computer is vulnerable. Sometimes, the fraudsters will target legitimate computer files and claim they contain viruses. In other scenarios, you may find yourself enrolled in a worthless computer maintenance or warranty program. You also might be asked to provide credit card information so the scammers can bill you for phony services or be directed to fake Websites that want you to enter a credit card number and other personal information.
 
Sometimes the ploy entails scammers who install a keystroke logger on their victim’s computer as a way to track or log the keys struck on the keyboard. The purpose of this monitoring software is usually malicious, with the intent to collect your account information, credit card numbers, user names, passwords, and other private data. Once a scammer has this information in tow, he or she can use it to gain access to your financial accounts to steal your money, even your identity.
 
Technical support scams, which disproportionately target the elderly, are big business. During a special hearing held by the U.S. Senate on October 21, 2015, computer tech support crimes were called the “single largest consumer fraud perpetrated in America today.”  Indeed, technical support scams victimize an estimated 3.3 million people and rake in $1.5 billion annually.
 

What You Can Do

If you receive a call from someone who claims to be a computer technical support person, your best bet is to hang up immediately. Then, contact the company via a phone number you know to be genuine. When a caller creates a sense of urgency or uses high-pressure tactics, it’s a red flag and likely a con artist on the other end of the line.
 
What else can you do to keep technical support scams at bay? Consider the following:
  • Never give control of your computer to a third party who calls you out of the blue.
  • Do not provide your credit card or financial information to someone who calls and claims to be from technical support.
  • If you do need computer technical support, contact the company listed on your software package or on your receipt.
  • If a caller pressures you to buy a computer security product or says there is a fee associated with the call, hang up. If you’re concerned about your computer, call your security software company directly and ask for assistance.
  • Never give your password to someone over the phone. No legitimate organization will contact you for your password.
 
The bottom line: We live in an increasingly wired and interconnected world in which technology opens the door wide to the possibility of becoming a virtual victim. Commonsense may be your best from of prevention and protection. If you receive an unsolicited call from someone needing remote access to “fix” your computer, hang up. Remember, companies like Microsoft or Apple will never be in the habit of cold calling consumers in regards to malfunctioning PCs.