Last week I received a phone call from someone claiming to be from Customer Service at Microsoft. He informed me that my Windows computer had a virus because they were seeing constant downloads coming from my home.
The caller said that I needed to download special virus protection software onto my Windows computer to get rid of the virus. He instructed me to go to a website where I could download software that would delete the virus and protect my computer in the future.
I politely informed the caller that I didn’t have any Windows computers at my home (not true), and he hung up on me.
Last month I heard a similar story from a friend who was called by someone claiming to be from Microsoft and asking her to download software onto her computer. Fortunately she was skeptical and refused to do it, then asked me if it was a legitimate call.
Don’t fall prey to scammers who want you to download software onto your computer! Once this software is on your computer, the criminals will have full access to and control of your computer. Instead of removing a virus, you’ll be adding one when you download scammer’s software onto your computer, potentially filled with tracking capabilities to expose your Internet activity and anything else you do on your computer.
The spammers will ask you to pay to download this software and may also ask for your personal information, credit card numbers, passwords and user ID’s. Don’t pay them money or give them any information.
But how can you know when someone is trying to scam you?
This infographic gives helpful advice on how to avoid being scammed by tech support.:
More helpful advice is available at Microsoft Avoid Phone Scams page, including what to do if you were fooled by the scammer into downloading software and/or revealing personal information.
A computer expert named Jérôme Segura received one of these scam Microsoft Phone Scam calls last year and actually played along with the caller to see how the scam worked. His experience is a frightening example of what could happen if we cooperate with these criminals.
Segura allowed the caller access to his virtual computer and was savvy enough to record both the telephone conversation and his computer screen during the call. His blog post, Phone scammers call the wrong guy, get mad and trash PC, details what happened when he allowed the criminals to take over his virtual computer.
He gave the scammers remote access to his virtual computer, where they showed him files they claimed were harmful viruses. They offered to download software to fix the problems and then opened his PayPal account on his computer.
When Segura didn’t enter the correct credit card information, the caller wiped all of the files from his computer and deleted the software enabling the computer to connect to the Internet.
Segura’s YouTube video documents the call and what happened to his virtual computer:
To help people identify and prevent being lured in by these scammers, Segura created this Tech Support Scams – Help & Resource Page, including sections on tricks of the trade, damage control and fighting back.
Have you ever had someone try to scam you with tech support? Had you heard of this Microsoft Phone Scam? Do you know anyone who fell prey to a scammer? Let us know in the Comments section below!
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Due to an unusually hectic summer schedule, I will be publishing articles at The Wonder of Tech two days a week instead of three. Rather than posting on my previous Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule, I will be posting new articles on Mondays and Thursdays for the summer.
Correction: My posting of articles may be less frequent this summer, provided the tech news slows down…
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