Yesterday, I received a call from a customer whose computer had been infected with what is known as “ransomware”. It included a message, supposedly from Microsoft tech support, that said her computer was heavily infected and that she should call a provided telephone number. She called and spoke to a “technician”. He said he needed to access the computer for a more thorough examination which our customer allowed him to do. He claimed to have confirmed the initial diagnosis and that it would cost $350 to remove the infections. Fortunately, at this point, she had cottoned on to the fact that this was a scam, hung up and called us. Because the “technician” had accessed the computer, I advised her to contact her credit card company to alert them to potential fraudulent in the future. She will be bringing her computer to us to have the ransomware removed.
I’m writing about this incident because she is not the first of our customers to have had this experience. On average, we get 3 – 4 calls a month inquiring about similar calls or messages. Folks, it is against Microsoft’s company policies to make unsolicited phone calls or to monitor user activity. The following is from Microsoft’s Cyber Trust Blog which will be of help if you ever get hit with one of these scams:
5 things you need to know about tech support scams
February 19, 2014 – Eve Blakemore – Group Manager, Trustworthy Computing
If someone calls you from Microsoft tech support to help you fix your computer, mobile phone, or tablet, this is a scam designed to install malicious software on your computer, steal your personal information, or both.
Do not trust unsolicited calls. Do not provide any personal information.
What you need to know about tech support phone scams:
- Microsoft will not make unsolicited phone calls about computer security or software fixes. If you receive a call like this one, it’s a scam, and all you need to do is hang up.
- Cybercriminals often use publicly available phone directories, so they might know your name and other personal information when they call you. They might even guess what operating system you’re using.
- If you have already given access to your computer to someone who claimed to be from Microsoft, immediately change your computers password, download the Microsoft Safety Scanner, and then make sure you have antivirus software installed.
- If you gave someone your credit card information to pay for services, contact your credit card company and alert them to this fraudulent purchase.
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has received reports that criminals are taking advantage of consumers’ knowledge of the scam by calling to offer refunds for phony tech support. This is also a scam.
For more information, see Avoid tech support phone scams.
This type of scam is particularly nasty because it targets vulnerable people like the elderly who are dependent on their computers to communicate with family and friends through email, Facebook and Twitter. These users are not very knowledgable about computers and are easy prey for unscrupulous predators.
Please pass on this information to your friends and family and ask them to inform anyone they know. Maybe by word-of-mouth, we can stop others from going through what my customer had happen to her.
Til next time,