This past week, I have responded to several calls regarding a scam so convincing, it is tricking many around our county. I’ll continue next week with the “HomeGroup” settings I mentioned last week.
This particular scam almost appears as though it is initiated by the consumer, but it is in fact a case where these imposters, posing as Microsoft representatives, harvest your public information and use it in a way to convince you they are real.
In this particular case, a caller indicates they represent Microsoft (as though they are employed by Microsoft, but they are not) and they show you a screen on your computer that says you have hundreds of errors and that your computer is getting ready to crash. This is convincing because it appears they scan your computer and then show a list of errors that are supposedly plaguing your system.
This is all fake. Microsoft does not operate in this manner. In almost all cases, Microsoft will not contact you unless you request something from them first.
Once these criminals supposedly scan your computer, they state they can fix your computer for $199 and guarantee their work for six months. Once you give them your credit card, they will use your card to steal money from you and while they are pretending to fix the errors on your computer, they are searching your system for additional personal information so they can steal more. You must use common sense when things like this happen.
If you are confronted by an offer like this, just hang up and do not allow them to take control of your computer. In most cases, they will move on down their list until they get someone that is more easily taken.
There are some things to remember to protect you from this fraud. First, if you get a call from a business wanting any personal information or wanting to access control of your computer, ask them for their phone number so you can call them back. Better yet, in this particular instance, they state they are with Microsoft so hang up and call Microsoft at 1-800-Microsoft to confirm their identity and service.
Second, if you make purchases over the Internet and the company you are purchasing from is out of the country, use another company as a firewall to complete your transaction. For example, you can make a purchase using “ebay,” “PayPal,” “Authorize.net,” “Amazon Payments,” “Dwolla” and several others. If your transaction goes afoul, most, if not all of these companies have a Buyer Protection program that can help you get your money back. Anytime you do business with a company outside the United States, you risk losing because there is little or no recourse to recoup money lost due to fraud.
Please be suspicious of anything or anyone that contacts you first, whether through email, the phone or even in person. Cyber attacks are our greatest concerns as consumers and as a country. The only way to reduce these attacks is to show them their tactics do not work. Of course they will think of new ways to steal from us, but this is the best way to put a stop to this injustice.
I thank my customers who let me know about these things so I can warn everyone else.
Scott Lindsay actively promotes learning the computer, regardless of age, to better one’s life and circumstances and has helped thousands of people over the past 12 years to become better computer users. He can be reached at Scott@MicroScottPro.com.