This week I heard from several customers who had received phone calls from various technical support companies claiming that their computers were infected and that they could help fix them. There seems to a new rash of these scams so let’s put the word out; Do NOT give these callers access to your computer, your passwords, or financial information! They are trying to rob you.
How it Starts
The scam typically starts with a phone call from a person who claims to represent a technology firm, often Microsoft or other national company. They say that they know you’ve been having trouble with your computer and they are here to help. They might also say that Microsoft found a new vulnerability so they (Microsoft) “scanned” everyone’s computer for the infection and then had this company call the owners of the infected computers to remove the infection. These and other things are used to gain your trust and/or scare you into believing their story. Be aware that while these callers often have a foreign accent, more of them are coming from the US every day and may even be local.
The caller might ask you to perform certain functions on your computer or to set up a remote support session so they can remove the infection. They may also ask you to go to a specific website for them. Eventually they will get to the real reason for the call: money. They may try to sell you a one-time job, on ongoing subscription, a warranty, etc. all for phony services. While they may be after that one-time payment, they could also be after your credit card or bank account information.
What to Do If You Receive a Call
The easiest thing to do is hang up. As per Microsoft “You will never receive a legitimate call from Microsoft or our partners to charge you for computer fixes.” So when someone calls you out of the blue and tries to scare you into letting fix your PC, hang up.
If you do talk to them, under no circumstances should you allow them access to your computer. Do not give them any passwords, credit card numbers or financial information.
Add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry. If you are already on the list, go to the website and report an illegal sales call. Please keep in mind that Caller ID is often “spoofed” by these criminals, so it may show a local number or even that of a legitimate business. Again, the simplest “fix” to this problem is to hang up.
What to Do If You've Responded to The Scam
First, Don’t Panic! Instead you should call your trusted, local computer repair service (that’s us) so we can help you repair any damage that may have been done to your system. Second, if you provided a payment via credit card, contact your cardholder and tell them what happened. Credit card companies will often freeze that payment. You should also check your statement thoroughly for any other unauthorized charges and report them to your cardholder. Third, change any passwords that you gave out, if you use the same or similar password on any other accounts change those as well. If you gave out banking information or access codes to any financial accounts visit the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft website and follow the instructions there. You can also file a complaint with the FTC.
Beware: The Refund Scam
Sometimes if you’ve paid for one of these scams they will call you back, usually a few weeks or months later to ask if you liked the service. When you tell them it was awful and to take a hike they may offer you a refund. This is really their second attempt to get your money or perhaps get updated information (if you changed cards) so they can rob you again. If you get a call like this, hang up and file a complaint with the FTC.
Do you have a question or topic you’d like us to address? Email and let us know!