A disturbingly common scam


Hello. Microsoft says your computer has a virus.
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The scam
Two ladies we know recently received scam phone calls from a rude foreigner that began like this. Victims of this very common fraud are typically bilked out of $150 or more for the phony service of removing said virus, which of course they never had in the first place. Further, the scammers leave behind software that can hijack the computer and lead to identity theft. If a person who receives such a call looks at her Caller ID, it will seem as though the call is being made from within the US. The call was instead made from some other country where laws are more lax than they are here. They have ways of rerouting the call so victims won't be tipped off.

Sometimes the caller will claim to represent Microsoft itself, but Microsoft will never give your phone number to another company or ever make unsolicited phone calls. The scammers don't really “have” peoples' phone numbers anyway. If your number is 838-0342, then it's likely they just tried the scam with 838-0341 and will probably try it with 838-0343 next.

What to do about it
As soon as you start talking to such a caller, he will try to draw you in, so it may be best to say that you know it's a scam and then just hang up. In any case, don't give the caller your credit card number or any other real information. If you say you don't use Windows, that you have a Macintosh or that you use Ubuntu Unix, that usually puts a clamp on it and there won't likely be any callbacks. You can also say that your neighbor, child or spouse is “an IT professional.” You can also say that the call is being monitored by the local police.

If you have already followed any directions from the caller
Once you let the caller control your computer or guide you to any web site, he's probably already left dangerous programs on your PC. Update your antivirus and anti-malware programs and do complete scans with them as soon as possible. Don't feel bad or stupid. These calls are often successful. We have a tendency to be too polite, as these thieves are well aware.
October 8, 2013

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