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Microsoft Support Calling Scam Still An Issue

Originally Published April 3, 2015
by Christopher Spaulding

With the amount of junk circulating on the Internet, a healthy dose of skepticism about anonymous advice offered through web blogs or email forwards is appropriate. But given the number of customers I have assisted in the past inquire whether my straightforward, commonsensical advice about how to avoid the "call from Microsoft" is itself a scam for me to gain more business, some people are taking this skepticism stuff a bit too far.

A few days ago while working with a customer by telephone remotely, I was put on a speakerphone. While performing the service, a co-worker of my customer came into the office not knowing I was listening in. Knowing the person, I can say that she was an elderly woman. When the customer informed the other person that I was working on the computer, The person started telling her about her recent computer problems spilling the details on how Microsoft called her the week before, informing of the usual computer infected with viruses scam. Now, as we all should know by now Microsoft does not call people at home. Being that you may be a client of mine, you may already know that. She goes on telling my customer how she allowed the scammer to remote connect and manipulate the home computer. Of course, a few minutes in she then becomes a bit suspicious of her actions. She immediately hung up the phone, and pulled the plug on her computer seeing that was the only way she knew how to cut the connection from the scammer. Of course by that time it was too late. The scammer called her back asking her if she hung up and she told them not to call her again and hung up the phone a second time. The relentless scammer did not stop there and kept calling a few days after the initial incident. When she rebooted the computer there were pop-ups galore showing "infection-infection-infection. The computer just was never the same since and now she is afraid to turn it on. She concluded that after a few days when she got over the initial shock, she decided to plug the computer back in and use it because she needed to complete online tasks even though she worked through the annoying pop-ups. While I was working on my client's computer, I just bowed my head in disbelief thinking to myself " People still fall for the Microsoft technician telephone scam?" Unfortunately, my agreement was not to incorporate new customer within the company I was working with. And could not offer her my services. I certainly was not going to offer my competition's phone number. So, I certainly was unable to help this individual.

You have got to wonder if people still fall for that scam? It has been a problem for a few years now. It's the old added proverb that if it works, keep doing it. So the answer is YES. Scammers are still finding many of unsuspecting victims. There is no age bracket of the victims. They come young and old. I do not know how to spread the word to everyone other than posting a blog about it. Social Networks have become more involved with themselves in making money than helping limiting the amount of people I could connect with to spread this information. Legitimate warnings need to be spread to everybody. Time and time again I hear more people are still falling for the scam. I have posted a blog about MICROSOFT TELEPHONE SCAMS some time ago. This is a very serious issue if you want to keep your computer, and identity safe from scammers. We were all told when we were growing up "never open the door to strangers" but when it comes to technology, people still seems to lose common sense. It's no wonder because technology is so difficult for many people to understand. Scammers take advantage of that instant people let their guard down for the moment. It can happen through telephone calls, instant messages, emails, social media posts, and even on the street. I will admit that I am not perfect and came close to clicking a link but luckily I have not become a victim. I never received a Microsoft support tech scam phone call but would you believe that while I was working with one of my customers Terri that a call came into her while I was there. She passed the phone to me and the first question I asked the scammer was "what is the IP address of the infected computer?" Of course the call was immediately disconnected by the scammer. I don't know but I believe they still call her once in a while hoping she will lower her defenses and take the bait.

WHAT DO THE SCAMMERS GAIN BY DOING THIS?

The scammers try every tactic to reveal as much personal information from you. This includes:

  • Name - Address - Telephone Number

  • Drivers License Number

  • Email Address - **Credentials

  • Credit Card Numbers

  • Social Security Number

  • Bank Account - **Credentials

  • Social Network - **Credentials

  • Cellular Phone Number - **Credentials

(** - Log-in Information )

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

There is not much we can do to prevent the scammers from calling. If your phone number is listed in the yellow pages directory or online, You could probably bet you may get a call at some point. If you or someone you know receives a call from a person who claims to be technical support from Microsoft. Just hang up the phone. That is all. Plain and simple. You may have to do it many times, but do not give the scammer a chance to lower your defenses. No different than heeding the advise when you were a child of not opening the door to strangers. You wouldn't stand there questioning the perpetrator? Would you? Just close the door and lock it.

YOU FELL FOR THE SCAM - WHAT SHOULD YOU DO NOW?

The best thing to do is remove the possibly infected computer from your network by detaching the network cable. Or, if your computer is wireless, turn off the WIFI connection. Therefore if you did allow someone to remotely connect into your computer and mess around, there is no way the computer can "phone home" if it is off the network. You might be able to use your computer for non-internet related duties (such as using MS Office) but it is not suggested in doing so. It would be safe to keep the computer off until it can be checked. Unfortunately if this is your only computer, consider it unusable from there on until you call a professional to determine the damage.

YOU BELIEVE YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION MAY HAVE BEEN COMPROMISED - WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

For most successful Microsoft support technical call scams, the worse case that usually happens is the caller remotely connected to your computer may install a virus code, key logger, or just render your computer useless. However, in many cases their services may have required you in providing to them a credit card or bank account routing number to pay for these bogus services. If the scam went that far, here is what you need to know:

  • Keep a list of one's credit card, bank account numbers and their phone numbers to call and report lost or stolen cards is rather obvious advice and no one should need to be told, but even those who have never gotten around to compiling such a list should be able to retrieve the information from any previous credit card statement. Reporting stolen cards as soon as possible limits the cardholder's losses and prevents further purchases, but information obtained from those cards could still be used to perpetrate identity theft scams such as obtaining additional credit cards, cell phone service, bank accounts, or lines of credit the victim would be unaware of until it's too late.

  • Banks and Credit Card issuers now offer email or text alerts sent to your smart phone. At some point you should contact the company (via telephone or online) and activate these alert. Therefore, you could stop any unauthorized charge as instantanious as the transaction has been conducted by calling the bank immediately and freezing the transaction.

I'M NOT SURE WHAT INFORMATION THE SCAMMERS OBTAINED -  WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?

I am not suggesting to go into full panic mode if you provided a scammer a credit card number. But, these scammers on a daily pace create new ways to fool the victim into providing detailed information about themselves and credit information. In some cases victims to whom may have given remote access to the scammers may not have realized the dangers until weeks or even months later as their statements come in and see unrecognized transactions after they have been routinely logging into their bank accounts online, or conducting stock and commodity trades. Just about anything a key logger is able to track and phone home about. At this point you may have some real concerns. If you believe your credit rating is in jeopardy:

  •  Call all the major credit bureaus and ask them to attach fraud alerts to the victim's  name and Social Security account number so that any such activity will be flagged.

  • Obtain a free credit report

I could go on and on what to do if you've become a full blown victim of Identity Fraud. But, I was really trying to draw more awareness to the MICROSOFT SUPPORT TECH SCAM issue hoping to help the unaware from becoming victims. If you have any questions, or if you need help cleaning up your computer after such an attack. Please contact Spaulding Technology at 847-737-4279

 For more information check above right column for ADDITIONAL RESOURCES