Public Service Announcement - Microsoft Imposter Scam

This is the 8th post in a series called Public Service Annoucement. My goal is to help you be aware of threats in the world of technology.

In the past month I have had two clients affected by the "Microsoft Imposter Scam". One of the clients was using a PC with Windows and another client was using a Mac. The scammers were able to take control of and put malicious software on both the PC and Mac.

The fact that I know two people that have been hoodwinked by the same scam tells me it is time to start making people aware of the scam.

HOW THE SCAM WORKS

Someone calls claiming to work for Windows or Microsoft and they will tell you that they have detected a virus or a problem with your computer.

To confirm the diagnosis, they may ask you to open Windows Event viewer to check if it is infected.

Several error messages are listed, even though errors are common and often harmless.

The caller says the errors are of great concern and offers to refer you to a technician for a fee.

The technician asks you to log on to a third-party website so they can remotely access your computer.

The scammer then might:

  • Install an antivirus program (often one that you can download for free) for up to $250
  • Ask for your credit card details but install nothing
  • Install malware so your computer can be controlled remotely
  • Access and steal personal and financial details from your computer

WHY PEOPLE FALL FOR THIS SCAM

This scam works so well because the person identifies themselves from a business that you have heard of (e.g. Microsoft) and they use scare tactics (e.g. Mentioning that you have a problem with your computer). They gain your trust because they offer to help you fix the problem. Before you know it they are taking control of your computer (e.g. After you followed their instructions to allow them do so) or they are asking for your credit card information to charge you for their "help".

HOW NOT TO GET DUPED

The first thing you need to understand is that neither Microsoft nor their partners make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or software fixes.

If anyone from any technology company (Amazon, Apple, Dell, HP, Samsung, etc) calls you out of the blue, I would hang up, look up the number for their tech support online, and call their tech support yourself. This will help you verify that the call is legitimate.

The second thing that you should never do is give out any of your financial information to someone over the phone unless you initiated the transaction (e.g. ordering an iPad through Apple's online store).

The third thing you should never do is allow someone on the phone or at a store scare you into purchasing an antivirus program that will cost you hundreds of dollars.

You can always download Microsoft Security Essentials on your PC if you need an antivirus program.

You can learn more about how to Avoid Phone Scams on Microsoft's website.


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