On Wednesday, I received an urgent call on my business line telling me “Dear customer your computer is at risk. We are receiving errors and warning messages from your computer. Please press one to speak to the Microsoft Certified technician.” The obviously computer generated voice was telling that my computer had become infected and that there was a helpful technician only a button away to help me.
It was obviously a scam in an attempt to get me to give someone my credit card number and access to my computer. It is not a new fraud as it has been documented since at least 2012. In fact, according to Computer World, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled last year (May 2013) two of the six cases of fraud by deception they were investigating. Both Mikael Marczak of Virtual PC Solutions and Sanjay Agarwalla agreed to cease their operations. Argarwalla paid $3,000, the amount he received from his swindle. Both owe $984,721 in restitution that the FTC has stayed because neither has the money to pay with.
Both of these cases derived from the October 3, 2012 FTC announcement that it had launched an investigation into a tech support scam where telemarketers posed as Microsoft, or other major computer businesses, and conned unsuspecting users to give them access to their computers.
After gaining access to the computers, the fraudsters demanded payment to remotely fix the computers. Their “fees” ranged from $49 on up to $450 to “fix” the computer.
As evidenced by the call I received it looks like the swindlers are back at it again.
I missed the call however; they kindly left me a message.
You can listen to it below.
The caller id listed a number in New York that I promptly called back. Apparently, my “infected” computer and their “concern” was so important that the number they dialed from ceased to stop working within one hour of me missing their “urgent” call. An automated system helpfully told me in Spanish that the number I had called “had been cancelled”.
It is important to remember that Microsoft, or any other company would unlikely call you to report “errors” or “viruses” on your computer. More importantly, any call you receive asking you for access to your computer should be promptly ignored. Give them access to your computer and you will never know what they did to it, or your files.