‘Microsoft’ Calling? Don’t Believe It

4599385579_413e5037ebSome people deal with pesky (and usually illegal) telemarketing calls by simply not answering the phone when their Caller ID displays an unrecognized or “private” number.

I answer and even engage, so I learn more about telephone scams de jour. But these calls usually end the same way: After I hear their claims, obviously conning callers get their own earful: A blast of a portable air horn into the handset. You know, the kind favored by sea-stranded sailors because it can be heard from miles away.

But now I need a new one. That’s because last weekend, it was used up on a half-dozen callers delivering the same alarming news: A virus had been spotted on my computer and they’d help fix it.

Of course, it was the Tech Support Scam, among the most prevalent cybercrimes in recent years. The FTC has been hard at work but just as quickly as the people there bust some conning companies, others appear. Recent reports suggest that over the summer there’s been what you might call a boatload of new attempts to defraud.

One caller told me he was from Microsoft. Another claimed to be from “Windows.” A third claimed to be from “the Norton Company” (mistaking the name of the popular antivirus software with its parent company Symantec). A fourth simply identified himself as “Dave Watson, calling from a computer repair firm in India.” In each case, I heard other calls in the background, suggesting I was being called from a boiler room.

All made the same claims: My computer – for which they couldn’t provide an IP address or even tell me if it was on or off at the time – was showing them it was infected. In reality, manufacturers of computers or antivirus protection systems don’t make phone calls to individual customers about problems. Rather, your installed antivirus software informs you with on-screen warnings. When new viruses are circulated, you can expect to receive software updates sent en masse over the Internet to you and other users of your software.

The intent of tech support scammers is to:

  • Persuade you to give them remote access to your computer, which they claim will allow them to solve the problem. Remote access allows them to look at your files, passwords, online financial accounts … basically everything on your computer. And they could change your settings to lock you out of your own machine.
  • Sell you a worthless one-time “fix” or ongoing maintenance or warranty program. The price can be as high as $600.
  • Get your credit card information – over the phone or by directing you to their rogue websites – so they can bill you for the phony services and possibly make other fraudulent charges.
  • Trick you into installing malware that could steal sensitive data useful in identity theft.

So if you get one of these calls (or emails), give them nothing … except maybe an earful of ouch.

Photo: Lance Wolf/Flickr


Also of Interest


See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more