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PHONE SCAM – Caller pretending to be from Microsoft

A client recently alerted us about a phone scam that could have impacted them – if they hadn’t already heard about this scam happening to another local business in town.  They were forewarned and knew to hang up the phone, but others may not be so lucky.

Although this scam isn’t brand new, it seems to be gaining momentum in recent months, so it is definitely worth it to take a closer look.  By now there are are probably multiple variants of this scam, but here is the basic concept:

– A call comes in from a person claiming to be a Microsoft employee.

– The caller reports that there could be serious virus problems on the receiver’s computer, and that the computer could become unusable if immediate action is not taken.

– The caller directs the receiver to a website which will allow the computer to be remotely controlled, and the caller proceeds to “assess” the computer’s status and asks that the receiver pay a fee to fix the computer, or even to subscribe to a yearly support contract.

– If the receiver shows any signs of skepticism, the caller will show them warnings and errors in the Event Viewer – a legitimate log containing diagnostic information for computer technicians – which looks quite alarming to the naked eye, but in reality those warnings and errors most likely occurred over long periods of time or are not as serious as they look.

However the scam is executed, the point to remember is that – in Microsoft’s own words – “Microsoft does not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer”.

Here and here are a couple of links to communication directly from Microsoft about this scam.

Happy phone slamming!

Posted in : Tech Tips
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Reply to all ( 1 Apr,2011 )
A Tectorian in Tectoria ( 29 Apr,2011 )
  • Thanks for sharing the first-hand experience George. Crappy to hear it happened to your family, but your testimony should validate the risk for anyone who is doubtful “it will happen to me”.

    Good point about the identify theft risk too.

    PayPal has a lot at stake here too – a lot more than a few bucks refunded to the victims. Their whole business is founded on trust. Good to hear they understand that.

  • George Marchewa

    My mother-in-law was caught recently in this scam (up in Whitehorse). Quite the pain.

    What they will do (at least these ones) is take your credit card number and other info and then setup a PayPal account under your name and start a ‘subscription’ service. Because they also have access to your email account password, they are able to verify all the PayPal setup confirmations themselves.

    To be honest, PayPal (and VISA) were great in investigating, shutting down, and refunding all charges.

    The potential identitiy theft ramifications are what was the most scary about this (in my mind anyway).

    End solution on the system was of course a total Nuke/Pave to get rid of any malicious code deposited.

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