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“Microsoft” scammers take to the phones

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Saturday August 13, 2011 )

I know of two people who have been affected by this scam recently, so I thought I’d make mention of it.

A colleague called me in a panic a few weeks back stating that Microsoft had phoned to tell her that her computer had been infected with a virus.

The “Microsoft” employee came across as professional and knowledgeable and directed her to visit a site with a domain name containing the word “Windows”. I took a look at the site and it also was quite professionally presented – and listed on the major search engines.

The colleague was instructed that once on the site, she would be able grant the person remote access to the colleague’s computer so it could be “fixed”. Thankfully, she didn’t follow the instructions.

It turns out this scam has become quite common in Australia and has been going on for over a year. The calls usually originate from India. On top of charging the victim an exorbitant fee to “fix” the computer, they’ve also been known to drop malware on the computer once the operator has gained access.

Microsoft says it does not cold call consumers in regards to malfunctioning PCs or viruses and advises you should never give an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer.

To add insult to injury, it’s been reported that these same mobs have been making follow-up calls to people who initially fell victim to the scam, claiming to be from a foreign law enforcement agency and offering to recover the money that was lost to the scam – of course, there’s a fee involved.

The outfits carrying out these scams are quite brazen. The colleague in question received a follow up phone call later that day from the scammers and the operator got an earful of abuse from her.

Unfortunately, I doubt whether the blasting would have convinced the person of the error of their ways – given their location and methods, they are pretty much untouchable.

One of the unfortunate side effects of VoIP (Voice Over IP) technology is that it has enabled fraudsters another cheap way to reach us all – via the phone. It really pays to have a silent number these days.

May they all live in interesting times.


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