Microsoft VP warns about ‘fraud’ computer repair phone calls; scareware

By Robb Hicken/ chief storyteller

When Barbara Bird of  Idaho Falls  heard her computer had a virus and a company representative needed to gain access to her computer to stop future problems, she was a bit frightened.

The man on the phone (697-397-8256) told her he was working with Windows Technical Department Support Group, and they had monitored computers in the area and found that Barabara’s computer had the virus. He said an identifying series of numbers and a virus detection logo should be appearing on her computer screen, and directed her to open the “windows button” to verify

“The only things I had open was the MSN page and my e-mail,” she said.”I said, ‘I have no numbers on the screen,’ and I just hung up.”

Earlier this year, Micrsoft discovered these virus threat followup calls and software – scareware – put on computers through spam, websites, e-mails, and social media messaging. This scareware or rouge security software causes your computer to run slower, but does nothing serious.

Signs your computer may be infected with the scareware include slower than normal operation, redirecting web searches from real “anti-virus” sites to fraudulent sites, and pop-up windows – Rogue-Security-Software-Screenshots-1 – warning you there is a virus software on your computer. The software might also fail to report viruses when your computer is infected. Inversely, sometimes, when you download rogue security software, it will install a virus or other malicious software on your computer so that the software has something to detect.

Tim Rains

“Criminals are turning to this tactic to scare people,” says Tim Rains, a director in Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing group. “It scares you into taking action against something that’s not going on.”

If infected, a signal is sent back to the criminal’s computer and from there the calls are made stating “You have a virus, we need remote access to your computer,” Rains says.

The phone scammers often pose as Microsoft employees from a variety of departments, including Windows Helpdesk, Windows Service Center, Microsoft Tech Support, Windows Technical Department Support Group and Microsoft Research and Development Team.

The software is well designed, Rains says. The pop-ups, warnings and calls are professionally created and well made.

“If [your computer] is telling you that you need to upgrade software or buy an updated product,  it’s scamming you,” he says. “The end result is to steal your credit card, identity or the key to software you have purchased.”

He added computer owners often store that software key – the code numbers on the software package – in the computer. These hackers know this, and are targeting that key, which they can then resell, or use, in the software piracy market.

Updates from legitimate antivirus software – Norton, Symantec, McAfee  and others – are installed regularly as a service to customers. Having a good system will block the attack and it will decide if “scareware” is being downloaded and stop it before it happens. Microsoft products contain antivirus firewalls to stop such installations.

“Antivirus software and firewalls will actually go a long ways to help protect you from scareware,” Rains says. “The firewall is like locks on your doors and windows.”

According to the Microsoft report, 79 percent of victims reported financial loss, and 17 percent of those saw unauthorized account withdrawals, 19 percent had their passwords stolen, and 17 percent become victims of identity theft.

In addition, 53 percent of the victims said they suffered from computer problems after the scammer downloaded malware or bogus software on their computers. Meanwhile, the average cost of repairing the damage to PCs was around $4,800.

To avoid being a victim, BBB advises users not to buy software or services from a telephone solicitor. Never give control of your computer to a third-party.  Never give personal,  credit card or financial information over the phone.

Rains says, “Microsoft take the privacy and security of our customers and partners personal information very seriously. We are advising customers to treat all unsolicited phone calls with skepticism and not to give any personal information to anyone over the phone or online.

“Anyone who receives an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft should hang up. We can assure you, Microsoft does not make these kinds of calls.”

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Microsoft VP warns about ‘fraud’ computer repair phone calls; scareware

  1. Thanks for the heads up! Should I get a call like that, I’d report the phone number to Callercenter.com and alert local authorities.

  2. Pingback: Best Computer Repair Shop | Devizes PC Repair Specialist

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