New twist on ‘Microsoft tech support’ scam; Recent software purchasers beware

By now, most computer savvy users are aware of the fake tech support calls. It’s the one where someone, with a strong accent, calls and pretends to work for “Windows” or “Microsoft Tech Support” or some other variation, and tries to get you to give them remote access to your computer so they can fix a problem.

The correct way of dealing with these call is to hang up on them. Unfortunately, I know some computer users have fallen victim.

If you let them access your computer, they’ll point out some harmless files, try to scare you into thinking they are dangerous, then try to get you to give banking details to sell you a fix. Instead, they use your bank account or credit card information to steal from you. If you refuse, they usually cause damage to your computer in the process.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), the FBI’s cyber crime team, is reporting a new twist on this scheme. Heavily accented callers ask if the computer user if they are happy with their recently purchased software. Unsuspecting buyers may respond that “Product XYZ” is working well or is not working well. At this point, the caller can name the software product, and becoming more endearing to the victim. If dissatisfied, they will offer a refund. Or they will offer to give a refund because the company is supposedly going out of business.

If you become a victim, they’ll ask you to give them remote access to your computer so they can help you complete a form you need to get your refund.

IC3 reports that victims were told the fastest way to get a refund was to use the card they purchased the software with. Most software products have a security code on the box that must be used to activate it. Then the caller helped them open an account with a wire transfer company. Instead of sending a refund, however, the scammer withdrew funds and wired them to India. IC3 doesn’t say what the scammers did to the victims’ computers when they had remote access, but chances are it wasn’t good. The code can be used to open software and make counterfeit copies  to be sold on the black market.

Bottom line, don’t let anyone you don’t know remote access to your computer. If you need help and you’re not tech savvy, find a friend or relative who is or pay a professional. Someone who just calls out of the blue is looking to help themselves, not you, and Microsoft doesn’t make house calls.

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1 Comment

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One response to “New twist on ‘Microsoft tech support’ scam; Recent software purchasers beware

  1. Mark Burrows

    First, depending on what version of Windows you have, the best thing to do is locate where you can turn off your remote access and remember exactly where it is, some versions of Windows will let you create a shortcut there so you can access it quickly to turn it on if you need it.
    So, here is the low down. No one can call you, or start moving your cursor around if they do not have access for your computer.
    If you have a problem, you can contact a Microsoft tech online, where you will be able to open a chat window.
    Now, he will give you a few instructions before he can actually pick your computer out of net, it’s not as easy as some think. First though, you would have to turn your remote access back on, because once he locates your computer, he will just tell you you should keep your remote access on all the time. Ignore what he says, because you contacted him for this special session, not the other way around. After you connect and he has control, you still have your chat box open with the tech, and yes, many of them do actually have heavy accents because foreigners are getting really clever and Microsoft do hire them. Anyway, you will your cursor moving about as he goes to where he suspects where your problems are. It is wise to have paper and pen and get ready to write down where he goes and what he does so it helps out in the future for similar problems. If he starts to open folders that he has no business opening, you can push your Ctrl button and your mouse and take control of the cursor to let him know those are private folders. He can’t go around opening stuff just for the fun of it.
    Honestly, techs really don’t snoop around and if they can’t solve your problem by using command routines and remote testing on your Windows products, they will confirm at least that you likely have a viral problem that would required you to back up programs on your priority drive with the operating system and the manufacture system and put it on an external drive. Then wipe the priority drive clean, reinstall original software. Then go to your external drive, decide what programs you wish to reinstall on your computer to run. Then go to each site, download the current version, and I hope that you kept your registration keys some where safe or you will have to repurchase some of the software. This isn’t a bad chore, because you will probably find programs that you probably wished you never downloaded anyway, so now you can ignore them completely.
    When you have restored you priority drive with everything you wanted. Then remove the back up from your external drive. It serves no purpose to keep it, it was flawed and has a dormant virus somewhere. Clear it off.
    You would be wise to have an external drive just for this purpose only so you can really wipe it out and reformat it.
    Point being. A simple thing as turning off remote access and password protecting your router if you use one and no one comes in unless you invite them.
    Also, get in the habit of turning off your computer when you are not using it, instead of using sleep or hibernate. If you can’t figure how to protect yourself, this is usually when you get hacked. If they can get into your system, they can’t move about without you seeing them. Only certain viruses can reside on your computer, then they detect your activities such as opening up bookmarks, opening up certain sites, and when you use certain keywords. The virus collects the data then sends it out in a packet when it gets the chance, usually hopping out during an activated background program, and vanishing out disguised as a log. Almost impossible to track.

    Mark Burrows.

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