Monday, October 19, 2015

MICROSOFT– Tech Support Scam

Microsoft, in conjunction with AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, is educating the public on the Tech Support Scam. The Tech Support Scam has been reported several times in this blog. Scammers have been impersonating Microsoft in phone calls to computer users claiming that their computer has a virus or other problem that needs to be fixed.

The scammer’s objective is to

·         Make you pay for phony tech support

·         Install malicious software that captures sensitive information. Often scammers will charge to remove this software.

·         Adjust your computer settings to leave it vulnerable to future attacks.

·         Access your personal, financial, or credit card information.

In a training event held on October 14th at the Bellevue Square Microsoft Store, a Microsoft representative talked about the Tech Support Scam, how it is delivered, and what you can do to protect yourself.

Cold Calls. The most common method of delivery that has received the most publicity is the cold call. In a cold call, the scammer tries to establish their credibility in the first 30 seconds as being from Microsoft and that they have detected a problem in your computer. Microsoft does not proactively call customers about computer or software problems.

Scareware. You can receive a “popup” when you browse the web with a message similar to “warning, your computer is infected” and encouraging you to call a phone number that is often prominently displayed on your screen. The idea is to scare you into action, get you emotional through fear. You call them, giving them access to your computer. Microsoft does not use pop ups.

Ads. As you search the web, you may come upon ads that talk about tech support, or any other subject that you are searching for. Many search engines make it difficult to detect ads search results. Be careful on what links you click on. The Microsoft representative said that it labels the ads that come up on your searches.

To protect yourself from the Tech Support Scam, you can

·         For a cold call, hang up. Don’t do what they tell you to do.

·         For Pop ups, do not call the number. Remove the pop up with the “Task Manager” or if that does not work, reboot your computer.

·         For ads, do not click on ads that claim to be Microsoft, but are really other companies.

Note: Scams have become more prevalent in our lives and therefore more frustrating. There is often little that governments or large companies can do to prevent or prosecute scammers. Often scammers make their calls, send their emails, or develop their pop ups and ads in other countries such as in India, Russia or in Eastern Europe. Where the federal or state governments can, they do go after scammers. But, we as individuals are probably the best deterrent to preventing scammers from stealing our identity and therefore our money.

The simplest action that you can take is to hang up, not click on a suspicious link, or not call the phone number on the pop up.

Scammers play a numbers game when they make those cold calls or send their emails. Most people will hang up or ignore their calls and emails. But if only 1% respond, the scammers can make plenty of money. They just have to make lots of calls and send out plenty of emails. They have many millions of people as an audience to tap.

One strategy that was talked about at the October 14th training event was to play along when the Tech Support Scammer calls. The idea is to take up the scammer’s time so that they are not calling other people, and potentially getting money from a victim. One Microsoft employee said that he does just that and may take as long as 30 to 40 minutes; listening to the scammer, playing along, but only up to a point. He won’t let the scammer take control of his computer, or download anything into his computer. He knows that he is successful when the scammer starts swearing at him. Then he knows that he has taken up the scammer’s valuable time. He hopes that more people will do what he does. Then maybe the scammers will move on to another endeavor.

This tactic may not be for everyone. You may not have the time or the confidence in computers to string a scammer along. But, it might be something to consider the next time you get that Tech Support call.

For more information about then Tech Support Scam you can go to:

AARP Fraud Watch Network Video:

Microsoft and the AARP Fraud Watch Network handout “Avoiding Tech Support Scams:”





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