Twice in the last month we’ve had disturbing reports from people who were contacted by phone regarding their computer problems. Although the details were different, the theme is the same: The caller pretends to be from a legitimate organization, says something scary about the user’s computer system, and then requests a large amount of money to fix it. These are NOT legitimate calls, so just in case this happens to you or someone you know, please pay attention to the details below.
The first call allegedly came from “Microsoft”. The caller said they had remotely detected “security problems” in the user’s Windows operating system, and that the user’s system was now infected and had to be cleaned. The user, believing the call really was from Microsoft, gave them her credit card number and they charged $200 for this “service”.
To the best of our knowledge Microsoft will never call you with this sort of issue. Microsoft does not have the capability to monitor activity on your computer, except whether your Windows serial number is legitimate or not (what’s known as the Windows Genuine Advantage program). So if a caller tells you they’re from Microsoft, or Dell, or Norton, or McAfee…. be suspicious.
The second call was more interesting because it claimed to come from iYogi, a legitimate remote computer support company based in India. This call was more obviously a scam because the caller demanded $300 “via Western Union” to fix alleged virus problems on the customer’s PC.
What’s The Worst That Can Happen?
Other Computer Troubleshooters locations have reported the following:
- A customer’s credit card was repeatedly charged by a fraudulent company after they provided their card to a supposed caller from “Norton Anti Virus”.
- After taking remote control of a customer’s computer for the ostensible purpose of removing a security threat, a caller from “Dell” actually planted spyware intended to capture the user’s passwords and banking information.
- After allowing a remote technician from a supposedly legitimate company to access their computer, the customer’s entire hard drive was encrypted so that none of their files, documents, photos, or other data could be accessed without a special password. The overseas caller, no longer pretending to be legitimate, demanded $1000 for the password. Unfortunately in order to get their data back the customer had to pay the ransom!
How Do You Know If Its Legitimate?
First, most of the well-known brands in the IT industry will NOT be calling you directly to allege there is some sort of infection or security issue or hard drive error on your computer. So if you do get one of those calls, be suspicious and ask them to prove their identity.
Second, remember that when you give someone your credit card by phone, you can’t control what they will really charge on it. Almost all credit card companies will refund illegitimate charges though, but these scammers can be sneaky. Would you notice a fee called “Administrative Charge” for $3 each month? Don’t think that just because you don’t see huge charges right away that the scammers are through with your credit card. If you’ve had one of these incidents, call your credit card company and ask for a new number – they’ll be happy to oblige.
Third, when in doubt feel free to contact us. Tell the caller that your computer is managed by “Jim” or “Scott” or “Kevin” or “Chip”, and that he or she will need to talk to us before proceeding. Most fake callers will find a reason NOT to stay on the line at that point, but ALL legitimate callers will be happy to talk with us. Remember that if your computer has been in our shop in the last 90 days or if you are one of our BEST or HOST service plan customers, you can get unlimited additional service from us anytime at no additional charge. But even if you aren’t that’s OK – we’re happy to help identify scammers anytime and we’ll never charge you for those services.