So, one day you’re really busy. You get an unsolicited call from someone claiming they’re “Microsoft Support” or a company associated with Microsoft or your PC manufacturer (like Dell or HP). They claim that there’s a problem with your PC: “Your PC is infected!” They use technical terms. They’ll help. They ask you to use the mouse or keyboard to do some things on your PC. You’re asked to give them a special ID and /or number code. They’ll then show you the problems. Your PC screen starts changing. You start feeling anxious, even scared. Something’s not right, but … When asked, you give them your credit card number.
Later, you find several hundred dollars were billed to your credit card. You suspect a scam.
Yes, as pointed out in the latest VIPRE Security News (Issue 7, September 2014), such phony computer support calls remain a common scam. Especially among seniors, as I’ve witnessed first hand. As pointed out in their “Don’t Trust Unsolicited Calls From ‘Computer Support Technicians’” article:
Typically, scammers say they’ve detected viruses or other malware on your computer to trick you into giving them remote access or paying for software you don’t need, … The latest version of the scam begins with a phone call. …
Once they have you on the phone, they often try to gain your trust by pretending to be associated with well-known companies or confusing you with a barrage of technical terms. They may ask you to go to your computer and perform a series of complex tasks. Sometimes, they target legitimate computer files and claim that they are viruses. Their tactics are designed to scare you into believing they can help fix your “problem.”
1. Be aware that these scams are common. Whether via an email message or a phone call, anyone can contact you and claim to be anyone, even providing fake credentials and phone numbers. (And, by the way, Caller IDs can be spoofed as well — you may even get a call from yourself — the Caller ID shows your name and phone number!)
2. If you’re scared (or were already really stressed, distracted, or super busy), defer any action by hanging up or declining any offer. Or, just shutdown the computer. Sadly, rational action’s unlikely if you already panicked.
3. Never let anyone remotely control your computer unless you’ve had independent, multiple verification — or at least called a number on a valid service support contract that came with your computer. If that person was at your front door, would you let them in just on the basis of their self-declarations?
4. The same cautions apply to signing up for a computer support or maintenance contract. In a few minutes some of these scams start spending money using your credit card information.
5. The emotional toll can be severe.