Everyone has surely read about this scam right? What happens is a phone call unexpectedly comes into your home and a supposed representative from Microsoft tells you that there is an issue with your computer which they just received a notice about.
They then typically ask you to turn on your computer and will give you some instructions to access a website and download a program that will fix the issue with your PC that they say you have. That download is usually a piece of malware or a form that you then fill out to provide personal information such as name, address, phone number, credit card, etc. They may also tell you that they need to charge your credit card so they can fix the problem for you.
Once you submit that form to them they now have the information necessary to access personal accounts and make charges against your credit card.
Like many of you, I have read the warnings about this type of scam in the past however, I have never known someone who actually received one of these calls. Well last night that changed as a good friend of my wife’s, whom I do some computer work for, received a phone call that was attempting this scam.
After challenging the caller concerning the validity of the call and refusing to carry out any of the steps he was asking her to do she told me the caller got very rude with her and threatened that the safety of the computer and her personal information was at risk. He said her failure to do as he instructed could cause her even more problems.
To her credit she told the caller that she was first going to call a friend who works on computers, that was me, and asked them to call her back in 15 minutes to follow up. After leaving me a voicemail I called her and we talked about the phone call and she confirmed they have not called her back and I honestly do not expect they will.
You see she challenged them because she felt that something was just not right with the situation and that caused them to show part of their hand in the way they became rude towards her.
I was thrilled with her savvy response but unfortunately there are many who do not challenge things like this and then find themselves victims of identity theft. There is a reason people attempt these kind of scams and that is because they work with a significant number of people and that makes it profitable for the scammer. As long as people are vulnerable to these types of things they will continue.
So how can you combat these types of scams? Education and awareness.
Check out the Email and web scams: How to help protect yourself page at the Microsoft Safety and Security Center to learn more about protecting yourself from phishing and scam attempts. You can also check out this collection of blog posts about fraud scams from the Safety and Security Center as well.
If you are ever in doubt about a situation take the time to do some research or ask a friend about it because it just may save you a lot of money and trouble in the long run.
And remember, Microsoft does not make house calls like this.