It has been brought to my attention that a telephone scam is currently targeting local residents. A friend called to ask why Microsoft were calling her, telling her that her PC was infected with spyware and to follow their instructions to install software to fix it. She refused and the caller kept calling back getting more and more aggressive. Fortunately, I am aware of this scam as it has been used around the world in the last year or so.
The telephone number the caller is ringing from is not identified and will probably be from India and they insist that they are from Microsoft or your internet service provider and that your PC has been identified as having spyware running which is sending out spam emails. They ask you to sit at the computer and follow their instructions to download and install software to remove the spyware. What they are actually doing is getting you to install THEIR spyware which gives them control of your PC for their own use and to steal your personal information. Alternatively, they will demand a service charge of up to £200 to ‘fix’ your fictitious problem.
If you are contacted in this manner, please be assured that neither Microsoft nor your internet service provider will EVER call you in this way. Microsoft have no interest in your PC whatsoever and in the rare event that your internet service provider has an issue with your use of their services they will contact you in writing.
- Do not divulge any information about yourself or your PC.
- Do not follow any of their instructions.
- Tell them you are recording the conversation, although in the instance this week it did not faze them.
- They will keep ringing for a while so either keep hanging up or make use of your caller ID and ignore the call.
- They will become more aggressive. It appears that this is from a script they are given in order to increase the pressure on you to comply.
- They have no access to your PC without your help. They cannot cut off your internet service or disable your PC regardless of what they threaten.
Tracing the companies carrying out this scam has been very difficult due to the international nature of the operations.
Microsoft has a statement on it’s website regarding their non-participation in cold-calling and also a press release from Australia when it became a problem there last year.
More can be read about the scam here (Guardian) and here (PC Pro).