A scam phone call is an unsolicited call made by criminals who tell you there are ‘problems’ with your computer (usually ‘lots of viruses’) that only they can fix. To gain your trust the caller may say they are calling ‘on behalf of’ Microsoft or they ‘work with’ Microsoft or ‘your broadband/internet provider’.
Often they claim to be a PC Support company or throw in the name of a popular phone provider like AT&T for good measure. Their sole aim is to make you pay them to ‘fix’ the problems or to make you do something that allows them to take control of your computer for their own use e.g. plant viruses, steal your passwords etc – or all of the above!
How Does It Work? Scam phone calls are increasingly made in huge volumes by rogue call centers on a similar principle to spam emails – for every 1,000 people they ring, 1 unlucky person falls for the scam. The caller may also know your name and address to help convince you they are genuine (they can easily obtain these – illegally or from public records).
They may tell you that your computer is infected with viruses or causing a problem on the internet, then direct you to examine some mysterious ‘error logs’ on your computer which, surprise surprise, show lots of errors. However, even a brand new computer will show lots of errors in the Event Logs section of Windows after a few hours – such errors are not generally a problem.
They then ask for money to fix the ‘errors’ or ask you to download a program/visit their website to let them ‘help you’ further.
What Are The Risks? Very high! If you pay by card you not only waste your money but also risk future card fraud – you have given your card details to criminals. If you download their program onto your computer or visit a website and follow their instructions you may also be at risk of password/identity theft, viruses and leaving an open door for them to use your computer illegally in the future.
How To Recognize A Scam Call – The main thing is to know that such calls exist so you can recognize them. These call centers are often found in India so the caller may well have a foreign accent.
Microsoft never make unsolicited phone calls and, to my knowledge, neither do any internet/broadband/telephone or email providers. At any one time there are so many millions of virus infected computers on the internet that no genuine company is going to waste time ringing individual users to offer their help!
What To Do If You Get One Of These Calls? Simple – hang up the phone immediately. Some people advise saying that you do not have a computer first in the hope that they will take your name off their calling lists for the future.
Don’t be polite and chat with the caller as you might reveal personal information or become more susceptible to their sales patter – would you be polite to a mugger?
Microsoft themselves have this to say on the subject of scam calls: “Microsoft does not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer. If you receive an unsolicited email message or phone call that purports to be from Microsoft and requests that you send personal information or click links, delete the message or hang up the phone.”