BUFFALO - The Better Business Bureau reports a phone scam that's making the rounds in which the caller claims to be from Microsoft or other representatives from computer software companies. The caller offers to solve a computer problem or sell a software license, all in an effort to gain remote control access to the consumer's computer and later request a fee for service.
HOW THE SCAM WORKS
You get a telephone call from someone claiming to be with tech support from a well-known software company. Microsoft is a popular choice. The scammers may know your name and other personal information, which they get from publicly available phone directories. They might even guess what computer operating system you're using.
The caller tells you that your computer is sending error messages, and they've detected a virus on it. He/she says only a tech support employee can remove the virus, but first you need to grant them access to your machine. If you give the OK, the caller will run a scan of your files and actually point out how the virus has infected the computer. The scammers then offer to remove the virus ... for a fee. Of course, they need your credit card details first.
"Our BBB has been receiving daily calls recently from consumers and feel very confused about the calls since familiar service provider names are being used," said Warren Clark, president of Better Business Bureau serving Upstate New York. "If you receive this type of call, hang up. If you feel something may be wrong with your computer do not rely on unsolicited phone calls, contact your own service provider directly."
According to Microsoft, consumers are reminded they will not make unsolicited phone calls to help you with your computer.
Those who allowed the caller remote access to their computers, whether they paid for the virus to be removed or not, reported difficulties with their computer afterwards. Some said their computers would not turn on or certain programs/files were inaccessible. Other victims even reported taking their computers for repair, and the technicians confirmed malicious software had been installed.
BBB advises consumers follow these tips to protect themselves from scammers attempting to access their computer:
Protect your financial/personal information. Never give private information over the phone to someone you do not know. Information in the wrong hands can leave you vulnerable in many ways and open up a possibility for future identity theft.
Go through your service provider directly. If you are concerned your computer may be exposed to viruses or other security threats, contact your service provider directly. Some providers offer free tools that can help detect and remove viruses.
Install virus detection. To help protect your computer from viruses make sure you have virus detection software installed on your computer. This software can also help identify if a virus appears on your computer.
Don't trust odd calls. Regardless of the claims made by a caller, if you didn't make the call yourself and know for certain you can trust the person on the other end of the phone - don't share your personal information!