Beware of “Tech Support” Phone Calls

If you receive a phone call purporting to be from Microsoft with someone telling you that your computer has been compromised – it is a fake call, with fraudulent intent.

It is as simple as that. Fake. Fraud. No exceptions.

Rule number 1 for determining if it is fake: Microsoft will not call you. Period. Cybercriminals have been using this scam for years – making fraudulent phone calls proposing to service your computer. A new wave of these calls is cresting over the 845 area code in the last month or so.

The way this scam works is: a fake operator calls you, out of the blue, and claims to be from a well-known company, like Norton or McAfee, or, most commonly, from Microsoft.They will tell you that they have received a report from your computer that it has been compromised by a virus attack. Or they may say that your antivirus is out of date and that they are going to give you a “free” system check up. Do not trust these unsolicited calls. No matter how convincing and no matter what the reason that they give, these calls are fakes. None of these companies will spontaneously call and offer to service your computer. Ever.

If you stay on the phone with the bad guys, they will offer to help fix the problems that they say that your computer has. But in order to do that they will ask you to install a program that will give them remote access to your computer. Once they get into your PC or Mac remotely and have control of your computer, then they are able to do all sorts of bad things, like:

  • remotely adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable to further intrusion,
  • install malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords.

At some point in the process they will show you that they seem to have discovered hundreds or even thousands of problems in your computer. But, they say, in order to “fix” these problems, now they need to charge you. They will request your credit card information to bill you for the phony services, or they may direct you to a website to collect your credit card and other personal or financial information.

Don’t do it. Just remember that none of the legitimate computer or security software companies will ever make unsolicited, “cold,” phone calls to charge you for computer security or software fixes.

If someone claiming to be from any tech support company does call you:

Don’t answer questions. Never provide or even “verify” any credit card or personal information to someone who cold calls you from any tech support.

Don’t purchase any software or services.

Basically, if there is a fee or subscription associated with the "service," just hang up.

And never, ever give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer.

What to do if you already gave information to a fake tech support person.

If you think that you might have downloaded malware from a phone tech support scam website or may have allowed a cybercriminal to access your computer, or make a charge on your credit card, take these steps

  1. Change your computer's password
  2. Change the password on your main email account, and
  3. Change the password for all financial or shopping accounts – any that have your bank or credit card information.
  4. Manually update your anti-malware program and then scan your computer with your anti-malware set to “Full scan.”
  5. If your credit card has been charged, call your credit card company and explain the situation. They may be able to stop the charge.

The key to remember is that you will never receive an unsolicited legitimate call asking you to pay for service from Microsoft, or Norton, or McAfee.

There’s another version of this scam too. In this case, the fake operators have placed ads on search sites that are designed to appear to list the toll-free support numbers for those companies. So that if you were looking for the number for Norton or McAfee, or Dell or HP you might actually get a number for a fraudulent service joint. Always make sure that you are looking at the company’s own, genuine website for that contact information.

As always, if you have any questions or can use some help with this or other computer problems, give me a call anytime: Mike Pepper ~ Pawling Computer Guy. 845-855-5824.