Avoid these scams!

Fake Microsoft technicians are still phoning. Fake FBI web pages lock up your computer. Both demand money. Let’s be careful out there.

Microsoft does not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer.

It’s back, with a vengeance. Or maybe it never left? I’ve written before about the Fake Microsoft Technician scam, and this seemed to have tapered off. But in the last few days we’ve had five phone calls, and one day they started at 6:47 AM.

What am I talking about? You receive a phone call from someone claiming to be with the “Technical Department” at Microsoft. S/he says s/he has information that your computer has been spreading viruses. The “technician” convinces you to download a program that will let them access your computer remotely.

Don’t do it. The technician installs a malicious software program, and that program likely drops other malicious software on your machine. The technician then offers to fix the problem and sell you protection. And you bet you can put that on your Visa!

This scam has been making the rounds in the UK for several years. We started to see in Canada and the US last year. Law enforcement know who is responsible for the attempted fraud, but have been unable to reel them in. See this article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/18/phone-scam-india-call-centres) Microsoft is aware of the problem and has issued a warning on their website: http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/msname.aspx.

It’s all about getting your credit card information. At best, you end up with software that doesn’t work and a hefty credit card bill. At worst, it’s identity theft. These guys are really, really convincing. Don’t fall for it. Hang up.

If you have already been talked into this:

  • Check your credit card and bank statements immediately for charges you didn’t make.
  • Whether or not you see any unauthorized activity, contact you bank/credit card company at once and let them know you think your account might have been compromised and why.
  • Clean the malicious software out of your computer or have a professional do that for you.
  • Change your passwords for all your financial information and your email as well. (Do this AFTER you know your computer is free of malware, or from another computer.)

The FBI is not trying to extort money from you. But someone is.

Here’s a scary situation: You’re using your computer, minding your own business, and suddenly your screen is filled with a warning purportedly from the FBI, and your computer is locked. You can’t dismiss the screen and you can’t access your files or programs. The screen says you’ve violated the law. It might mention illegal downloads or pornography. And of course it provides instructions on how you can pay a fine to avoid prosecution.

This is complete nonsense, of course. This malware is trying to get your money, your credit card information and possibly to use your computer to participate in bank fraud. The FBI and the Internet Crime Complaint Center have this advice:

  • Never pay the fine
  • Get a professional to clean out the ransomware out of your computer
  • File a complaint

There is more information here: http://www.ic3.gov/media/2012/120809.aspx and here: http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2012/august/new-internet-scam.

I would add a little advice of my own. If you know or even think that your computer is infected, don’t wait for days or weeks to get help. For best results, ask for help the same day you have the problem!

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.

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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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