Fake Microsoft help line can fool even ‘computer literate’

Fake Microsoft help line can fool even ‘computer literate’ – Updated Mar 12/14
Scammers use remote access to claim home computers infected by virus

This is an update to our 2012 message posted below. It’s sad to say, but this scam is still fooling even those who are computer literate. Please know that Microsoft will not be calling you! If you get this type of call, tell them you know it’s a scam, and hang up! DO NOT allow them into your computer, and DO NOT give them your credit card. More information dated today is available via the CBC link below.

If you have been taken in by this scam, contact the police and your credit card company. One of my clients was successful in getting the charges reversed this week. As always, please contact me if you need help with cleaning up the computer, whether or not you’ve been part of this scam.


From Oct 3, 2012: Regulators smash global phone tech support scam operation

Summary: The FTC announced a crackdown on a massive international computer tech support scam that allegedly swindled tens of thousands of consumers in six countries.

Regulators from five countries joined together in an operation to crack down on a series of companies orchestrating one of the most widespread Internet scams of the decade.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, speaking during a press conference with a Microsoft executive and regulators from Australia and Canada, said 14 companies and 17 individuals were targeted in the investigation. In the course of the crackdown, U.S. authorities already have frozen $188,000 in assets, but Leibowitz said that would increase over time thanks to international efforts.

English-speaking consumers in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the U.K. were targeted in the global scam. Most of the scammers were based in India, but some also came from the U.S. and U.K.

The scam involved cold callers who claimed to work for major technology companies, such as Microsoft or Google, and who told consumers they had viruses on their PCs. The callers would attempt to dupe users into giving them remote access to their computers, locking the user out while attempting to “fix” the malware that the scammer claimed was on the machine.

It is thought there could be upwards of tens of thousands of victims worldwide in total across six countries, and the FTC warned that the figure could be “significantly higher.”

A U.S. District Court for judge, at the request of the FTC, ordered a stop to six alleged tech-support scams pending further hearings. A further 17 individual defendants were also targeted by the FTC in six legal filings with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

More than 10,000 complaints were drawn from Australian citizens to the country’s regulator as early as 2009. Once the scam began to spread around the world, the Australia Communication and Media Authority contacted U.S. authorities with intelligence on the scammers, which had by then received 2,400 complaints. The FTC said “hundreds of thousands of U.S. consumers” could have been affected.

Canada had also received “thousands and thousands” of complaints, but Andrea Rosen, chief compliance and enforcement officer at the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, said it was difficult to identify exactly how many. In Australia, it was estimated that the scammers made about $85 from each successful scam.

Leibowitz thanked U.K.’s Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for their “invaluable assistance” to the FTC.

Canada’s Rosen said “we make a difference by working together,” highlighting how the agencies and regulators collaborated across borders to investigate the scams.

This article, co-authored by Shara Tibken, was originally published on CNET. Read the full article at ZDnet