Computer security firms are warning about a nationwide Microsoft tech support scam.
This cold-calling scam first surfaced a couple of years ago. But Microsoft says people are now falling victim to it every day, as it can be very convincing.
Here’s how the scam works, according to Jim Eyster, who encountered it.
Eyster said he has had a lot of problems with his laptop, including lockups and blue screens. So he was relieved when the phone rang and the caller said he was with Microsoft Tech Support.
“He said, ‘I’m from Microsoft, and we have noticed that you have had a lot of viruses,’ ” Eyster said. The caller explained that Microsoft, during a routine scan of his system, found his computer filled with problems that were slowing it down.
“I was gullible,” Eyster admits. “He said he could show me where the viruses were, and so I let him take control of the mouse.” Eyster says the man directed his mouse to a Web page that, once he logged on, allowed the caller to take control of his computer, which is something security companies can do.
The man then called up an internal page on the laptop that appeared to show it overrun with viruses, with hundreds of “error” and “critical alert” messages. Eyster was alarmed.
“He said he could remove the viruses for a hundred dollars, on a credit card,” Eyster said.
But something about it made Eyster suspicious at that point, and good thing: It was all a scam. The errors the scammers show you are not viruses at all.
“They are calling about ‘Windows errors,’ ” said Tina Wolff, owner of My Geek Station computer repair company. “But everybody has Windows errors. So immediately you are listening.”
Wolff says she has seen many people fall for the ruse. One of her customers paid hundreds of dollars to remove the nonexistent “viruses.”
“He spent an hour on the phone and at the end of the hour they told him they were going to charge him $300,” Wolff said. Then she had to remove the “malware” that the caller installed.
To avoid the scam, Microsoft says you should remember that Microsoft will not call you unsolicited. The company says the scam originated overseas in an effort to trick people out of credit card numbers and to install malware in their computers.
But if you have PC problems, like Jim Eyster, the solicitation can be convincing. “I believed it, and I bit like a fish,” he said.
Bottom line: If Microsoft calls you, hang up.