Warning: Microsoft Phone Scam
Have you received a call, supposedly from Microsoft, claiming to be investigating a problem with your computer?
Customers have reported that they are being targeted by a company claiming to be working on behalf of Microsoft. The company cold calls people and claims to have received reports of virus activity on their computer. They go on to explain that they have been alerted by Microsoft and have been authorised to make contact.
If you receive such a call, ignore it. It’s a scam! Microsoft does not Cold Call people about PC Faults.
This particular scam isn’t new and has been a problem for over two years and is well known to the police and Microsoft. What has particularly concerned us however, is the amount of reports we have received from customers recently, indicating that the area is being targeted.
There have been a number of reports about the scam in the media and on various internet forums. The company involved is believed to be India-based Comantra. Comantra was up until recently recognised as a Microsoft Gold Partner. However, the scam has not been exclusively linked to one company. Microsoft issued its first warning of the scam back in 2010 when it first started to target residents on Australia. Subsequently people in the UK, New Zealand, US and Canada have fallen victim to the scam. A high proportion of victims affected are more often the vulnerable and the elderly. Various tactics are employed to fool the victim with remote access demonstrated as a way to convince people that they are credible. There is also mounting evidence that the details of people who have been contacted have been fraudulently obtained. In September 2011, the Guardian reported that Microsoft had finally dropped Comantra from its Gold Partnership list and outlines the scam in detail. Further posts about the scam can be read on Microsoft’s Support Forum.
The victims who have been scammed have reported that they are fooled into believing that the person they are taking to is a Microsoft Engineer. The following was posted on a Microsoft Forum and highlights scam:
“A NEWPORT pensioner is warning other elderly people to be vigilant after being targeted by a telephone conman.
Mrs J, of XXXXXXXXX, said she first received a call from the Indian man on June 28.
She was warned that her computer had a problem with it and the man told her to turn her laptop on.
He asked her to press various buttons and after about half-an-hour, the 76-year-old was told her computer could be looked after by the ‘Comantra’ company for £50 a month, free for five years.
She claimed the man then said he was going to charge her £275 for the work he had just carried out on her computer.
Feeling pressured, Mrs J said she started crying as she does not have much money but gave the man her card details.
Shortly after, the pensioner, rang her bank HSBC to cancel her card, but a representative said as she gave her details to the man herself they could not get her money back.
The former garage cashier has also tried ringing the salesman to retrieve her money, but so far he has refused to hand over the money.
Mother-of-four Mrs J said due to the stress of losing the money she recently fell out of bed.
To add to her worries, her son Tim was recently diagnosed with cancer.
She says she has not slept properly since.
“I would rather have given the money to my children,” she said.
Mrs J informed local Police about the incident, but a spokeswoman said that no criminal offence was committed.
She has since contacted Trading Standards, as she is still getting similar calls on a regular basis.”
How to Recognise the Scam
The scam is easy to recognise. They are persistent and will try and ring several times, even if you refuse to talk to them initially. If you do have the unfortunate experience of talking to them, the representative will have a typical Indian accent. They will sound professional and knowledgeable. They are likely to discuss the following:
- They will claim to have links to Microsoft or Broadband providers and are checking on a computer problem or a potential virus infection.
- The representative will ask you to use certain control codes to convince you of their computer related knowledge. Normally from reports we have had, they will ask you to close down all your programs, press ‘Windows Key” and “r” together and bring up the run command screen. They will then ask you to type in a control code – “eventvwr.msc”. They then look at the event viewer with the victim and discuss error messages which are logged. The fact is it is normal to view errors recorded here and doesn’t actually indicate a serious problem. However, the victim doesn’t realise this and is convinced that there is a problem.
- The next step is remote accessing the computer. The scammers will use free remote access software to take control of the computer. Teamviewer is one such tool used (however it’s important to note that Teamviewer is a separate company and has no link to the scammers).
- When they have taken full control of the computer they attempt to fix the ‘problem’ and install anti-virus software. They will then ask for payment, normally up to the tune of £300 and will also try to sell a maintenance contract. The victim feels pressured and then pays the money with a credit/debit card.
The scam is very convincing, but consider the following:
They do not identify who they are and will not give exact details of the company they are working for or their address details. Would you trust a complete stranger with no credible trading details to access to your computer and have access to your personal information?
Q: Can I get a refund?
A: They will not give refunds. The Police are unable to help as a payment was willingly made, meaning no offence is committed.
Q: Can you block them using TPS (Telephone Preference Service)?
A: No, as they as are calling from another country and anyone outside the UK fall outside the control of the TPS.
If you have been contacted and been unfortunate enough to allow these scammers to access your computer, we recommend the following actions:
Contact your bank or Credit Card issuer and change your card details. If you have any card details stored on your computer, consider changing these also.
Change you Windows login password and passwords relating to your email. Make sure you also change the password for your administrator account. If you have not chosen a password before, consider one.
Change all your login details which are linked to online accounts and banking.
Run a full scan on your system using a program like Malware Bytes to identify if malware of viruses have been installed.
Share your experience with http://www.actionfraud.org.uk.