There’s a new version of the same old scam going around. I’m familiar with this one because they’ve called my home phone three times and my cell twice. I felt that the least I could do was call them back.
Here’s the message you receive: “This is Microsoft support. We’ve noticed unusual traffic from your computer. Things like your personal information, passwords, identity, and financial information like credit cards and banking details are at risk of getting compromised you’re advised to call 1-866-925 9112 at your earliest to stop your information getting stolen. Call the number or otherwise, we have to suspend your account and lock your computer to prevent any further damage to others.”
This is the kind of message that generates a fear response in some folks and can end up costing someone a lot of money. Feeling cranky, I called the number and played along. A soft-spoken man explained that there had been a massive cyber attack and asked if I’d received any spam or junk emails. (Of course, the answer to that is usually ‘yes’ because everyone gets them) Just to be troublesome, I said “no.” This fellow then goes on to say that they’ve had reports that pornography and spam emails were being sent from my computer and that people were complaining.
This guy claimed that they were going to have to suspend my account to prevent me from infecting other computers. Then he asked me if I was near my PC. Then he talked me through pressing the Windows key + R to open the run window and then input CMD. He gave a number and then had me assoc in the CMD window. Then I was asked to read the longest line. What do you know… they matched.
This guy said it was the unique identifier for my PC. Except it’s not. It will come up the same on every Windows PC. It just refers to how file extensions are displayed.
Then he walked me through opening up Windows event viewer and filtering the events by critical. Man, it looked like my PC was about to blow up. While all of this appears to add credence to the claim there’s a problem with the PC. These are all basically normal events, filtered to make them look scary.
At this point, I’d had enough and let him know who I was and that I was on to his little scam. He stayed completely polite and sounded so offended. “But ma’am, this just isn’t the case. Let me explain.” Whatever criminal. I gave him a large, angry piece of my mind.
Had I not been onto his lies, he would have likely wanted permission to remote into my PC. Once in, he could very easily mess up my PC. Then he would either want a credit card number to fix the non-existent remote viewer problems, or charge to fix the damage he caused to the PC once he had remote access. Then he would have my credit card number and access to my PC and all of its information.
There are two sure ways to know it’s a scam.
1: They call you. Tech support companies don’t just randomly call people. Microsoft doesn’t just call people. NOBODY just calls people about their PC problems. Do mechanics randomly call you up and tell you there’s something going on with your car? If they called you (and you did not previously call tech support for a device or service and schedule an appointment for someone to call back), IT IS A SCAM!
2: They claimed to know that something is wrong with your PC. These people have no way of knowing what’s going on with your PC. They have no magic connection and no way to see what’s going on inside. The only way someone can take a look at what’s happening in your PC is if you allow that person to remote in. But you have to grant that access from your PC. If someone calls up and says they can see what’s going on with your device, that person is lying.
To reiterate: If they call you: SCAM! If they say they can see that something is wrong with your PC: SCAM! If you happen to have a whistle handy, blow it into the phone before hanging up.
Even if you aren’t likely to fall for this scam, it’s a good idea to warn folks you think might go for it.