Thursday, 13 February 2014

Phony phone calls start alarm bells ringing for consumers

Virus Scams
Meeting up with several friends for the importance task of distributing essential news over a chilled bottle or two of fermented grape juice, I heard from two different sources about the latest ongoing consumer telephone scam. This relates to cold calling people who have recently acquired a computer or bought updated software, and the caller represents themselves as technical support from an IT firm. My colleague who is an extremely astute business woman, readily accepted the call as she thought it was a follow up from her recent IT purchase. It wasn't until she had followed their instructions and saw she was about to access unknown online software that she started to smell a very large rat.

Logging out immediately, she started to run a virus scan on her pc whilst the scammer was still on the phone, he then became very insistent that she continue to follow his instructions whilst she then repeatedly asked for his name and company details before hanging up on him. Fortunately her computer wasn't accessed remotely because this is what the software he was suggesting, would do, giving him access to personal details and financial records.

Consumers taken unaware with ongoing computer scam

Her immediate concern was how he knew she had just upgraded her computer but it would seem this is a line they are using through random cold calling. Their other gambit is to start the conversation by stating they are technical support from Microsoft and stating this is a routine maintenance call because they have been told there is a virus on your machine. And they are very plausible which is why many people are being taken in.

Microsoft have issued clear guidelines and advice about what consumers should look out for, and the following list of companies the scammers say they are from:

·         Windows Helpdesk

·         Windows Service Centre

·         Microsoft Tech Support

·         Microsoft Support

·         Windows Technical Department Support Group

·         Microsoft Research and Development Team (Microsoft R & D Team)

Consumer helpline offers help and advice in dealing with scams and fraud

If a scammer does gain access to your computer then they can get online banking information, credit card details, passwords stealing your money and your identity. Microsoft are very clear that they do not make cold calls or unsolicited calls and their advice, like that of Trading Standards, is to put the phone down and report the call to either the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06 or via their online reporting form or contact your local Trading Standards Officer. Otherwise, if you have a problem with this type of cold calling then let us know – we’re listening!

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