Thursday, December 19, 2013

Avoid the Windows Technical Support Scam

... and Tips to Avoid ALL Phone Scams from Cyber-Criminals

We aren't just fighting against spam emails anymore – scammers are calling our phones too. Just because someone claims to be calling from a legitimate business, doesn't mean they truly are a representative of that company, nor does it confirm that their intentions are pure.

We've seen a second round of these phone scammers flood our homes and it’s causing serious trouble. Often they start by catching you off guard, tricking you into thinking your computer has been hacked or that it is exhibiting symptoms of a malicious virus. It’s scary to think your sensitive data is insecure, including your passwords, online banking data, social media accounts, credit cards, and client data. This is where they get you - they claim they are helping protect your data.

These callers are aggressive and claim to be from familiar big-name organizations:

  • Windows Helpdesk
  • Windows Service Center
  • Microsoft Tech Support
  • Microsoft Support
  • Microsoft’s Certified Technician Team
  • Windows Technical Department Support Group
  • Microsoft Research & Development Team (Microsoft R&D Team)
  • Brand Name Computer Makers such as “Dell”
  • Brand Name Security Companies such as “Symantec” and “McAfee”

In order to verify your computer has errors, they ask you to perform a variety of tasks:

  • They direct you to look through your computer and read information that could lead to a ‘diagnosis’. Often they are leading you to a list of harmless and low-level error logs.
  • They direct you to fraudulent websites that could load spyware onto your machine.
  • They want you to give them remote access to your computer, so they can do it for you.
  • Then they request credit card information so they can bill you for the phony services they provide.

There are a number of arguments to keep in mind when you receive a call such as this:

Argument # 1: Does the named organization really making their money placing house calls? Absolutely Not! Solving your virus issues via proactive phone calls is not where a huge organization such as Microsoft or Dell is making their money. They have bigger fish to fry; they want to sell you software and hardware.

Argument # 2: Do they actually know WHICH computer has the issue? Because if they are tracking you, they should certainly know and be able to tell you the name of your computer and how you can verify it. Don’t be fooled if they know your name and other personal information, as that data is readily available through a variety of resources online. Just because they know you have a Windows computer isn't validation enough.

Argument # 3: Will they give you their name and phone number to call back? There may be super RARE instances where Microsoft makes a call, but NEVER give your personal information, never give credit card information, never give them access to your computer, and never provide passwords or logins. Maybe they are a good guy, maybe they even want you to speak to their manager, but prove it BEFORE you risk making a mistake… take their information down and call your tech support, or call a techie friend. Do you believe you have a virus on your computer or is this new news to you? The point is, never trust unsolicited calls unless you can confirm it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with which you are already a customer.

Argument # 4: Ask if there is a fee or subscription with the service. If there is, it’s probably a scam.

Argument # 5: Are they asking you to install their special software? Frequently the software these scammers load onto your computer is useless even though the name of the program sounds helpful. And more often than not, the software is actually malware or spyware that is set in place to steal your passwords and other data following your phone call.

If you have been a victim…

These callers are certainly tricky, and we've seen good friends fall to their fear-provoking tactics. If you've already fallen victim, there are some important tasks to complete to protect yourself.
  • Refuse Payment: Call your credit card company and refuse any and all associated costs.
  • Shut Down Your Computer: Do not perform any online banking, purchases, or money transfers until you've verified your computer is spyware and virus-free.
  • Remove Malware & Spyware: Scan your computer for malware or spyware.
  • Change Your Passwords: Change your computer password, your email password, your financial account passwords, and others that you think may be compromised
  • Seek Professional Help: If you are truly concerned, we highly recommend you contact your local tech support or even call the real big-name company your caller claimed to be from.
The disheartening part of this whole scamming trend is that the number of people scammed successfully must be high enough for the scammers to keep trying. Otherwise, the volume of calls would not continue to increase as it has over the past several years. The only way to rise above it is to remain educated and to remain cautious. Protect your personal data as you would protect your family, your health, and your life. Don’t let just anyone in to prod around, and make sure your friends and family know the same.

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