Recently I was asked to comment on a news story by a local TV station. There’s nothing particularly unusual about that, but it struck me that this particular ‘news’ story was anything but new. It was in relation to a scam commonly known as the ‘Microsoft phone scam’. This is something as a misnomer, as Microsoft has nothing to do with it, but the software giant’s name is used by criminals in order to solicit money. Visit Security Advisor.
A quick check on Google Trends shows that the term ‘Microsoft phone scam’ first became popular in mid 2009, and peaked in September 2011. But the scam is still around, and my recent televisual experience suggests lots of people are being caught out. Indeed, there are regular posts about receiving calls on our forum. So here is how to avoid the ‘Microsoft phone scam’ in the first place, and what to do if you are a victim.
Microsoft phone scam: how it works
Scammer calls you, and asks for you by name. They say they are a computer security expert from Microsoft (or another legitimate tech company). The ‘security expert’ is plausible and polite, but officious. They say that your PC or laptop has been infected with malware, and that they can help you solve the problem. What happens now depends on the particular strain of scam with which you have been targeted.
Some crooks will ask you to give them remote access to your PC or laptop, and then use the access to harness your personal data. Others get you to download malware that will do that task for you. A more straightforward scam is to simply ask for money in return for a lifetime of ‘protection’ from the malware they pretend is on your machine.