I received a Skype phone call this morning that made me laugh. The caller had a very thick accent and announced that he was calling from Microsoft Support. He claimed that Microsoft had detected a virus in the Windows Registry of my computer and that he was calling to help delete the virus.
I found that amusing because I use a Macintosh! Macs don’t have a “registry” of any sort and almost never get viruses.
Actually, I do own a Windows laptop that I use occasionally when writing about Windows genealogy software. However, I haven’t turned it on in weeks. Besides, I don’t think Microsoft would pay its employees to call Apple’s customers and offer to help them fix their computers!
I decided to have some fun and to “string him along” for a bit, asking various silly questions about the so-called “virus.” I asked if there is a fee or subscription associated with the “service.” I asked how he knew there was a problem in my computer. I also asked for his name. However, his accent was so thick that I had a lot of difficulty understanding him. It was a difficult conversation. I soon grew tired of the game and hung up.
This is a scam that has been around for several years but seems to be more popular these days than ever. Neither Microsoft nor any other reputable company will ever make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or software fixes. Instead, Microsoft and its partners always wait for you to call them.
The caller does not work for Microsoft or for any other reputable company, despite what he claims. All he wants to do is to gain access to your computer and possibly to your checking account and credit card accounts. The safest thing to do is to hang up. If you still think there is a possibility of a problem in your computer, take it to a local expert of your own choosing and ask for a second opinion. Never trust any stranger who calls you on the telephone and reports a “problem.”
The caller will undoubtedly attempt to do one of the following:
- Trick you into installing malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. He later will charge you to remove this software.
- Take control of your computer remotely and adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable.
- Request credit card information so he can bill you for phony services. (Never, ever give a credit card number to a stranger who calls you for any reason!)
- Direct you to fraudulent websites and ask you to enter credit card and other personal or financial information there.
For more information, look at the information on the reputable Snopes.com web site at http://www.snopes.com/fraud/telephone/microsoft.asp.
If you receive a similar call from anyone, with or without an accent, who claims to be offering help to fix your computer, do what I did: hang up.