By Jim Hagerty
A phone scam by callers claiming to work for Microsoft is one the Rockford Better Business Bureau (BBB) was made aware of last year.
Since the BBB learned of the scam in 2013, Director Dennis Horton said it hits peaks and valleys. One of those peaks began within the past couple of weeks.
The scam is pulled by callers who claim Microsoft has been notified of errors and viruses on victims’ computers that need to be removed. Victims are instructed to download a program they’re told will scan their computers for errors and damaged files.
Once the program is downloaded, it shows the victim a fake system log containing errors and warnings. The scammer then offers to remotely fix the problems for as much as $400.
“This scam is international in scope,” Horton said. “The Federal Trade Commission reports that scammers have tricked tens of thousands of computer users globally. “This scam targets everyone, but senior citizens often become victims more readily because they are home to answer the phone.”
Judith O’Day, of Durand, Illinois, was a recent victim. She had experienced a legitimate computer error and assumed Microsoft was there to help when she took the call from a “representative” claiming to work for the company.
“I thought what they were telling me was true,” O’Day said. “They convinced me to buy the ‘Silver Plan,’ a lifetime anti-virus program for $177.78.”
O’Day quickly learned she had been scammed, and was able to stop the transaction before her credit card was charged. Others haven’t been so lucky.
Horton said the best way to protect against falling victim to the Microsoft scam is to never purchase software over the phone, provide personal information to a stranger and give remote computer access to anyone who hasn’t been confirmed as a legitimate technical support professional. Horton said to hang up on anyone who attempts to charge a fee or sell subscriptions.