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  • Microsoft telephone scam

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    Cyber criminals are all the rage these days. You see them in the news with talks about the group Anonymous and the information leaks from Edward Snowden. Did you know that the FBI even has a “Cyber’s Most Wanted List?” And, it all boils down to one thing: money. Those running scams of this sort may speak loudly about freedom of information, but at the heart of it all is their desire to scam you out of your hard-earned cash. Right now, they’ve got a new way of getting to you, using an old-fashioned means. 

    People all over the world are receiving phone calls from individuals claiming to be from Microsoft. Often, the caller says that Microsoft has identified a problem, or virus, on your computer and has called to help you fix the matter. Lately, these calls have even had people bring up “diagnostic” windows to show the errors. After all, seeing is believing right? So, if they show you the errors, then it must be true. 

    For instance, some victims report the caller has them open up Event Viewer to look at the errors reported there. In fact, many of the “errors” listed here won’t actually affect the performance of your computer. The Event Viewer logs everything that happens to your computer, so even the most minor little hiccup can cause an error to appear. If you looked right now, I bet you’d find quite a few, even if you just purchased your computer. (If you want to look, just click Start and then type in Event Viewer and press enter.) 

    If you stay on the line with the “Microsoft” representative, you may be asked to perform some other tests. These tests are only designed to help prove the caller knows something about your specific computer. In actuality, what he/she is showing you are normal computer operations or errors. 

    The kicker comes when they ask you to allow them access to fix your computer. Most likely, the caller will direct you to a screen-sharing site to download a software that will allow for remote management of your computer. There are several of those types of applications out there, but one of the most common ones employed right now is teamviewer.com. TeamViewer is a legitimate software used for business and personal purposes. 

    But, if a caller purporting to be from Microsoft asks you to download it and then give them access to your computer, don’t do it. Giving them access via TeamViewer will only ensure they can control your computer. At some point, the caller is going to ask you to pay for the service. They do this in a few different ways like asking for a credit card number or redirecting you to PayPal to complete a transaction. Again, these are all scams and you should under no circumstances give them any of your payment information.

    If you have already been the victim of this scam, then there are some things you should do:

    First, change your computer’s password. More than that, if you use your computer for online banking, change your password for banking as well, and notify your bank you may have been compromised. Do likewise for any other accounts you access on your computer. Change all of the passwords.

    Second, scan your computer with a malware tool. Personally, I like malwarebytes. Microsoft Safety Scanner is another one that works. If you have an IT Professional in your family or friends, then ask them for assistance.

    Third, update and then run your virus scanning software. If you don’t have one, then you can download Microsoft Security Essentials for free (In Windows 8, Windows Defender replaces Microsoft Security Essentials.)

    Finally, report the incident. You can report it to your local authorities, and also online at www.ic3.gov. It’s unlikely you will hear back, but the more reports they get, the more information available to help put a stop to these types of scams.

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