New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a warning to New Yorkers on Tuesday, February 18 based on numerous complaints that his office received by consumers who claim to have been recently contacted by scam artists who posed as representatives of Microsoft or an organization allegedly affiliated with Microsoft, such as P.C. Solutions.
Vosizneias reported that in some cases, the callers will even spoof the telephone’s Caller ID to identify the source as “Windows Support.” The scammers also attempt to gain remote access to consumers’ computers by claiming that their units are running slowly because they are infected with malware or other viruses. The scam artists then suggest that the consumers need additional software, which they then offer to remedy the “problem.”
After gaining access, Vosizneias warns that the “scammers are able to extract a fee – as much as $300 – by obtaining credit card information over the phone, or by directing consumers to enter PayPal, bank or credit card information on a website the scammers control.”
“Consumer fraudsters come in all shapes and sizes, from false advertisers and illegal pet sellers, to identity thieves and predatory lenders. Unfortunately, we can now add scammers posing as computer experts to that list,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “There are simple, easy steps New Yorkers can take to identify these calls and avoid becoming victims of this increasingly prevalent scam.”
The scammers reportedly will begin by walking victims through various steps on their computers to display Microsoft’s event viewer log, which contains a log of red-marked “errors,” yellow “warnings” and other events that have occurred on the computer. Such events are usually inconsequential notifications and are not evidence of a virus. But, according to Vosizneias, “the con artists claim that they demonstrate that the PC is corrupted and will sustain further damage or be susceptible to “hacking” if additional action is not taken.”
The consumer is then given instructions that actually allow the scammers to gain access to the computer remotely. “Once the perpetrators gain access, they typically advise consumers that they must pay a fee, which can be as much as $300, to have the problems corrected or their Microsoft warranty extended,” Vosizneias explained.
Payment is then collected by obtaining consumers’ credit card information over the phone, or by directing consumers to fraudulent websites to enter credit card, PayPal, or other personal or financial information online. In some cases, if the consumers refuse to make the payment, the scam artists reportedly will begin deleting files and disabling computers. They may also steal sensitive personal data, adjust security settings to leave computers vulnerable, or install software that can harm computers and/or allow the scammers to continue to access them remotely. The perpetrators appear to be operating from overseas and often speak with heavy foreign accents.
The attorney general’s office offers the following tips –
What to do if you get such a call:
Hang up the phone.
Do not give out your password. No legitimate organization will ever request this information.
Do not provide any billing information.
What to do if you allowed someone access to your computer:
Change your computer and email passwords.
Update or download legitimate security software and scan your computer. Delete any files that are identified as problematic. Some service providers offer free tools that can help detect and remove viruses.
If you were charged for “services,” dispute the charges with your credit card company.
If you gave out your billing information, you might want to consider closing your account.
File a complaint with the New York State Attorney General’s Office. You can obtain a complaint form by calling the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline (800) 771-7755 or visiting the Attorney General’s website, www.ag.ny.gov .