BBB warns of phone calls claiming to fix fake computer problem
December 07, 2010

A phone scam that has plagued the UK and Australia the past couple of years is now making an appearance here in B.C., and the scam artists are using a well-known name to attack vulnerable consumers. Callers claiming to be from Microsoft are attempting to bilk consumers out of dollars while at the same time giving them access to personal data.

“People should think twice when giving out any information – even if the name sounds legitimate,” says Lynda Pasacreta, BBB President and CEO. “Scammers often use familiar or well-established names in order to gain trust, which poses a real danger to the public.”

Consumers who have contacted BBB to report their experience say that the scam always starts the same way: the phone rings at their home, and the caller asks for the householder, quoting their name and address before stating a variation of “I'm calling for Microsoft. We've had a report from your internet service provider of serious virus problems from your computer.”

The caller warns that if the problem is not solved, the computer will become unusable. The concerned owner is then directed to their computer and asked to open a program that shows a long list of errors. In order to “fix” it, the computer owner is directed to a website and told to download a program that hands over remote access to the computer. And then comes time to pay a fee for a subscription to this preventative service.

The catch: there was never anything wrong with the computer, the caller is not working for Microsoft, and the owner has given a complete stranger access to every piece of data on their computer.

BBB has confirmed with Microsoft that they do not make unsolicited phone calls to help fix personal computers and warns consumers about cybercriminals using their company’s name in their scams. According to Microsoft, once the crooks have gained your trust, they attempt to steal from you and damage your computer with malware including viruses and spyware.

BBB advises the public that these phony phone calls are common, and people should:

Treat all unsolicited phone calls with skepticism. Check with the organization directly that the caller is claiming to be from, using the contact numbers found on their website.

Do not provide any personal information. Many of these scam calls are an attempt to steal your identity, not just your money. Don’t provide personal information over the telephone.

Never provide credit or debit card information for payment. You may be able to reverse charges made through your credit card, but you’ve given enough information for fraudsters to use your account for other transactions. And debit purchases are difficult to reverse.

Report any fraudulent activity, especially if you’ve been a victim. Consumers should report any fraudulent activity to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1 (888) 495-8501 or www.antifraudcentre.ca.