What’s the weakest link in your security? You are! When your phone rings don’t believe anything you hear. That Microsoft employee you’re talking to could be eating sardines and swigging vodka while he helps remove you from your money.
The latest Microsoft Security Blog dated June 16, 2011 comes exactly 4 days after I was targeted by this latest threat.
Evidently computer viruses and trojans are working so well, it seems scammers have enough time to launch a new form of attack. Getting up front and personal they are now attacking us through our phone. Posing as Microsoft tech support, they gain personal and financial information by instructing you, their victim, to setup and allow remote access under the guise of removing computer threats.
If people would only stop and think a minute they would realize that Microsoft doesn’t know if their computer has a virus, and they certainly don’t know their phone number. When everyone else is charging for even a moment of their time, do you think Microsoft is going to give you free trouble shooting by remote access. Obviously these crooks are counting on the most vulnerable in our society. They don’t mind that 85% of the people they call hang up on them. It’s the 15% that are paying their bills.
For you and I remote access is commonplace. We know how to do it and we know to be careful when allowing it. Some major companies use remote access now to help their customers with wireless connections and setting up home networks. For those less wary the offer of remote access seems genuine. Remote access is exciting, until they see their credit card bills. Then the fun is gone along with their money.
For now the scam is taking place in English speaking UK and North America. The scammers advise the victims that their computers are infected, show them bogus errors, direct them to a website, and walk them through making a purchase and installing tracking software. The average loss exceeds $800.00.
This has been a huge and surprisingly successful scam and Microsoft expects it to get even bigger and spread to other nations and languages.
Fortunately in my case, I hung up on the thief at the other end, but not everyone is that guarded. The Microsoft Trustworthy Computing Team did a survey of the involved area and discovered that out of 7000 people, more than 1,000 had received this type of call. Of the 1,000, 234 fell for the scam and followed the instructions. Of those, 184 actually lost money to the crooks. This means you have a 1 in 7 chance of being called. How do you like that for a phone campaign?
A problem this big requires that you be prepared ahead of time in order to avoid losing your hard earned cash. It requires only one rule and I’m putting it in bold below. Follow this one rule and all attempted phone scams are stopped dead.
Never trust unsolicited calls. If someone calls and claims to be from Microsoft, your bank, your credit card company, or even your utility company, always call them back. You can use a case number or extension but only use a telephone number that you have looked up yourself.
Safety is that simple.
Today you must be a lot more cautious, and a little more blunt than in the past. Do what you need to do to protect yourself.
I suggest everyone read this information from the Microsoft Safety & Security Center but protecting yourself from phone scans is as simple as the one rule above.
PC Matic can protect your computer but only you can protect your phone.
Chances are you or someone you know is going to be contacted. What will you do? Are you going to hang up? Will you play them along and try to get information? Are you going to report them here as Microsoft suggests? Let us know your experiences and post below if you or someone you know has been contacted or scammed.