The McMinnville Police Department has been receiving calls from victims concerning a computer virus scam. The situation is started by a cold call from someone purporting to be a representative of Microsoft and offers to help you with your computer problems. They may also inform you of a serious virus that has infected your computer and offer to help you solve this problem. They may identify themselves as a “Microsoft Tech Support”; “Microsoft Support”; “Windows Helpdesk”; Windows Service Center”; or similar. Local calls have involved exorbitant service bills and fraudulent use of the victim’s banking information.
This type of scam has been around for several years and is currently involving callers form foreign countries which make tracking the cybercriminals difficult. They will use disposable phones, pay phones, or internet based phone services to contact you. The ultimate goal of the fraud varies upon whom is running it but they will try to get you to pay for an overpriced, and usually worthless, service under the guise of selling a solution to the victim’s computer problem. They may also gain control of your computer and use it for illegitimate reasons. Often times the credit or debit card information is run through a foreign company further complicating who is perpetrating the crimes.
The cybercriminals can do the following:
* Trick you into installing malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. They might also charge you to remove this software.
* Convince you to visit legitimate websites that will allow them to download software to control your computer remotely and adjust settings that will leave your computer vulnerable.
* Request credit card information so they can bill you for phony services.
* Direct you to fraudulent websites and ask you to enter credit card and other personal financial information.
Cybercriminals often use publicly available phone directories, so they might know your name and other personal information when they call you. They might even guess what operating system you’re using. Once they’ve gained your trust, they might ask for your user name and password or ask you to go to a legitimate website to install software that will let them access your computer to “fix it”. Once this happens, your computer and personal information are vulnerable.
Some ways you can protect yourself from telephone tech support scams include:
* Do not purchase any software or services.
* Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the service. If there is, hang up.
* Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer.
* Treat all unsolicited phone calls with skepticism.
* Keep your credit card, checking account, or Social Security numbers to yourself. Don’t give them to callers you don’t know, even if they ask you to “confirm” this information. That’s a trick.
If you think you may have downloaded malware from a phone tech scam, website, or allowed a cybercriminal to access your computer, take these steps:
* Change your computer’s password, change the password on your main email account, and change the password for any financial accounts, especially your bank and credit card.
* Scan your computer with your virus detection software to determine if you have malware installed on your computer.
* Install current virus protection software from a trusted company whom you can verify their validity.
According to Microsoft’s website, they do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer. There are some instances where Microsoft will work with your internet provider and call you to fix a malware infected computer. These calls will be made by someone with whom you can verify you are already a customer. You will never receive a legitimate call from Microsoft or their partners to charge you for computer fixes.
If you believe you fell victim to one of these types of scams, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission online or at 1-888-382-1222. The FTC has resources and guidelines to assist with unwanted “Robocalls”; Identity Theft; National Do Not Call List; and additional information on scams. You may also report fraudulent activity to your local law enforcement agency, Better Business Bureau; major credit bureaus, and your banking institution.