Many online scams start with an email but you also need to be cautious when the phone rings. There have been an increased number of reports recently of phone scammers claiming to be from Microsoft, or an antivirus company, or some random tech support facility. These callers will claim their systems have detected viruses and/or malware on your computer and they can help you with a lifetime of guaranteed support for just a one-time payment of $100 or so.
The process typically goes like this:
- The scammers first want you to download a remote access service and grant them access to your PC.
- Next the scammers want you to buy and install antivirus software that’s usually counterfeit or just a trial version that leaves you with non-functioning, useless protection. They may also recommend the latest Windows operating system, which is also likely to be counterfeit.
- Because the scammers were given unfettered access to your PC through the remote access service, they may install a backdoor Trojan — a malicious application that enables them to steal your passwords, use your system and Internet connection to send spam, and more.
If you receive a call from someone saying your PC has been compromised, just hang up the phone. Reputable companies will not make unsolicited calls about the health of your computer.
Microsoft recommends these do’s and don’ts to help prevent becoming a victim:
- Be suspicious of unsolicited calls related to a security problem, even if the caller claims to represent a respected company.
- Use up-to-date versions of operating system and application software.
- Make sure security updates are installed regularly.
- Use strong passwords and change them regularly.
- Make sure your firewall is turned on and that antivirus software is installed and up to date.
- Provide personal information, such as credit card or bank details, to an unsolicited caller.
- Go to a website, type anything into a computer, install software, or follow any other instruction from someone who calls out of the blue.