Microsoft warns of emerging phone scam

A Microsoft survey that looks at an emerging form of internet security scam costs victims on average $875 (U.S.), it has been revealed.

The scam

The criminals pose as computer security engineers and call their victims at home to tell them they are at risk of a computer security threat.

The unsuspecting victim is told they are being provided with a free security check and add authenticity by claiming to represent legitimate companies (more often than not, Microsoft). They will also use telephone directories to refer to their victims by name.

Once they have tricked their victims into believing they have a problem with their PC, the scammers are believed to run through a range of deception techniques designed to steal money. These vary, but we've heard examples of being asked to renew security software being quite prevalent.

One of our sources told us "they seemed to know a lot about my computer, they read out details of programs I had installed - it was as if they could see what was on my computer. It was quite scary." The scammers kept her on the phone for a good 45 minutes. Fortunately she declined to pass over any bank details.

Microsoft surveyed 7,000 computer users in the U.K., Ireland, U.S. and Canada. The survey showed that across all four countries, 15 per cent of people had received a call from scammers. In Ireland this rose to 26 per cent.

22 per cent of people who received such a call were deceived into following the scammer's unscrupulous instructions. Of those deceived, 79 per cent suffered some type of financial loss. Examples included:

17 per cent had money taken from their accounts
19 per cent reported comprised passwords
17 per cent were victims of ID fraud
53 per cent said they suffered subsequent computer issues

Our safety advice

Remember - Be suspicious of unsolicited calls. Microsoft will never call you for any reason, yet alone offer you free PC security checks over the phone. Scams like this are designed to pray on your insecurities; the elderly and those with limited technology are particularly at risk of such scams.

Never provide personal information, such as credit card or bank details, to an unsolicited caller.

Do not go to a website, type anything into a computer, install software or follow any other instruction from someone who calls out of the blue.

Take the caller’s information down and pass it to the authorities.

Take precautions. By downloading Microsoft Security Essentials you are protecting yourself against all-know security threats and internet- borne viruses. What's more, Microsoft Security Essentials is free.

Download it here​.com/en-us/security_​essentials/default.a​spx