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Microsoft reveals extent of phone scam

Microsoft has found that thousands of people have received fraudulent phone calls from scammers claiming to be from the company. The fraud is said to cost each victim more than £500 [17 June 2011]

The scam works by criminals posing as computer security engineers and calling people at home to tell them they are at risk of a computer security threat. The scammers tell their victims they are providing free security checks and add authenticity by claiming to represent legitimate companies and using telephone directories to refer to their victims by name.

Once they have tricked their victims into believing they have a problem and that the caller can help, the scammers are believed to run through a range of deception techniques designed to steal money.

Microsoft scam survey

Microsoft reveals extent of phone scamMicrosoft reveals extent of phone scamTo establish the extent of this emerging form of Internet fraud, Microsoft surveyed 7,000 computer users in the U.K., Ireland, U.S. and Canada. The survey showed that across all four countries, 15% of people had received a call from scammers. In Ireland this rose to 26%.

Of those who received a call, 22%, or 3% of the total survey sample, were deceived into following the scammers’ instructions, which ranged from permitting remote access to their computer and downloading software code provided by the criminals to providing credit card information and making a purchase.

The vast majority (79%) of people deceived in this way suffered some sort of financial loss. Seventeen percent said they had money taken from their accounts, 19 percent reported compromised passwords and 17% were victims of identity fraud. More than half (53%) said they suffered subsequent computer problems.

The average cost of repairing damage caused to computers by the scammers was more than £1,000.

The following is Microsoft’s advice:

  • Be suspicious of unsolicited calls related to a security problem, even if they claim to represent a respected company.
  • 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.
  • Use up-to-date versions of Windows and application software.
  • Make sure security updates are installed regularly.
  • Use a strong password and change it regularly.
  • Make sure the firewall is turned on and that antivirus software is installed and up to date.
  • Microsoft Security Essentials is a free antivirus product and is available at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/security_essentials/default.aspx.

Microsoft advises anyone who thinks they may already have been a victim of a phone scam to do the following:

  • Change their computer’s password, change the password on their main email account and change the password for any financial accounts, especially bank and credit cards.
  • Scan their computer with the Microsoft Safety Scanner to find out if they have malware installed on their computer.
  • Contact their bank and credit card companies.

Anyone who has been a victim of this type of fraud should report it to Action Fraud.

Read more about the Microsoft scam survey on Microsoft’s website.

Please note: Action Fraud is not responsible for the content on external websites.

To report a fraud, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool. 

See also:
Microsoft frauds
'Microsoft Lottery' is a scam
Identity theft scam warnings