by John M. Curtin
At 6:44 p.m. on Sept. 9, Lewiston police were called to a Saunders Settlement Road home after getting a report of suspected fraudulent activity. The complainant had received a phone call from an alleged employee of Microsoft, who actually went so far as to give a fake employee identification number. After convincing the complainant that his computer had a virus, the suspect lead him to turn on the Remote Assistance feature of Windows, allowing full access to the computer. After removing several personal documents, the complainant's computer crashed.
According to the Lewiston Police Department, this isn't the only report of suspected fraudulent activity recently. These recent reports are actually among the newest additions to a long line of similar cases that have been victimizing computer owners nationally for over a year.
In the typical case, the fraudulent caller announces him or herself as being from the Windows Service Center, and explains some important error that is wrong with the victim's computer. The caller then proceeds to convince the victim into giving full access to the computer, or spending a large sum of money on a fake anti-virus program. Usually these ploys are designed to acquire credit card information, plant real viruses, and/or to steal valuable files.
Several simple facts however, will protect anyone from being hacked. A check with Microsoft finds that there isn't such a thing as the "Windows Service Center." Microsoft, the makers of the Windows operating systems, only provides technical support and computer software updates if requested by the consumer.
Assuming for the moment, that any given computer had a virus or something internally wrong, there would be virtually no way for Microsoft to know before a consumer was to give computer access to technical support. Although Microsoft has developed anti-spyware programs that are free for the public to download, none of them come with one-on-one customer support or personal alerts in the event of a virus infection. These programs are fully automated and in truth only work to a certain extent. This is why it is always prudent to purchase anti-virus software from a store or online sources. Many of these come with personal customer service and can monitor systems much more closely.
It is actually more likely for a consumer to call Microsoft, than for Microsoft to call a consumer. Unless having to do with an outstanding order/purchase, there are not many reasons for Microsoft to randomly contact someone.
Microsoft tells the public to always treat calls, especially like these, "as if you were talking to a complete stranger." It is advisable to hang up if such a phone call is received, and never give access to a personal computer without establishing absolute credentials. More information about virus and hacking prevention can be found on the company's website: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us.