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A.G. Schneiderman issues consumer alert warning New Yorkers of a 'Microsoft' technical support scam

by jmaloni

Submitted

Wed, Feb 19th 2014 07:00 am

Scam artists posing as technicians from Microsoft or an allegedly affiliated organization cold-call consumers and try to gain access to their computers

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued a warning to New Yorkers based on numerous complaints received by his office from consumers who have been contacted recently by scam artists posing as representatives of Microsoft or an organization allegedly affiliated with Microsoft, such as P.C. Solutions. In some cases, the callers will even spoof the telephone's caller ID to identify the source as "Windows Support." 

The scam artists attempt to gain remote access to consumers' computers by claiming their units are running slowly, because they are infected with malware or viruses or need additional software, which the scam artists offer to remedy. After gaining access, scammers are able to extract a fee - as much as $300 - by obtaining credit card information over the phone, or by directing consumers to enter PayPal, bank or credit card information on a website the scammers control.

"Consumer fraudsters come in all shapes and sizes, from false advertisers and illegal pet sellers, to identity thieves and predatory lenders. Unfortunately, we can now add scammers posing as computer experts to that list," Schneiderman said. "There are simple, easy steps New Yorkers can take to identify these calls and avoid becoming victims of this increasingly prevalent scam."

The scammers first walk consumers through various steps on their computers to display Microsoft's event viewer log, which contains a log of red-marked "errors," yellow "warnings" and other events that have occurred on the computer. Such events are usually inconsequential notifications and are not evidence of a virus. However, the con artists claim they demonstrate the PC is corrupted and will sustain further damage or be susceptible to "hacking" if additional action is not taken.

The consumer is then given instructions that ultimately allow the scam artist to access the computer remotely. Once the perpetrators gain access, they typically advise consumers that they must pay a fee, which can be as much as $300, to have the problems corrected or their Microsoft warranty extended. The scammers collect payment by obtaining consumers' credit card information over the phone, or by directing consumers to fraudulent websites to enter credit card, PayPal, or other personal or financial information online. 

In some cases, if consumers balk at making the payment, the scam artists begin deleting consumers' files and disabling their computers. The scammers may also steal sensitive personal data, adjust security settings to leave computers vulnerable, or install software that can harm computers and/or allow the scammers to continue to access them remotely. The perpetrators appear to be operating from overseas and often speak with heavy foreign accents.

What to do if you get such a call:

•Hang up the phone.

•Do not give out your password. No legitimate organization will ever request this information.

•Do not provide any billing information.

What to do if you allowed someone access to your computer:

•Change your computer and email passwords. 

•Update or download legitimate security software and scan your computer. Delete any files that are identified as problematic. Some service providers offer free tools that can help detect and remove viruses.

•If you were charged for "services," dispute the charges with your credit card company.

•If you gave out your billing information, you might want to consider closing your account.

•File a complaint with the New York state attorney general's office. You can obtain a complaint form by calling the attorney general's consumer hotline at 800-771-7755 or by visiting the attorney general's website, www.ag.ny.gov.

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