We have recently seen an uptick of the so called “Windows Support Scam” right here in Brunswick County in North Carolina and in Horry County in South Carolina. We are now getting from 10 – 15 calls a week from clients telling us they either got a call on the phone or a popup on their screen telling them to call a toll free number. In fact, I was at a clients house and she got a call and handed the phone to me. I told him we didn’t have a computer and he hung up. Let me start by saying there is never anyone monitoring your computer for free. This type of thing is always a scam. Now lets take a look at the two types of scams.
Phone Call Scam
You might very well get a call from someone claiming to be from Windows Support. Most will not claim to actually be Microsoft but rather contracted by them. Most will have a foreign accent but there are some U.S. based scammers as well. They might use terms like “Microsoft Certified” or “Microsoft Gold Partner.” They will often tell you that you have viruses or errors have been detected coming from your computer. They will ask for remote access to your computer in order to investigate further. If you are hesitant, they will show your even error log that might look something like this:
This is a log from my own computer and I can assure you these are normal entries. The caller will try and convince you that these critical and errors mean your computer is either infected or about to crash. They might say this is an indication that someone is hacking your computer and sending your information all over the world. This “SCARE TACTIC” often convinces folks that the person calling is legitimate. This is often enough for many to turn over control of their computer to the caller. The truth is, the error log listed above is normal and is in fact from one of the computers right here in the shop.
The caller will then go on to tell you that you are infected and the only way to fix it is for them to put some kind of software on your computer. What you don’t know is while they are on your computer they will have access to any saved passwords and any documents that you might have. They may also booby-trap your computer so that when you reboot, you will be locked out. At this point, they will tell you it will cost anywhere from $200 to $500 to fix this and if you hire someone local it will cost twice as much.
You might get a popup on your screen that looks something like this:
If you call the number, the “script” will be similar as if you were called. They will be very convincing. Recently, The Today Show ran a story on how one of their own was duped into this type of scam.
As the video said, it doesn’t matter how old you are or how smart you are, you can be caught off guard.
What Can You Do?
Well first and foremost, never let an unsolicited person on your computer, EVER. If you are ever in question as to what is legitimate or not, please give us a call at That PC Dude. We will never charge you for advice. Never give out your banking or credit card information. Remember, if they are on your computer, they can have access to everything on there, even stored passwords. If you are a victim, report this to Microsoft or the Federal Trade Commission. We at That PC Dude find these scams to be horrendous and want to help shut these criminals down.
Now if you have turned over control of your computer, you need to be aware that these criminals do have access to anything on your computer. This includes sensitive documents and passwords stored on the computer. They could install software that would allow them to view every keystroke you make (though we have only seen this type of thing rarely.) They can also lock you out of your computer in such a way that even we might not be able to do anything more than backup your data and reload your computer. We highly recommend having a professional evaluate your computer to ensure there are no nasty surprises left behind.