The “We’re Microsoft” scam…

The “We’re Microsoft” scam…

We’ve all heard of it – me probably more than most.  Usually I get a call from a concerned reader or customer to tell me that they have just had a “strange phone call” from someone at Microsoft  to tell them that their computer is sending out loads of viruses and would they like help in fixing the problem.  Of course you say “yes” (who wouldn’t be impressed to receive a phone call from a software company as huge as Microsoft offering to help fix problems with their computer?)

Its then that the scam starts.  The caller tells you that they should be able to sort it all out for you for just 100 euros or possibly more (amounts vary) and it’s at this stage that reality usually kicks in and you put the phone down and ask friends / relatives / me for clarification as it sounds a bit strange.

As I said, we have probably all heard it before, but this week it came home to me with a bit of a bump – it happened to my dear mother–in-law.  She is a bit vulnerable at the moment and probably not thinking all that clearly.  You see she has a bit more on her mind of late after Ken, her husband of nearly 20 years died not too long back.  So I’m afraid she fell for it and rather than thinking clearly and putting down the phone and ringing me she handed over her credit card details to the b*****s that phoned her (I’m sorry, there is no nice word to describe someone who rings vulnerable people and cons them out of their hard earned money).

The alarm bells started to ring after they had “finished” cleaning her computer and even then she didn’t contact me until a day later; then feeling quite embarrassed and upset she rang and said “I think I may have done something silly” – bless her, she had nothing to feel embarrassed about, she had been conned, well and truly and there was nothing that she could do about it.

I connected to her computer to find that they had not done anything to remove any virus’s, they had even left the software on that they had installed – MalwareBytes – and after looking at all of its log files I was able to prove that it had not found anything malicious on her computer during any of the scans that they had done!  They had left a calling card, however, an infected system file (with the date and time stamp of the time that they were using her computer).  So in summary, they had connected to her computer, scanned it for virus’s and found nothing and then installed a virus and left – not what you would really expect from a company trying to help you really!

Of course I researched them; they had a website – and they had charged her £149.95 for what is advertised as 2 years support, however when I contacted their number – 0208 1441 094, a UK number that redirects to an Indian call centre they told me that they couldn’t answer my questions and they would arrange for the engineer in question – Alex Simpson to contact me.  Needless to say despite a number of calls, I never managed to speak to Mr Simpson.

I contacted her bank and they were unable to refund the money taken from her card, telling me that it was because she had willingly given them her card; my protestations around the fact that she had not received the service that she had paid for fell on deaf ears.  The bank even went on to say that this is not uncommon and that usually the scammers set up a Western Union account in the name of the victim using their credit card details and then continue to skim off money over the coming weeks and months – obviously we cancelled the card so no more money could be taken.

So….please tell your friends, tell your neighbours, tell anyone that has a computer, if you get contacted by someone claiming to be Microsoft just put the phone down on them, it’s a scam!