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Beware the Fake Windows Support Scam

It was early Monday afternoon when Larry’s phone rang. “Hello,” he greeted the caller, expecting it to be a friend or family member.

“Hi. I’m calling from Windows technical support. We have detected a problem with your computer,” the caller proclaimed in an almost unintelligible accent. “I need to log in to your computer to check to see what is causing the problem.”

Suspecting something to be fishy about this, Larry told the caller he should call back in an hour. Then Larry immediately called me to inquire if this was legitimate.

This type of scam has been around for years, but is still going quite strong. Callers – often from foreign countries – pose as computer support technicians from companies like Microsoft, Norton, and other well-known computer industry names. They try to convince the victim that their computer is running slow, is infected, or has problems that they need to check out.

To make you “believe” what they are saying, they instruct you to go to your computer, pull up the Windows Event Log and observe various warnings and errors appearing there. Although most of these entries are no cause for alarm, these scammers adamantly assert these are problems that must be fixed immediately – for a cost!

They then ask you to provide credit card information either over the phone or via a web site to pay for the service. Once they receive confirmation of the payment, the scammer then asks you to download software that allows them to access your computer over the Internet, which allows them to make changes and install software.

Unsuspecting computer users who fall for this scam suffer several problems. First, they pay an exorbitant amount of money for unneeded “repairs.” Second, their computer becomes loaded with useless and often-times virus-infected software. Third, they may become the victim of identity theft.

What should you do when you get one of the calls? Hang up! Don’t waste your time talking to them. Definitely do NOT perform any actions they ask you to take on your computer.

Be warned, though, that some of these scammers are very persistent. People have reported receiving numerous calls, even after explicitly telling the scammer to not call back.

Larry asked a really good question when he called me: “How do I know if something like this is real or fake?”

You should only consider phone calls from companies that you personally know, trust, and do business with to be legitimate. Although Microsoft is the maker of the Windows operating system on your computer, you don’t actually do business with them. So they will never call you to tell you there is a problem with your computer.

Your Internet Service Provider or your local computer repair company are probably the only two who might call you to let you know about an issue with your computer.

Even then, if you do get a phone call from someone purporting to be them, don’t immediately follow their instructions. Look up the phone number for that company and call them back yourself to inquire if they called you about a problem (don’t ask the caller for their number).

Another tell-tale sign of most scammer calls is if the person calling has a foreign accent. Most of the trusted companies you do business with have employees who speak the English language very well and without a noticeably foreign accent.

Phone scams have been around for a long time and promise to be a nuisance well into the future. Play it safe. If it doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t. Hang up and call a computer support professional you know and trust. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration and problems.