/ Technology

Scam watch: computer scammers scared me into paying £500

Someone calls you out of the blue claiming to be a security expert offering to fix your computer. It’s a scam preying on internet security fears – and one of you faced a particularly nasty version that cost you £500.

We’ve written before on Convo about bogus Microsoft support scammers claiming to solve your ‘computer problems’, but this time, the caller claimed our reader’s computer was being used for criminal purposes.

Richard told us: I was recently called by a company that claimed to be working with Microsoft. The caller told me my computers were carrying a Trojan virus and being used for illegal activity.

They said that I was liable to prosecution if I was aware that my computers were being misused, and that the PCs would be closed down if they couldn’t remove the virus immediately. I reluctantly allowed the caller to remote access my computer.

They said they could remove the problem for a fee of £499.99 and that this would cover me if other problems arose with a computer in my possession in future. I transferred the funds from my bank into their account.

A month later, they called to tell me that my Windows licence had expired and again asked for remote access. I suspected a scam and told them to stop bothering me. My concern is now what data they’ve got from my PC.

Internet security scam: how to protect yourself

We say: If anyone calls and tells you they’re a computer security expert, hang up the phone.

This is a common scam preying on people’s internet security fears and no legitimate tech company does it. These scammers often try to con you into paying an extortionate amount for security software, which may not work and could in fact be malicious.

Many will also try to gain remote access to your PC, where they could potentially infect your computer with malware or retrieve sensitive personal details. If you do suffer this scam:

  • Change usernames and passwords, remove any files downloaded as a result of their calls.
  • Run a virus check.
  • Tell the police, Action Fraud and your bank.
  • Also have a look at our guide to the Microsoft scam and how to go about getting back any money you have may lost.

Thousands targeted by scammers

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau estimates that between June 2014 and November 2014 there were more 12,000 reports of cases such as this – where you’re contacted by phone and told there’s a problem with your computer that can be fixed for free.

Callers claim to be from a variety of organisations such as Microsoft, TalkTalk and BT, as well as more generic-sounding organisations such as the ‘Windows Technical Department’.

Have you been cold called by scammers and if so, what was your experience? Do you have a tactic for getting rid of them?

Comments
Member

When I had a fixed line telephone, whenever I received calls from the Indian fake Microsoft employees, I pretended to be a novice PC user and deliberately made myself sound like a technophobe and rather stupid. I followed their instructions and read out any generic information from my PC (e.g. standard logs from Event Viewer). Every few minutes, I manually made my mobile phone ring, and asked them to hold while I take the call. I muted the scammer while I did this. I let them hold for 5 or 10 minutes, and whenever they asked whether I was still there, I unmuted them and told them that I was. While they were on hold, I got on with other things so they didn’t waste my own time. When they asked me to go to a remote access provider such as LogMeIn or GoToMyPC with an access code, I put them on hold again (with another fake incoming call on my mobile) and I phoned the support department of the remote access provider. I explained that I’m an experienced IT professional on the receiving end of a scam and I gave them the scammer’s access code so they could block his account; they were very grateful. I then went back to the scammer and told him that his code didn’t work. He then tried another remote access provider and we repeated the whole process again, wasting more of his time and blocking more of his accounts. When I’d had enough, I told them that my internet connection no longer worked and they must have broken it. Eventually they got bored, particularly after I put them on hold for longer and longer, and then they always hung up. One even threatened me with legal action for wasting 90 minutes of his valuable time. This practice used up little of my time, as I was getting on with other things while I put them “on hold”, but it had two advantages of first wasting their time and second reducing the number of victims whom they could target.

Member

I let them go through their spiel, ask a few silly questions, then say wow, that is really amazing since I don’t own a computer.

Member

lol I must do that.

Member
Will says:
1 June 2015

I ask the caller to “Can you please hang on a sec?” Then I lay the receiver down on my desk and carry on with whatever I was doing until they finally realise I’m not coming back and ring off. They never ring me again.

Member

I always say “how do you know?” which they ignore, then keep interrupting them “Yeah, but I want to know exactly how you discovered I had a computer with a virus on it”. “Where did you get your information from?”

They never give you any answers of course but it does ruffle them a bit.

Member

Here’s one way to deal with unsolicited calls…

https://youtu.be/y_hgPdB8ll4

Member
Larry Freedman says:
25 November 2016

Trouble is that these people are very clever and can be very convincing. Yesterday I bought a new Surface Pro 4. Security is never far from my mind so at the same time I purchased a McAfee security package too. I must be daft because I bought these items from a company I had long since promised myself I would never deal with again! Their service is appalling and I have had nothing but trouble with them in the past but that is a different issue and down to my poor judgement. My concern here is security. I had installed Office and then tried to install my McAfee security. I followed the instructions to log onto mcafee.com/activate and proceeded to put in the 25 digit code. Everything looked as it should so I hit the submit button. Within 5 seconds I had someone on the phone purporting to be from McAfee. I don’t know how this is possible and I have since been told it was coincidental! REALLY?! I have never had a call like that before! Incidentally, I have since been told by the company that I made these purchases from that all of this was my own fault and that I had clearly logged onto the wrong site. I followed their instructions to the letter!!! Anyway, this guy from ‘McAfee’ then proceeded to tell me how my IP security had been compromised and that my new computer, not two hours out of the box, had already been hacked and was already infected with all kinds of viruses, malware and who knows what?! I am not stupid but this guy was very convincing and I idiotically allowed him access to my machine. Having convinced me that I was about to face computer armageddon he then started to tell me how he could sort it all out for me, for a small price, of course!!! At that point I realised this was a scam and immediately got hold of Microsoft. I hadn’t given him any payment details and there was nothing on the computer which has since been completely reset and is free from any kind of viruses and whatever. I raise this because I just want to highlight how easy it is to fall prey to these guys. I am no doddery old fool but I was sucked in nonetheless! I think the point is that one can never afford to get complacent about security. These villains are very clever and would not do what they do if it weren’t worth their while.

Member

I got an “I’m from Microsoft” call yesterday, which fortunately I knew was bogus.

Dialling 1471 afterwards, I found that the call, although with a strong South Asian accent, came from (or through) a Middlesborough number.

Thinking this might be useful to somebody, I went to the Action Fraud website to report this. When I reached the end of the relevant questionnaire, it was evident that they were not interested in knowing the number the call came from, just collecting statistical trends.

I googled the fraudster’s number to find numerous complaints about it, so it has evidently been active for some time.

I find this disappointing. Surely if the call is coming from/through a BT number, the origin can be tracked back and the UK and local overseas police forces could collaborate to shut the fraudster down.

The ICO is seemingly much better. Their report form asks for the phone numbers making and receiving the call, the date, time, content of the call, etc. They claim to chase up offenders. This may well happen as I notice the weekly automated call I get about a non-existent PPI policy comes from a different number every few weeks, although the voice and message are identical.