Beware the Microsoft Support Technician bearing help for your PC

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The Age of Cyber/Social SCAMS

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Since the rise and popularity of Personal PC’s in the last 20 years (Has it really been that long?) those same personal Computers have also unfortunately brought along intuitive scum of the earth with them. Meaning as with anything new and designed to be a helpful tool you always have those individuals that make sure they end up taking advantage of you with that very same helpful device; this is most commonly known as a SCAM. These Cyber/Social SCAMS have taken many shape and forms with the involving technology of both the internet and the Personal Computer. Going from fake internet sites that trick you into revealing your personal information on that websites fake webpage and later used against you to Getting an e-mail from a former military official of a foreign government that needs your help them move over a million dollars to a neutral bank that they are willing to share half the principal sum once you put up a thousand dollars of your own money. There are many such examples of these which I could fill up several blogs with but for now to suffice to say there are plenty of such examples out there. But for now I would like to focus on this newest Cyber/Social SCAM the Microsoft Cold Caller.

The History of the Microsoft Cold Caller

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From the research I have done in the last 6 months of this particular Cyber/Social SCAM it started sometime around in 2008 which had originally targeted only the English speaking countries of the United Kingdom and Australia; However within the last year this particular SCAM has worked its way across the pond to the shores of the United States, 2 Of them which I have consulted on personally. As far as who originally originated this particular Cyber/Social SCAM the country of Origin was centered in the capital city of Kolkata in India, specifically the Indian Call Centers. Unfortunately I have not been able to find the Individual who was actually responsible to know if it was in fact an Indian national or some other foreign national that just hired these cheap call centers from India to execute the scam. What I find completely hilarious is Microsoft does outsource allot of their Product Activation Call Centers to the country of India, How ironic.

This particular Cyber/Social SCAM is started out by the “Microsoft Support Technician” using another commonly used device that has been used for well over century, the telephone. The “Microsoft Support Technician” has been typically Indian however on one of the cases I consulted on the caller was of Asian Descent. The Calls typically goes as follows…

The puzzled PC Owner is called by the “Microsoft Support Technician” and after explaining to the owner that there pc has been affected by some form of Virus or Malware they then go one to say that this is a “courtesy call” that Microsoft provides all there Windows Costumers (In the case of one of my clients the technician claimed that they were using a Unlicensed Version of Windows and would help them install a “New” Product Key). The PC Owner is then is directed to their computer to perform various tasks to prove to the PC owner that there is something wrong with their PC. The task tasks can be anything from looking through the Windows Event Viewer to show that all those entries mean that impending doom is forthcoming or to showing them there Production Activation Window and telling them if they do not comply that they could be charged with software piracy.

The computer owner is then either directed to a website, or told to download a program that hands over remote access of their computer, and the caller “installs” various “fixes” for the problem or directed to change out there Product ID of their Windows Operating System and then it’s time to pay a fee for a “subscription” to the “preventative service”.

The only catch: there was never anything wrong with the computer, the caller is not working for Microsoft, and the PC owner has now given a complete stranger access to every piece of data on their machine.

Now luckily both my clients were smart enough to know that this was more than likely a SCAM after being informed of initially something being wrong with their PCs and informed the “Microsoft Technician” that they would have to leave their name, company, and phone number and they would have to call back and deal with their “Computer Specialist” before any sort of “Repair Work “would be done. One of the “Technicians” literally exclaimed “All my God, I am sorry to have bothered you” (In a very thick Indian accent similar to Apu from the Simpsons, the Indian Sales clerk of the Kwick-E-Mart convenience store) and hung up. The other technician did leave their information but when I went verify it found out to no surprise it was bogus. Often, the victims are inexperienced or elderly, convinced by the apparent authority of the callers and the worrying contents of. Most than half of the common users that own PCs have very little or just passing knowledge how Information technologies work and are easy targets for these types of SCAMS.

What do I do if one of these Microsoft Cold Callers Call Me?

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If you suspect that you are receiving one of these calls the easiest thing to do and is recommended by Microsoft is just to hang up. Remember Microsoft will NEVER, and I mean NEVER call or e-mail you directly. The only exception to this rule is if you initiate the call or e-mail for either any kind of support or subscribe to one of Microsoft’s subscription services like TechNet or MSDN.

If the Microsoft Cold Caller continues to call you (as they did with one of my clients) use reverse tactics and collect information from them starting with their name, company they work for, phone number, and so forth. Let the cold caller know that you will be researching them (their company) first before making any decisions on accepting their help. If the Cold Caller tries to continue to persuade you further that they are Microsoft Gold (or whatever level) Partner ask the Cold Caller for their Partner/Certification ID and you will verify this as well. About 6 to 7 months ago Microsoft actually revoked one of their partners Partnership Certifications once it was proven they were linked to one of these Cold Caller Call Centers. By this time the Cold Caller will realize that you are not falling for their scam and move on to the next unfortunate victim and stop calling you.

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John has been in the IT profession for over 20 years along with being certified in both Comptia Security + (2008 edition) and a MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) on Both Windows XP & Server 2003 Administration, He currently works as an Windows System Administrator for Northrop Grumman in the Greater Los Angeles Area in the US and has been an avid fan and follower of Windows Home Server since Mid 2009 with Version 1. He is currently trying to exploit the full potential of Windows Home Server 2011, it’s Small Business counterpart Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, and the power of Virtualization Within the home and Small Business Community. When not being a Nerd and a Geek he likes to watch Movies, Read Comic Books, and most importantly spend time with his family.