Beware the Microsoft Support Technician bearing help for your PC
What should I do if I suspect of being a Victim of this SCAM?
If you suspect that you may have been a victim of this scam depending how much time has passed there may not be a lot that can be down to actually getting your money back; however I recommend doing the following course of actions…
1. Call the issuing bank of your Debit or Credit Card to either cancel or reverse the fraudulent charge on your card. Again, this may not be possible depending on how much time has passed from when the scammer ran the charge through.
2. Have the Debit or Credit Card used by the scammers canceled and re-issued by your card issuer. The reason for this is that card is now compromised and is now opened for more fraudulent charges.
On the PC that was compromised by the cold caller the best way to insure that your PC is free of any malware or any leftover spyware from the cold callers tampering is to slick (re-format) the hard drive of the compromised PC. While there are programs that are out there that can do this without slicking the hard drive none of them are 100% effective of removing all malware/spyware once a PC is infected, slicking the hard drive is.
The Good news is this is not as hard as it sounds and can be done without having to take your PC to a Technician to do so. Most PCs that are sold today from the more well known brands such as DELL, HP, or Gateway usually have a backup of your PC’s Operating system and other bundled software from the time it was originally purchased either on a couple of system restore DVD’s or the most popular method is a restore partition that is already on the hard drive of your PC. This method will slick “re-format” the hard drive before re-installing your operating system with the bundled software from the time you originally purchased your PC. There are two down sides to this (there always is a down side) but is a small price to pay for having peace of mind. One is that you will have re-install any of your applications that you may have obtained after the purchase of your PC, the other is before performing the restore procedure removing all your critical Data (I.E. Documents, Pictures, Music, etc…) off the infected PC before starting the re-installation process. After restoring the PC insure you virus scan the removed data with either another PC or insuring the restored PC has an up to date Virus Scanner before restoring the Data either back to its original PC or anywhere else. The Documentation to performing the restore operation is usually provided with the PC upon purchase, can be obtained from the manufactures website, or just call their support desk directly and they should be able to walk you through the restore process.
What have been the ramifications and what is Microsoft doing to combat this SCAM?
According to a Microsoft survey that was taken in a 2010 in the UK “79% of people deceived in this way suffered some sort of financial loss”. The details are even more galling:
* 17% of victims had money taken from their accounts
* 19% reported compromised passwords
* 17% were victims of identity fraud
* 53% suffered subsequent computer problems
* The average amount of money stolen was £543 (around $800 – $1000 US)
* The average cost of repairing damage caused to computers was £1,073 ($1750 US) — rising to $4,800 (£2,977) in the US (This cost for repairing the damage can easily be avoided by following my previous recommendation on restoring the PC from the PCs manufactures restore option)
* Only two thirds of the people defrauded were able to recover the stolen money (presumably from their credit-card company), and even then, only an average of 42% of the stolen funds.
I unfortunately have no Data for the US at this time concerning the statistics of this SCAM.
Unfortunately Microsoft themselves have far from being swift in responding to this SCAM using there “Good” Name. Only within the last year has Microsoft finally publicized this SCAM in which there spokesperson said: “Microsoft had been aware of these phone scams but wanted to look into the breadth that they have spread, especially among English speaking countries.”, So basically translated…Not Much. As one blogger eloquently put it, “Microsoft spends countless millions pursuing small scale pirates selling knocked-off copies of Windows on market stalls – but have done little about shutting down these rogue “repairmen”, who are often trading under the Microsoft name.”
How can I prevent real life viruses and malware from infecting my PC?
There are a number of ways of lessening the chance of your PC inadvertently obtaining a virus or malware. Some involve the installation of additional preventative software; the majority involves using your common sense.
- Install a current, Real-time Anti-Virus Scanner: The number one preventative measure for safeguarding your PC is having a current up to date virus scanner installed on your PC. Viruses are created anywhere from every few seconds to every few minutes. Having a real-time Antivirus-Scanner with automatic updating (Updates the Virus Definitions automatically via the internet) and will insure the most files entering your computer are scanned before touching your hard drive. Most PC’s have a bundled Anti-Virus Scanner pre-loaded on your PC when you purchase them, however be warned! Most of these are on some form of 30, 60, or 90 day “Trail” and will stop working after that unless of course you pay for the yearly “subscription fee”. While you can buy these Anti-Virus scanners from the reputable software vendors such as Symantec, McAfee, or Trend Micro (Then of course there is those yearly renewal fees for the anti-virus definitions) you can also download Microsoft’s Anti-virus software Security Essentials which is free for all of Windows Client Operating Systems (Windows XP and Newer) as long as of course it passes the Windows Genuine Validation Test.
- Install an Anti-Malware Software: The Good news on this is most of the Anti-virus Scanner sold now have this option built-in along with the Anti-virus scanner you are using (Including Microsoft’s Security Essentials). However a good free ad-on that can be download and used in addition to this (again for free) is Mozilla’s Ad-Block Plus. This can be tailored to your PC’s Operating system to insure that you only get the content from the internet that you want to see and not the annoying Ads and Pop-ops that end up affecting your computer. The only small down side is this is only supported for Firefox and Google Chrome browsers (Not Internet Explorer).
- Block unwanted content using your Home Router: This option is more for the Intermediate or advanced home user who want to block the unwanted and unneeded Ads and Pop-ops before entering your Home Network. Most Home Routers that have been built within the last 10 years can now support using a 3rd party Linux based firmware that will allow you to do more than with your Home Router than just being able to access your internet. One of these options was a Linux script that was develop by some individuals at HowToGeek.com that actually blocks all the annoying ads and pop-ups before ever leaving your router called pixelserv. This works in conjunction with a 3rd Party firmware called DD-WRT that works on most of the Big Name Home Routers that are sold today (I.E. Linksys, D-Link, Buffalo, and so forth). I ended up having to do this option for my in-laws Linksys Router because they were becoming so inundated with pop-ups wanting to help “Clean your PC” or just Ads popping at of nowhere which was really starting to slow down there internet speeds. Once I implemented this within their home router no more complaints of pop-up or Ads, Internets speeds greatly improved, and best of all it help completely reduced their chances of malware.
Common Sense Options
- Do not click on pop-ops advertisements especially those wanting to help “Clean your PC”, just exit out of them. Most times by clicking on these pop-up ads they will infect your computes with different forms of malware or spyware that will end up slowing down and invade your privacy on your PC.
- Do not open e-mails from people that you do not know: These scammers get a hold of your contact information by various means and send you to sites once you click on those e-mails that will severely infect your PC.
- Do not respond to or forward Chain e-mails, even if it is from someone you know: These chain mails can have a link attached that can re-direct you to a website that can infect and harm your PC. Your contact may have just read the subject line “Forward this to a 100 people to help Suzie with Breast Cancer” but did not read the body of the message which they may have inadvertently passed along.
- Be cautious of e-mails sent from a known contact that might be out of character for the sender: If you get an e-mail from your mother-in law with a Subject line of just “Re: “ and just has a link that says “To enlarge your Male Organ, click here for more details” or says “Work Free from Home” either call that person directly or send them a separate e-mail verifying the content of the “out of ordinary” e-mail received from that party. 99% of the time that individuals e-mail account has been hacked and the hacker is now using that e-mail account’s contact list to spread their scams. Without saying those links can and will do harm to your computer.
- Do not reply to e-mails from “Big Name” Website’s asking to update your user account information (I.E. Microsoft’s hotmail, Google’s Gmail, Yahoo, and so forth) : These are generally phishing scams that have in that same body of that e-mail asking for your full Name, Address, phone number, date of birth, social security number, and so forth. You can generally spot these right away by the senders e-mail which instead of being MicrosoftHotmailTeam@msn.com it will be like G47@hotmail.au . Most of these companies as a rule will never contact you directly, especially Microsoft.
What started out as a relatively small and quit SCAM within India which at one time just targeted primarily the United Kingdom is now being adopted by other Scammers worldwide which have target other English speaking countries such as Australia and the United States. While the SCAM may vary depending which country the format of the Microsoft Cold Caller is using the end results are the same. The victim loses their money, privacy, and peace of mind. Only through self education and cyber awareness can we make the Microsoft Cold Caller’s SCAM ineffective.
Please fell free to leave me a comment and pass this article on to whom you may feel will benifit from it.
The following links I used as reference for my article…