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Microsoft's calling? Beware of this scam

They say they are calling to help you, but they are calling to rob you. (It isn’t Microsoft.) Beware of this phone scam.


ELLO, MISS. This is Microsoft tech support and we have detected a serious virus in your computer and we need you to log on right away so we can help you.

That's what the male voice said on the phone. He was insistent, almost in a panic, to help Somerton's Pat McGlone defend herself against a destructive virus that was attacking her computer.

Something about the call made retiree McGlone's "antenna go up."

First, they didn't get her name right. Second, they sounded foreign "and I know there's all these Nigerian scams going on," she says.

When McGlone asked his name, she didn't get a reply - he just kept talking, fast - and when she asked for a phone number so she could call to verify that it was Microsoft, he put a "manager" on. He also was insistent that McGlone act right now because "we are trying to help you."

In reality, they were trying to scam her.

McGlone asked the "manager" how he knew that her computer had been compromised.

"He said all computers have a number in them, that they're able to trace it, and I said to him, if that was the truth, then you would have known that my computer was on, instead of telling me to get on." McGlone was lying. Her computer was off while she watched "General Hospital."

McGlone said that she'd have her son, a computer tech, call back and "that was the end of the conversation" - although they did call back the next day to try again.

McGlone called the state Attorney General's Office to report the scam. A staffer there took the information and told McGlone she believed that the calls originated in India or Malaysia, which was more than the Attorney General's Office would tell me when I called.

Citing "policy," spokesman Joe Peters wouldn't even provide me with the number of complaints this year versus last, although he was able to tell me that this and similar scams are a "growing problem."

The best way to bust a scam is to shine a light on it, which is what I'm doing here.

Tech-support scams have several things in common. The people on the phone talk fast and urgently to panic the victim into making a fast, unwise decision.

Peters says the scammers often say that "they have detected malware or a virus" and they even provide a product number for the victim's computer as proof they are for real. Actually, the product number is easy to find. They do not have your computer's unique serial number, which is hard to get.

In reality, Microsoft doesn't call customers to charge for computer fixes and "Microsoft will never contact a consumer and ask for their credit-card number," says spokesman Dave Niemiec. Banks may call you to check charges, but they already know your credit-card number. Never give out those numbers.

If phone scammers gain your trust, they will rip you off.

They may instruct the victim to type in code, which allows them to take over the home computer. They may demand that you pay them for the nonexistent "fix." If you pay with your credit-card number, they may run up thousands of dollars in charges billed to you.

Even more nefarious: They can take remote control of your computer, locking you out and all your records, documents and pictures in. They then demand that you pay a ransom to return control of the computer to you.

If you pay the ransom, they release the computer back to you.

Or maybe they don't - and demand more money.

Unless you are certain of who you are talking to, don't be stampeded into revealing anything.

P.S.: Right now, people are getting calls from the "government" asking for personal and financial information for ObamaCare. SCAM! (The real government has your information. Hang up.)