A user contacted me yesterday telling me, “I just got a weird call from someone with an Indian accent saying his company had been getting error messages and they wanted me to go on the computer and have a technician walk me thru steps.” She did exactly the right thing: “I refused and hung up.” But what is behind this scam? What are they trying to achieve?
This July 2010 article from the The Guardian (UK) goes into detail about the history and purpose of the scam. The article discusses callers claiming to be from Microsoft, controlling your PC, and demanding immediate payment. But that could easily morph:
- Callers might claim to be from Microsoft or another tech company (real or fake), or may not say a company name at all.
- Callers may ask you to run “eventvwr” and then point out the warnings and errors in your Event Viewer (which are usually harmless).
- Callers may request that you connect to a web site from your computer. They may give you a code to enter. This can instantly give them access to the entire machine. Or they may just advise you to download and install a program, which is actually a virus or spyware.
- Callers may or may not ask for payment.
Microsoft has a whole page on scams that use its company name. Regarding this scam, they say, “If you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft Tech Support, hang up. We do not make these kinds of calls.”
Note that remote control is a legitimate tech support method, but you should only grant that to someone you know (like MCB Systems) or a technician whom you have called. If you see someone typing or moving the mouse and you didn’t authorize it, unplug the network cable or just turn off your computer until it can be scanned for malware.