Oct. 04--A question I hear almost every week from readers of this column is, "Why is Microsoft calling me?"
The truth is that Microsoft isn't calling. Scammers pretending to be technicians or support staff from Microsoft are calling, trying to convince people to give them access to their personal computer.
The Microsoft scam, along with the IRS scam and the "arrested grandchild" scam, is one of the most common phone frauds over the past few years.
Pennsylvania State Police recently issued an advisory, reminding people the scam is still being detected in the state.
Scammers attempt to convince victims that their computer is sending error messages to Microsoft or the computer is infected with viruses or malware. They say they can fix the problem over the phone.
In reality, these scammers have no idea what is happening with the victim's computer. Their plan is to gain remote access to the computer and steal personal information.
They do this by tricking the victim into giving up their password, or sending them to a website that will supposedly "fix" their nonexistent problem but in reality installs software that leaves their computer vulnerable.
Scammers also may just ask for your credit card number and charge you for computer fixes they never really do.
Once a scammer gains control of a victim's computer, he or she usually try to steal the victim's bank account numbers and passwords if the victim banks online, or any other personal information that can be uses to make money.
Some brazen scammers will prevent you from accessing your computer, then demand money from the victim in return for certain files or photos.
Because Microsoft does not call people unsolicited for computer fixes, the best way to deal with these calls is to simply hang up. Do not give them any personal information or any computer passwords.
If you already have given this information to someone you believe is a scammer, change the passwords for your computer, your e-mail accounts, any financial accounts you have online -- especially bank and credit care accounts.
Then scan your computer with trusted security software, such as Microsoft Security Essentials. If you still have problems, take your computer to a dependable repair shop.
Have a consumer question you'd like us to help you with? Call David Bruce at 870-1736, send e-mail to email@example.com, or send mail to 205 W. 12th St., Erie, PA 16534.
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