A growing number of U.S. consumers are being contacted by scam artists posing as representatives of Microsoft or an organization allegedly affiliated with Microsoft, such as P.C. Solutions. In some cases, the callers even spoof the telephone’s Caller ID to identify the source as “Windows Support.”
The scam artists attempt to gain remote access to consumers’ computers by claiming that their units are running slowly because they are infected with malware or viruses or need additional software, which the scam artists offer to remedy.
After gaining access, scammers are able to extract a fee – as much as $300 – by obtaining credit card information over the phone, or by directing consumers to enter PayPal, bank, or credit card information on a website the scammers control.
The scammers first walk consumers through various steps on their computers to display Microsoft’s event viewer log, which contains a log of red-marked “errors,” yellow “warnings” and other events that have occurred on the computer. Such events are usually inconsequential notifications and are not evidence of a virus. However, the con artists claim that they demonstrate that the PC is corrupted and will sustain further damage or be susceptible to “hacking” if additional action is not taken.
The consumer is then given instructions that ultimately allow the scam artist to access the computer remotely. Once the perpetrators gain access, they typically advise consumers that they must pay a fee, which can be as much as $300, to have the problems corrected or their Microsoft warranty extended. The scammers collect payment by obtaining consumers’ credit card information over the phone, or by directing consumers to fraudulent websites to enter credit card, PayPal, or other personal or financial information online.
In some cases, if consumers balk at making the payment, the scam artists begin deleting consumers’ files and disabling their computers. The scammers may also steal sensitive personal data, adjust security settings to leave computers vulnerable, or install software that can harm computers and/or allow the scammers to continue to access them remotely.
The perpetrators appear to be operating from overseas, prosecutors believe.
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