KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Computer security firms are warning about a Microsoft tech support scam, that now appears to be exploding nationwide.
This cold-calling scam first surfaced a couple of years ago. But Microsoft says people are now falling victim to it every day, as it can be very convincing.
How The Scam Works
Jim Eyster has had a lot of problems with his laptop, including lockups and blue screens.
So he was relieved when the phone rang and the caller said he was with Microsoft Tech Support. "He said I'm from Microsoft, and we have noticed that you have had a lot of viruses," Eyster said.
The caller explained that Microsoft, during a routine scan of his system, found his filled with problems that were slowing it down.
"I was gullible," Eyster admits. "He said he could show me where the viruses were, and so I let him take control of the mouse."
Eyster says the man directed his to a webpage that, once he logged on, allowed the caller to take control of his computer (something security companies can do).
The man then called up an internal page on the laptop that appeared to show it overrun with viruses. It showed hundreds of "errors" and "critical alerts." Eyster was alarmed.
"He said he could remove the viruses for a hundred dollars, on a credit card," Eyster said.
But something about it made Eyster suspicious at that point, and good thing: It was all a scam.
So What's In Your Computer?
As we reported in our initial story on this last year, the errors they show you are not viruses at all.
"They are calling about Windows errors," Tina Wolff said. "But everybody has Windows errors. So immediately you are listening."
Wolff, a computer technician, runs a repair shop, and has seen many people fall for the ruse.
She says one of her customers paid hundreds of dollars to remove the nonexistent viruses.
"He spent an hour on the phone and at the end of the hour they told him they were going to charge him $300," Wolff said. Then she had to remove the "malware" that the caller installed.
It's Not Microsoft
Remember: Microsoft will never call you unsolicited.
The company says this is a foreign scam to collect credit card numbers and install malware.
But if you have PC problems, like Jim Eyster did, it's so convincing. "I believed it, and I bit like a fish," he said.
Bottom line: If Microsoft calls you, hang up. That way, you don't waste your money.