Warning of Microsoft ‘broken computer’ scam

ALERT: Beware of unexpected calls to fix your computer.

A NUMBER of readers from various parts of Spain have contacted EWN reporting a scam in which a person claiming to be from Microsoft calls to fix their computer.

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Microsoft has a webpage dedicated to scams that use its name fraudulently, including this one.

While many people many people may not realise they are being scammed and part with their money thinking a service has been provided, for other’s alarm bells ring, but often too late.

This was the case for Peter Dunn from Velez Rubio in Almeria. The same day he had bought a new computer he received a call from a woman saying she was from Windows PC Support.

“She said that my computer has sent a serious error message to them and that there is a high risk that the computer will crash terminally very soon. She then asked me to start the computer and type in various codes. During this initial conversation I ask if she is from Microsoft and she said ‘yes’.”

He was later transferred to a ‘senior technician’, who asked Mr Dunn to type in several codes and stressed that the problem was ‘very serious’.

This man was even able to confirm Mr Dunn’s IP Address and Microsoft Key. All this took about 20 minutes.

“He then told me that my computer would terminally crash in 25 minutes and offered to correct and protect my computer for life, all for a single payment of €130,” said Mr Dunn, who declined the offer saying he would take the computer back to where he had bought it from.

“The technician got quite agitated saying it had nothing to do with the company that sold me the computer and that if I didn’t do the repair I would lose everything.”

Since Mr Dunn had only just bought the computer there was nothing for him to lose, but for many the fear of losing treasured photos would be a strong motivating factor to part with money to solve this problem.

“This scam has been around since 2010 and originates in India,” Cliff Dale, senior technician at Electronbox in Fuengirola told EWN.

“The calls are generally from landline numbers assigned to VOIP companies (like Skype and others) and they use these to link to a call centre in India.

They have already scammed several thousand people in the UK, Ireland, USA and Canada, some for as much as $4,200 (€3,225).

This scan is often successful because “most people have a PC these days and many already believe their computer is perhaps a bit slow,” said Mr Dale.

However, how these scammers get people’s information seems to be a mystery “as they are now targeting English speaking people here in Spain it suggests their data is already compromised somewhere.”

Anybody who has followed their instructions may have had their PCs security compromised. “In several cases Malware (virus files) have been installed on our client’s computers with the hope of gaining other personally identifiable information,” said Mr Dale.

“Microsoft does not make unsolicited calls to clients, particularly from an error report sent by your computer. Mr Dale advises that anybody who receives a call of this nature should tell the person it is not convenient to talk at the moment and get a number to call them back on.

Then report the scam to http://actionfraud.org.uk/ and give them the phone number.

They will collate the information and pass it on to various other law enforcement agencies for action.

By Nicole Hallett


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