Scam - Beware of Phone Callers Claiming to Work for Microsoft
There are scammers, claiming to work for (or on behalf of) Microsoft, phoning computer users in the UK at the moment, and they are up to no good. A friend received a cold call warning him that his computer was riddled with viruses "like ants in a nest" and Microsoft had been alerted by the auto reporting mechanisms in Windows, so he was phoning to show where the problem lay. How very kind, you might think... except the "evidence" offered was deceptive & fraudulent, and ultimately designed to lighten the victims wallet!
Let's start by asserting that Microsoft have confirmed that they don't cold call people like that, so if someone phones claiming to be calling from Microsoft, be VERY suspicious from the outset!!!
Fortunately my friend was expecting a call from me any minute, so they said they couldn't speak right then, and waited for my call instead. We agreed that if "Microsoft" called back, he'd pass on my number, and I'd handle it.
Sure enough the guy called me.... and what an eye opener! He got me to look in the event-viewer and tell him how many errors & warnings are in there. He then told me "these were caused by all the viruses like ants in a nest crawling all over the computer, slowing it down and eventually the computer would grind to a halt". I played along and listened. He didn't ask me what the error messages said or how old they were.
TRUTH: Most computers will probably have errors & warnings in the event log, some will need investigating & fixing, and some won't, but don't be taken in by a cold call. (In this case the errors in the list were caused by a problem with Windows update the previous month that I'd already fixed, so were an old problem... and certainly not the evidence of viruses on the computer). If you are unsure, ask a computer literate friend to take a look, or contact a reputable computer repair place.
Next the guy got me to visit "prefetch" and then told me "all these files are the malicious viruses themselves, so don't touch any of them and certainly don't open them, or even go near them". He then told me "So very carefully, close the Window, without touching any of them". Again these were according to him, the "ants in the nest crawling all over the computer that Microsoft had detected" which was why he was calling.
TRUTH: Prefetch is simply a folder of files that act like an index of various components that Windows loads at startup to help it load faster. More info here from Microsoft. This folder is self managing, and has nothing to do with viruses!
He then asked me to type address munged for safety.com (please DON'T visit that address!) into the run box of start menu... which would have taken me to their website. I had no intention of visiting their site, and by then I had heard enough! Knowing he must be up to no good, I instead did a quick Google search on that address. Sure enough, there are reports of this "company" scamming people. I proceeded to come out of my listening mode, and confronted the guy about his lies and mistruths. He tried to defend himself and backtrack on his claim to be from Microsoft (saying he's only said they had Microsoft Certified Support operatives and Microsoft had asked them to call! - Still bad enough lie!). Just when I was about to tell the guy to stop working for such a low-life company and find himself a job he could be proud of, he hung up on me! Shame... he needed to hear that!
Reading more about the company in question after the call, they are a group called "Support on Click", I can see they have been frightening computer users in Australia and USA, and now it seems they are targeting the UK too.
According to other reports I've since read about this "company", if you visit their website as instructed, they initiate a remote support session over the Internet where they install trojans on your computer (think "Trojan Horse" - these are programs that look like you might genuinely want them, but actually are malicious in intent under the surface). They scan your computer for bank details & other items for identity theft and then leave software on there, that enables them to access your computer in the future without your permission. Since they have then done such a good job of looking after your computer, they then demand money from you, and also try to get you to sign up for a 2 year subscription for further "support"!
NOTE the reports I've read, suggest that the items they get you to check varies from call to call, as does the website they might ask you to visit, so be aware of that too. They tend to already know your name and phone number too (who know how though!), so don't be taken in by that.
If you want to find out more about this scam, you could read a warning about this scam issued last year by the Queensland Police Service in Australia.
I hope this helps someone to avoid being taken in by this scam (or others like it).
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EDIT: Although written in 'first person', the originator of the article was another member of PUG