Complaints about several variations of the “Microsoft” phone scam have been flowing regularly into the RCMP station, Staff Sgt. Bob Gollan said on Monday.
“A caller, often claiming to work for Microsoft or another reputable software company, will cold-call you and ask if your computer is running slowly or not working as it should,” he said. “He will then offer to repair your computer via Internet access, which can involve either software installation or the caller gaining remote control of your computer after you’ve granted him access. Payment for the software or the repair service is handled via your credit card, with charges typically ranging from $35 to $470 per call.”
The problem, Gollan said, is that the caller is actually searching for personal information, such as bank accounts and passwords, while he or she is connected. Then, to make matters worse, the person who has been scammed really does get a bill for the service.
“Computer owners should be aware that this is a scam and no one should ever give out personal information over the telephone except when they are certain they are dealing with a legitimate company,” he said. “Please do not allow callers access to your computer at any time.”
This particular scam now accounts for about 70 to 80 per cent of frauds reported daily to the RCMP and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC).
Allowing a third party to download software or remotely access your computer carries a number of serious risks, according to the CAFC. Malicious software can be installed to capture sensitive data such as your online banking user names and passwords, bank account information and your personal identity information. All of this information can be used in subsequent frauds that empty your bank accounts and charge your credit cards.
Your computer can also be converted to a bot-net, which means criminals can use it without your knowledge or participation. It can then be used to spam other people, spread viruses to your friends or overload computer networks.
Getting your credit card information is the second important part of the virus scam. Once a criminal has that information it can be used to make purchases without your consent.
Canadians should be aware that not all virus scams are conducted over the phone. Many CAFC callers report being scammed after responding to Internet pop-up ads for anti-virus software.
Staff Sgt. Paul Proulx of the CAFC offers this simple advice: “If you’re really worried about viruses on your computer, be pro-active and use anti-virus software that you’ve acquired from reputable sources and keep it up to date. If someone calls you out of the blue offering to provide this kind of help, it’s probably a scam. Remember, it’s not rude to hang up on someone who’s trying to steal your money and information.”
Visit the CAFC’S website, www.antifraudcentre.ca, for the latest on emerging fraud trends, advice on protecting yourself and victim’s guides that will help you recover from fraud loss, or call 1-888-495-8501.
For more information on the government of Canada’s Cyber Security Strategy, visit www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cyber.