If you ever receive a phone call from a company offering to help you with computer problems, beware: it is almost definitely a scam designed to defraud you in some way.
This type of con has been around for several years now and is commonly referred to as the “Microsoft phone scam” – this is because the perpetrators commonly pretend to be representing the US firm Microsoft.
But many people don’t know about this scam – and criminals continue to exploit this lack of awareness.
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How does the Microsoft phone scam work?
Victims receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a technology expert representing a big computer company.
They say that the individual’s computer has been infected with a virus or other malicious software, and offer to help put matters right.
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Why are they calling me?
Your number has been taken most likely from a mass-marketing database, and the fraudsters will try to call as many people as possible to increase their chances of success.
There is no way for the scammers to know whether your computer has any problems or not (and chances are, it doesn’t).
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What happens next?
The criminal will then ask you to do one of a number of things.
This could involve going to a specific website and downloading software that is supposed to fix your machine, but which in fact secretly steals information about your bank account, for example.
You may be asked to give the criminal permission to remotely access your computer – again, this can enable them to access your personal and financial data.
You might also be asked to make a payment for “anti-virus software” or a similar type of protection, which does not in fact exist.
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What should I do if I receive a scam phone call?
The best approach is to hang up. No technology company - including Microsoft - would contact customers in this way.
If you are concerned about the possibility of your PC being infected with a virus, make sure you are running up-to-date anti-virus software from a reputable provider.
And even if you haven’t received such a call, tell your friends and family about the Microsoft phone scam: the more people are aware of this, the less likely it is that they will fall victim.
Say goodbye to nuisance calls
The March 2017 edition of Saga Magazine had the following useful tip from Jennifer Newton:
BT’s new free phone service aims to divert the worst offenders before they get through to you; BT customers can sign up to its new free Call Protect service to stop nuisance calls about PPI and fake accident claims.
BT has compiled a blacklist of the worst offenders, which they estimate will stop 30 million unwanted calls a week.
If a company still manages to get through, you can block them individually by dialling 1572 after hanging up, or by going online to compile your own blacklist.
If enough customers block a particular number, it will be added to the BT blacklist.
Register at: bt.com/callprotect, 0800 389 1572
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