Microsoft Is Not Calling You!
Living in Wasaga Beach, you imagine that South Asian scams wouldn't happen here but this morning I received my first ever call from a man with a heavy accent who was trying to trick me into installing a piece of software that would give him unfettered access to my computer. BEWARE! Microsoft would never call you to tell you they detected a virus on your computer. Ditto for banks or any other corporation who these people may try to spoof. This was an attempt at identity theft.
The person on the other end of the phone said his name was "Scott Davis". I asked him to repeat his name a couple of times because his accent was very thick. I lived in the Middle East for almost a year and became familiar with some South Asian history so the name itself is not a red flag but his inability to pronounce it was. India for example was colonized by the British and there are many people living there today who have adopted British names, but these people generally speak English very well and wouldn't trip over their own names. Let's call this "Red Flag #1".
Red Flag #2 was that this person claimed to be a representative of Microsoft. Without exception, Microsoft would never call you at home to warn you of a virus on your computer. If a virus was serious enough to require disclosure to Microsoft customers, you would read about it in the newspaper, or see it on TV but nobody would call you at home. The same goes for banks and other institutions that are the favourite targets of identity theft or phishing scams.
Phishing is a term which means: to try to obtain financial or other confidential information from Internet users, typically by sending an e-mail that looks as if it is from a legitimate organization, usually a financial institution, but contains a link to a fake Web site that replicates the real one. While the term is generally applied to email and websites which appear to be legitimate, phishing can be done by telephone as well. When someone tries to spoof a legitimate company to trick you into giving them important and personal information, they are phishing.
To figure out what Scott Davis was up to, I pretended to go along with his request. I summoned up my best acting skills and let him lead me to the next step. When he was convinced he had a willing victim I was then handed over to another individual, this time a man calling himself "Keith Jones". Keith Jones? Really? Isn't that just a little bit racist? These names are too perfect, sounding more like Country singers than real people.
Keith Jones sounds a little slicker; a pro at helping to rob people of the data on their computers. He instructs me to go to a website called teamviewer.com. To be clear, Teamviewer is likely a legitimate company. It appears to be the type of software that an IT Professional would use to help you fix a computer problem remotely. They are as much a victim in this scam as the people who may hand over control of their computers to Mr. Jones but this software, if downloaded and installed could allow the wrong individual to do great harm to you and your data.
This is a warning to people who may read this article, when someone calls you with the "Private Caller" feature, tells you he is from a trusted company, then asks you to download software - DO NOT visit the website address. Just doing this can harm your computer. I was still trying to figure out what Mr. Jones was up to and I only pretended to be following his instructions. It was at this point that I could not continue with my mock co-operation and had to end the charade.
When I hung up the phone I Google'd the name of the website along with the word "scam" and found the following:
- http://www.barelyhangingon.com/rant-and-raves/the-teamviewer-scam/ It is an amusing account of another person who received a nearly identical phone call.
- This is a world-wide scam. Another account can be read here: http://www.sevenforums.com/system-security/98111-teamviewer-scam-beware.html and here: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/forums/1/helproom/4037977/teamviewer-scam-fix/
- and here: http://www.nerdsonsite.com/blog/2011/05/28/beware-of-microsoft-virus-removal-phone-scam/
I hope you never fall victim to one of these scams as it can be difficult to clean up the mess that these people make. You would have to call all your credit card companies to replace your cards, alert your banking institution and have your password changed, re-visit any site which may have a password stored on your computer and reset them all. It can be very time consuming.
I have received 2 more calls from this company today. The style is the same; men with accents and suspiciously generic names. This time I spoke to "Jason Brown" and then "Keith Jones". It did not sound like the same Keith Jones which is rather odd. If you are going to choose generic names, why recycle? But if it was the same Keith Jones, he got an even more strongly worded response than he was given the first time. This time I put in a call to the O.P.P. and I suppose I'll have to call Bell Canada - although I've learned the hard way that they don't have a whole lot of protection to offer telephone subscribers from this type of scam. At the very least you would think they'd be able to track the number but with today's technology, it isn't as easy as it once was. In all likelyhood, the caller was using VOIP technology (such as Skype) to avoid detection.
So if you are reading this - do not give out your personal information or buy into any attempt to have you download software. These people are relentless and quite dangerous.
View the video below for more information about the scam:
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