Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Scam Phone Call from “Microsoft” Last night

I got a phone call from someone asking for Andrew last night. I asked if this was a sales pitch. The guy claimed to be from Microsoft.  Judging from the accent he may have been calling from India.  He told me that Microsoft had been receiving a number of error messages from my computer.  I do have a trial version of MS Office that recently expired and wondered (not out loud) if that could be the culprit (my expired version isn’t actually illegal because after the trial period ended most functions got disabled, though I still reference recent e-mails in the expired Outlook).

I think I asked him what could be causing the error messages but I don’t think I got a straight answer. Something felt off but it still felt a little plausible so I asked what I needed to do to fix this. I think I may have had to ask him twice (throughout the call certain things got repeated, like he was working from a script). Finally he said he wanted access to my computer to search for the errors. At that point alarms went off in my head. I realized that if he wasn’t from Microsoft and I gave him access to my computer he could do a lot of damage. I asked him how I knew he was really from Microsoft. He seemed evasive and made some puzzling reference to Windows (I later learned that there’s a similar scam where the caller claims to be from Windows). I finally told him this sounded too suspicious and hung up on him.

I waited for him to call back, which he likely would if he was legit. No callback. I posted on Facebook that I had received a suspicious call and then did a search. I found this link on Microsoft’s own site indicating that they never call anyone.  That eliminated any doubt that the caller was trying to commit a crime.

I dialed *69 but his number was listed as private. Even so I left a message with Telus (my phone company)’s fraud line and also told the police (non-emergency).  The police told me that this was already well documented and that he would probably have tried to sell me anti-virus for $99.  My bigger fear is that he could have vandalized my computer and/or stolen information from it.

So if you get a call from Microsoft or Windows claiming they’ve been receiving error messages, it’s not really them but rather someone trying to commit a crime against you.

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