Warning – even the wary are caught by this clever scam
My computer froze when I was going into some innocuous site. A black square appeared on the screen with writing purporting to be from Microsoft Support Services. It advised my IP address had been compromised and could cause a security risk and/or malicious content.
I immediately thought it was Microsoft telling me that my photographs could be accessed by someone else and as I have a lot of photos of my grandchildren, I didn’t want that to happen.
They asked me to phone 1800 958 212 which sounded like an average Australian 1800 number so I called it. The chap who answered said they needed to check my files and I believe it was then that I allowed them into my computer, although I’m not sure. Maybe they were there already.
I kept asking what the problem was and he kept saying they were checking. All the while, files were scrolling on my screen. He said it would take a while to go through and not to hang up.
I do believe keeping me on the phone was a ploy so I couldn’t call anyone else for advice.
I kept questioning and had trouble understanding him so was put through to the supervisor. I asked again where they were located and he said at Microsoft Headquarters in California.
I told him I couldn’t understand why this was happening, as I thought I had some prevention programs on my computer.
He said it was that something that had been introduced and if it wasn’t checked out I could lose money from my bank and other dreadful things.
I knew in the pit of my stomach that this wasn’t right but silly me, I stayed on the phone being shuffled around with files scrolling while they kept me holding.
It was a constant barrage, but finally they said they had found it and that I had to get rid of the content causing the problem.
I now know that your IP address is a constant, regardless of the computer, but I was getting frantic and frazzled, after two hours on the phone waiting and questioning for something to trip up so I would know it wasn’t right.
They said it would cost me for them to put on another program, and although I didn’t want to give them my payment details, I was told it was the only way to save my precious files, especially photos and bank details.
He persuaded me to buy a program to fix the problem. By the time I hung up after the transaction and printed out what was supposed to be a receipt, I was in tears.
I knew I had done something wrong and I was panicking, telling myself that I was an intelligent person and this should not be happening.
I went to see my daughter as her husband is an IT person. She said straight away it was a scam. I wanted to check even though I knew. Her husband said it was definitely a scam.
If you see anything like this, just turn off the computer and consult someone, even if they do claim to be Microsoft Support Services.
I called my bank and had the payment blocked. The amount was something like $US899. I was lucky.
My son-in-law checked out my computer and removed the programs they had put on. He said they were harmless programs that were not going to do anything but we eliminated them anyway.
I thought that was the end of it until a month later I got a call from a private number with a foreign voice asking about the payment and why the bank had rejected it. They had the cheek to call back.
Since then, I have heard of others being taken in by the same scam, even those who have been using computers for years. It’s very clever, using the name Microsoft.
Microsoft will never do this, so just turn off your computer and call a tech. It will be a lot less heartache in the end.
The problem was I knew something was wrong, but had no evidence to confirm it so I am telling my story hoping that others won’t get caught the same way.
The number of people reporting scam activity in Australia hit a record in 2016, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Australians aged over 55 accounted for 45 per cent of reports to Scamwatch and investment scams accounted for the most losses at $59 million.
Dating and romance scams accounted for the next highest losses, with a combined $42 million lost.
The ACCC’s Scamwatch and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) received a combined 200,000 reports about scams last year.