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Beware of Microsoft scammer calls

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Microsoft has warned South African consumers to be wary of a phone scam that has left some victims hundreds of rands out of pocket.
Microsoft has warned South Africannconsumers to be wary of a phone scam that has left some victims hundreds ofnrands out of pocket.

Microsoft South Africa’s chief securitynadvisor, Dr Khomotso Kganyago, says scammers are using several well-knownnbrands, including Microsoft, to fool people into believing that something isnwrong with their computers.

The scam typically unfolds in thenfollowing manner:
·         A cold caller, claiming to be a representative of Microsoft, one of itsnbrands or a third party contracted by Microsoft, tells the victim they arenchecking into a computer problem, infection or virus that has been detected bynMicrosoft.
·         They will trick consumers into installing malicious software that couldncapture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. Theynmight also then charge them for the removal of this software.
·         They tell the victim they can help and direct them to a website thatnthen allows the scammers to take control of the computer remotely, adjustingnthe settings and leaving the computer vulnerable.
·         The cold caller will then spend some time on the computer trying tondemonstrate where the ‘problems’ are and in the process convinces the victim tonpay a fee for a service that will fix the computer.

Cybercriminals often use public phonendirectories to harvest consumer names and personal information, therebyngarnering consumer trust in the sheer level of knowledge they appear to offernabout them. These callers claim to be from Windows Helpdesk, Windows ServicenCentre, Microsoft Tech Support, Microsoft Support, Windows Technical DepartmentnSupport Group and even Microsoft’s Research and Development Team.

“In reality, there is nothing wrong withnthese computers but the scammer has tricked the consumer into believing therenis a problem and that paying the fee is the best way to get it fixed. Oftennthey will also push the customer to buy a one year computer maintenancensubscription.  They are just trying to steal money from innocent people,” saysnDr Kganyago.

He goes on to say that the callers presentnthemselves in a professional manner and sound genuine.

“Don’t be fooled, it is not practice atnMicrosoft to cold call consumers in regards to malfunctioning PCs or viruses,”nhe said. “In the rare instance where Microsoft might contact consumersndirectly, the caller will be able to verify the existence of a current customernrelationship.”

He says a few basic pieces of advice cannhelp South African consumers from being taken in by this and other scams:

·         Do not purchase software or services over the telephone.
·         If there is a fee associated with the service, hang up.
·         Consumers should never authorise remote control over a computer to anthird party unless they can confirm that they are legitimate representatives ofna computer support team with whom they are already a customer.
·         Take the caller’s information and report them to the South AfricannPolice Services (08600 10111 or crimstopgauteng@saps.org.za)nimmediately.
·         Never provide credit card or financial information to someone claimingnto be from Microsoft tech support.

If consumers fear they may already havenbeen scammed, they should:

·         Change the computer password, change the email password and change thenpassword for any financial accounts (including bank and credit cards);
·         Scan their computer with the Microsoft Safety Scanner (http://www.microsoft.com/security/scanner/) to find out if they have malware installed on their computer;
·         Keep an eye on bank accounts and report any potentially fraudulentnactivities immediately;
·         Ensure the operating system is full updated and that all securitynupdates are installed; and
·         Make sure the system is protected with strong passwords that are changednregularly.

More guidance and advice is availablenat www.microsoft.com/security ornconsumers can contact the local office on 011 361 9000.

*nFollow Gadget on Twitter on @gadgetza

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