CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is alerting West Virginia consumers about a new round of phone calls from scammers who claim to be calling from Microsoft or another computer repair company.
The caller tells the consumer that the consumer’s computer has an urgent problem or a virus that must be fixed immediately. The caller says “Microsoft” can connect to the computer remotely and repair it for the customer.
Once the scammer is connected to the computer, he either steals the consumer’s financial information through a fraudulent “pay” website or by installing malicious software that can comb the computer for personal information such as usernames, passwords, bank and credit card numbers, tax documents, and more.
In other cases, the scammer locks the computer and refuses to unlock it unless the consumer pays a specific amount for the “repairs.”
“These scammers are pretty computer savvy, and will probably use a lot of computer terms to give themselves the appearance of legitimacy,” Morrisey said. “But right off the bat, be wary of these kinds of cold calls. It’s highly unlikely someone on the other end of an unsolicited phone call could know anything about your computer.”
Microsoft has issued warnings on its website about this scam, saying neither the company nor any of its partners make unsolicited calls to computer users.
Consumers who receive these types of calls and have concerns about their computer’s security features should call the manufacturer or take it to a reputable retailer or repair shop to be examined for viruses, malicious software, or corrupted files.
Consumers can take steps on their own to safeguard their personal computers:
* Install and use a frequently updated firewall and anti-virus program. These programs can be a great first line of defense from these kinds of attacks and others.
* Don’t ever give an unsolicited caller or someone else you don’t know access to your computer remotely for any reason.
* Make sure you update your computer’s operating system regularly. Sometimes, malicious software is able to infect home computers because of outdated systems that fail to block the threat.
* Keep your passwords safe, and try to use different passwords for each online account that you use.
* Finally, do not open e-mail messages from senders you do not recognize, and especially do not click on links or download attachments from those messages.
“This is a scam that really can prey on our senior citizens as more of them have home computers to communicate online with their children and grandchildren,” Morrisey said. “I think it’s important to make sure those folks, as well as your children, know that if they get a phone call out of the blue asking for remote access to their computers, it’s a scam, and to hang up immediately.”