Security alert: Bogus tech-support phone calls

Fred Langa

“Hello. This is Microsoft Tech Support. Your PC has notified us that it has an infection.”

The call is a scam — an extremely prevalent one. Here’s how it works and what you need to know to stay out of the trap.

Scams come and go, but this particular one seems to have staying power — and it’s spreading quickly. It’s now so common, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center) issued a Jan. 7 special alert, “New twist to online tech support scam.”

Windows Secrets reader Scott Brande was recently on the receiving end of a typical tech-support con. Recognizing it for what it was, he carefully documented the attempted snow job, then sent in his notes as a service to all Windows Secrets readers.

His narrative, plus the resources I’ll list at the end of this article, can help you — and the people you care about — avoid falling prey to this malicious tactic.

Scott’s description of how the scam played out:

  • “This morning I received a telephone call (the second such call in two weeks) about infected files on my computer; the caller then offered to fix the problem. Suspecting a scam, I decided to play along.

    “I think it was the same caller both times. He had a strong accent, the kind I’m used to hearing on outsourced help lines. I asked the caller’s name both times; the first time he replied, ‘Mike Tyler,’ and the second time he was ‘Andrew.’ He began the call by saying that he’s with Microtek, an authorized supporter for Windows operating systems. (My spelling of the company’s name was a guess; the caller never spelled it out.)



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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2013-02-28:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.