Yesterday, i received a telephone call from "Dean Thomas" (probably not his real name) who said he was from the "Technical & Maintenance Department of Windows." The phone number he gave was (209) 813-0133, which I assume was bogus, too.
Immediately, I recognized this phone scam as I had read about it previously in Consumer Reports:
"The scam has become so widespread that Microsoft has studied the problem in four countries, including the U.S. The study found that scammers stole an average of $875 from victims and caused $1,730 in damage to their computers."
Plus, I follow the Better Business Bureau on Twitter, which issued this alert months ago. I decided to listen to the scammer's pitch so I could report about it on this blog.
Basically, the scam artists pretend to be from a reputable company that is seriously interested in protecting you from virus software that can damage your computer. The first part of the pitch is an attempt to gain your confidence -- that they have received error messages already from my computer. After gaining your trust, they will ask you to visit a website, not with your web browser, but the "Run Software" dialog box. Doing so would give them access and control over your computer -- and the freedom to steal any files with passwords and bank accoount sign-in credentials.
With his heavy Southern Asia accent, "Dean" asked me to browse various system registry files (e.g., the Event Viewer, the Command level interface) on my computer, in a bogus attempt to convince me that my computer is already infected with malware. At one point during the call, "Dean" asked me to verify the CLSID number of my computer. Of course, I refused -- all the while acting like a dumb computer user so I had enough time to perform several Yahoo.com searches to confirm the scam.
One way to recognize these phone scams is that they never ask you if you alraedy have anti-virus software installed on your computer. "Dean" never asked and I never volunteered an answer.
"Dean" soon became frustrated and transferred me to his supervisor, who said he was from a company called, "Software Network Communications For Windows." Another sign that this was a scam: the company name kept changing. This new jerk wanted me to open the Run Software dialog box on my computer and enter the "www.support.me" website address. I asked him why the website address was different if he was from Windows. He answered that he was with an affiliate company.
Of course, I wasn't believing any of this nonsense -- nor should you. Of course, I didn't enter anything into the Run Software dialog box - nor should you. I told the jerk that I needed to know more about his company before visiting any website. Then, he hung up.
Later, I reported this phone fraud to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) -- which you should too, if you receive such a phone call.
To learn more and avoid these technical support phone scams, read this Consumer Reports article, and this Microsoft alert. Other consumers have received technical support scam phone calls. Here is one that is both entertaining and serious: