Saturday, May 4, 2013

Beware Geeks Bearing Gifts: Microsoft Service Center Scam Can Cost You Bucks

Computer Security
Computer Security (Photo credit: IntelFreePress)
A group of hackers, thought to be based in Chennai, India, are targeting unwary Internet users with a new scam that can cost them money, and leave their personal financial and other information open to exploitation. Called the 'Windows Service Center Scam,' this ploy involves someone contacting you by phone and informing you that your computer has been infected by a virus that is dangerous. He - and, it's most often a male - than tells you that if you'll turn your computer on, he'll show you the virus and fix it for you.

According to my son, who is a senior computer engineer, the hacker will instruct you to download a file that will 'fix' your computer's problems. This operation will also install key stroke capture software that allows the hacker to see everything you type into your computer; passwords, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and the like. Unlike other scams that only take, my son says the hacker will sometimes even really fix any problems found on your computer - which by that time is actually his, because he has taken control of it. You'll also likely find yourself getting an invoice for the software you've downloaded.

This scam has been reported in Britain, Australia, and Canada, and there has been some Internet chatter from users in the U.S.  Microsoft has issued warnings in the UK and Canada, but I've seen nothing here in the U.S. yet.

You might be wondering how to protect yourself from this pernicious scam. Well, the best defense is actually offensive. If you get such a call, HANG UP immediately. Forget about hurting this dirt bag's feelings; he certainly isn't concerned about yours. Don't try to track him down - and, when my wife received such a call, our call monitoring system showed the number as 'unavailable,' and instead of being from Chicago as the caller (a young male with a heavy Indian accent) claimed, the letters TN showed on the monitor. I imagine the call was bounced through a number of relays and would be untraceable with anything but some really expensive, high-tech equipment.

I'm no lawyer, but I'm pretty sure what they're doing is illegal - credit card fraud, potential identity theft, and misuse of computers - but, it's unlikely enough evidence will ever be collected to prosecute them. For now, just hang up. That's the best advice I can offer.
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