Microsoft and consumer watchdog warn of cyber scam

13 Dec 2010

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A scam where cyber criminals call unsuspecting consumers claiming to be from Microsoft could lead directly to financial theft, Microsoft and the National Consumer Agency warned today.

In a scam that has been gaining momentum since mid-summer cyber criminals call consumers, claiming to be from Microsoft or other legitimate technology companies to tell them they have a virus on their computer.

The scammers then get people to download a file from a website and gain access to their computers where they can see personal details, including financial information.

In some cases they also ask for credit card details.

“We’re seeing growing numbers of reports of this particular scam and we are warning people to be very careful,” said John Shine, director of Commercial Practices in the NCA.

“Microsoft or any legitimate technology company would never cold call customers to tell them there is a problem with their computer.

“The scammers are also using different company names so if you get a call from anyone claiming that there is a problem with your computer – regardless of what company they tell you they are from – hang up immediately and report it to the NCA on 1890 432 432 or get further information on nca.ie.

Scamming on the rise

“As economic times get tougher, there are increasing numbers of scammers out there. Consumers need to be vigilant and anyone seeking to get personal or financial details from you in any situation that doesn’t feel right should be treated with the utmost suspicion. This is true whether you are on the phone, online or in person,” Shine said.

Mary Ashe Winton, customer experience manager, Microsoft Ireland, advised customers and consumers to treat all unsolicited phone calls with scepticism and not to provide any personal information.

“Anyone who receives an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft should hang up. We do not make these kinds of calls.

“In addition to gaining access to your personal details, they can also infect your computer with damaging viruses and spyware,” Winton said.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com