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Microsoft takes on tech support scammers

Microsoft, the US software giant, is suing alleged scammers that call people who pretend to represent the company and provide bogus technology support. The callers have asked to take over a home computer and demand money to fix it. A few then install viruses too. The software firm stated that it had received more than 65,000 complaints about tech support scams since May. It is taking legal action against many companies it accuses of exploiting its name in many cases.

This scam has continued for many decades with callers peddling meaningless security software and fooling people into paying hundreds of pounds (or dollars) to solve non-existent computer problems. To a greater extent, the bogus technicians are remotely gaining access to user’s computers.  From where they are, they can steal personal and financial data and install malware. In many situations, users are fooled into signing up for support by way of false web ads.  Others have received direct telephone calls from technicians who claimed to represent Microsoft. Microsoft has warned that scammers are likely to be active over Christmas period.

“The holiday season is a popular time for scammers as more people engage in online activates, including shopping, donating to charity and searching for travel deals,” it said. Older people have to be very vigilant, it said. “Tech support scammers don’t discriminate; they will go after anyone, but not surprisingly senior citizens have been among the most vulnerable.” The US Federal Trade Commission filed a legal case in Florida last month against a company that used adverts to scare people into believing that their computer had a virus and then sell them apparently worthless services.

 Recently, all over the UK, National Trading Standards has taken legal action against a man from Luton who had hired people at an Indian call centre to deceitfully inform people their computers had major problem. Mohammed Khalid Jamil was given a four-month suspended jail sentence and ordered to pay £5,665 compensation and £13,929 in prosecution costs. Microsoft has issued tips to help users avoid falling for such scams.

It says:

  • Ask if there is a fee or subscription for the services. If there is, hang up.
  • Never give control of your computer to the third party unless you can confirm it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team at a company of which you are already a customer.
  • Take the caller’s information down and immediately report it to your local authorities.
  • Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support.    
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