An increasing number of people are receiving phone calls from scammers who claim they detected a virus or Trojan on the user’s PC and they want to help remove the threat. Sometimes they claim your Windows license is about to expire and they want to help you renew the license. I received three calls from friends and clients over the past week with questions about the calls.
The scammer’s Caller ID is blocked, so you cannot see where they are calling from. Thus far, in every report I am a ware of the scammer had a strong foreign accent, which means the calls are likely originating in other countries and are routed through the Internet. The caller is usually a guy, but is sometimes a gal.
The callers identify themselves as being with HP Security, Dell Security, Microsoft Tech Support, Windows Operating System, or some other name sounding recognizable and legitimate. My brother received a call from a guy identifying himself as from the World Wide Web of Chicago. My brother is tech-savvy, so his antennae went up and he suspected a scam.
All of these calls are scams. The callers will offer phony details about an alleged infection detected on your PC. They will also offer to help remove the threat for a fee. Others want to help you renew your Windows license before it expires and your PC is disabled.
The chances are extremely remote of someone remotely detecting a virus or Trojan on your PC unless they have already broken into your PC. Infections and break-ins have not been the case in any of these phony calls. There is a possibility of your PC becoming infected and if it engages in DOS (denial of service) attacks your IP may be detected, but that does not identify you by phone number. The callers may know your name and phone number, but nothing about your PC. Some are obviously dialing phone numbers randomly.
None of the real or fictitious companies mentioned by the scammers will call you and offer tech support services to remove viruses. Both Dell and Microsoft have posted articles warning users about these scams.
Two apparent goals are behind the scams. One offers to sell you software that you can download to remove the threat. I have not heard of anyone receiving software they purchased over the phone, but some are being instructed to download a free program that will eliminate the problem. This type of fix will undoubtedly infect you PC with something nasty. The other is the requirement to give them a credit card number. I only heard of one situation where someone was foolish enough to give a caller their credit card number. She called me afterward and asked me if the call was legitimate. The guy told her he would call her back in few minutes with the fix, but did not call back. I told her the fix was to call her credit card company to report the scam and cancel the credit card before it racks up thousands of dollars in phony charges.
The proof of the random nature of the calls was provided by a good friend who received two similar calls within a week. Each time he played along with the caller and pretended to be very concerned about the infection on his PC. One each call, he wasted at least 15 minutes of the scammer’s time before he acknowledged he does not own a PC. The best ways to deal with these scammers is to either hang up or waste as much of their time as you can. When you waste their time, have fun doing tit. When they are on a call with you, they cannot spend that time trying to rip off someone else.
My best piece of advice is to never, ever under any circumstances give anyone you do not know a credit card number over the phone. The worst cases are when the scammer convinces the person to give them the security code on the back of the card. The security code should never be given to anyone, even people you know. It’s intended to be used for electronic transactions only and should never be stored anywhere by any company. There is never a situation where that number is a requirement to complete a telephone transaction, regardless of what people tell you over the phone. Having the security number gives the scammer a free pass to repeatedly use your card number with little chance of detection. Many credit card companies automatically freeze an account when three consecutive transactions occur where the security number is not included.