Fraud can take many shapes and forms. I recently received a report from a concerned user who said she had a phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft Windows Solutions saying that, because of error messages from her computer, he was tasked to help fix any problems she had. In fact he was not from Microsoft and tricked her into letting him connect to her PC and then tried to con her into buying bogus security products.
The recipient of the call initially thought the call was genuine and allowed the caller to remote access her computer – and show her the “viruses which had infected my system.”
“When he tried to sell me some software I ended the call and did not give him any personal details, credit card or otherwise. Nevertheless, I’m worried that my computer may be vulnerable to future attack”, she told me, asking for assistance.
According to the user, the telephone caller led her to a Web site that allowed her to download a free remote access application that allowed him to access her computer.
“He then showed me a long list of files – all viruses, he said, and some very dangerous. I told him that I had good security on my computer”, she said, adding I could not understand how that could happen.
“He said he was transferring me to his supervisor who would solve these problems. The supervisor showed me yet more virus files, which he said were located in a hidden part of the computer and he couldn’t therefore clean it up without Windows 7 being installed (I run Vista) and some new security software,” she said.
Whilst it does not appear the scam artists behind this call infected the user, they then tried to sell her a £300 security application, which they could offer her much more cheaply.
“As he rang off, he warned me that my computer was in very bad shape and would crash any day. The call lasted around 20 minutes and I feel like such an idiot to have been taken in for that length of time, and very nervous that they had all the time in the world to infect my computer,” the user told me.
Well, the good news is that I was able to work with this lady and ensure that her machine was not infected.
I searched a support database for similar incidents and indeed I do see users coming in with similar reports from time to time. From that I can conclude that this is indeed a common method of fraud that users should be aware of and avoid.
It’s easy to think that you’d never fall for this type of fraud. But keep in mind that these fraudsters are very experienced and good in what they do. If it’s not you than it could be your friend, your parents, or your spouse who may be taken in by this sort of plausible-sounding security support calls.
Every little bit helps. As the popular supermarket slogan says, and this is no less true in the IT security space.