Don’t fall for the “Microsoft Support” scam!!

By Ayse Stenabaugh

We preach to our clients that you should never let anyone you don’t know take control of your computer. Unfortunately, scammers are using scare tactics and misleading information to convince users into believing that a reputable company such as Microsoft is who you are speaking with. Some users receive a phone call from individuals claiming to be Microsoft. Many times, even the caller id can say Microsoft even though it is not them trying to reach you. Other users receive a message when they are on a website which takes over their screen with an automated voice warning you that your computer is infected and that you must call this phone number right away.

Once the scammer gets you on the phone they tell you they are working either for or with Microsoft and that they can show you the errors on your computer. If you let them take control of your computer, they will pull up error logs and point out errors which to the untrained eye can look serious. In most cases, they are showing you errors that are common on all computers and in most cases the errors being presented to you are not actually causing any issues within your device. While connected to your computer remotely, they may open a command prompt box with white text and a blinking cursor showing you a number that’s in your computer indicating that your computer needs maintenance. If they are not yet connected to your computer, they may have you perform this action asking if you have a specific number displayed. Users are surprised when their numbers match however this number is found within all devices they are just using this trick to further convince you.

Once the scammers reel you in and make you feel like there is a purpose for their services they will tell you that it will cost over $200 to fix your device and they will ask you to pay with a credit card. If you refuse and you have already connected them to your computer, they may even put a password on your device to prevent you from using your computer until you pay them to “fix the problem”. If you do pay them, many times they perform actions that we would typically include in a clean-up ($99 flat rate fee). In addition to performing what may be unnecessary tasks on your device these scammers have been known to uninstalled PAID antivirus leaving you with no protection or another antivirus application which may not be as good as what you previously had.

How to prevent yourself from being scammed

First and foremost, as I said before you should NEVER let someone you don’t know take control of your computer. The only exception to this rule is if YOU call a reputable company such as HP for example to help you troubleshoot your printer. When searching for a companies phone number be sure you have their number and not a third party company. The best way to ensure this is to look at the products documentation using the example above if you had just gotten a new HP printer your printer should come with a booklet with HP’s support number. If you have to search for a phone number ensure you are on that companies website HP’s website should be www.hp.com not www.hp-support.com NO ONE will ever call you to tell you there is something wrong with your computer. If you need support many local computer repair companies offer remote support. Here at Jester’s Computers if you have internet access we offer remote support for $1 per minute with a $10 minimum. All remote support applications that you request should have some kind of one time access code that you provide that is required in order for the remote agent to assist you.

How to close pop-up scams that appear while on the internet.

If you click on a website or a link and then suddenly your screen is taken over warning you that you need to call a number, you have not yet been infected you just need to force your web browser to close. To do this you first need to open task manager. To open task manager on your keyboard press and hold the control and alt keys. While holding them down press the delete key. This should take you to a window letting you choose to open task manager. With task manager open you want to visit the processes tab at the top. Locate your web browser in the list (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome etc). Click on your web browser and then click the button that says end task at the bottom. This should close your web browser. If you re-open your browser and the page still loads, try the same steps again. If you see the option to restore the previous pages do NOT click restore or the pop-up scam will be back. For a video instructions on how to complete these steps visit Jester’s Computers page on Facebook.

If you have been scammed, you may want to have your device properly cleaned to ensure that they did not leave any harmful software on your computer. We recommend having a clean-up done once yearly on each computer to keep it running smoothly and to diagnose any potential hardware failures. If you are struggling to learn how to use your computer or if you need technical support Jester’s Computers can help!  In addition to our computer repair services, we offer one-on-one technology classes in our office or in the local area. Contact us today by calling (717) 642-6611 or by visiting us on the web at www.jesterscomputers.com or on Facebook.