CHARLESTON – West Virginia residents should be on alert for a new wave of telephone scams sweeping the state.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey issued an alert to West Virginia consumers today (July 29) about a new wave of phone calls from scammers claiming to work for Microsoft.
The Consumer Protection Division of Morrisey’s office has received multiple reports of consumers receiving phone calls from someone claiming to be from Microsoft Windows wanting to gain access to the consumer’s computer in order to “make repairs.”
The caller tells the consumer that their computer has an urgent problem or virus that must be fixed immediately. The caller says “Microsoft” can connect to the computer remotely and repair it for the customer. Once the scammer is connected to the computer, they either steal the consumer’s financial information through a fraudulent “pay” website or install malicious software that combs the computer for personal information, such as usernames, passwords, bank and credit card numbers, tax documents and more. In other cases, the scammer locks the computer and refuses to unlock it unless the consumer pays a specific amount for the “repairs.”
“Consumers should be extremely cautious of these types of cold calls,” Morrisey said. “Although these scammers are pretty savvy when using technical jargon, it’s highly unlikely that an unsolicited caller would know anything about your computer.”
Microsoft has issued warnings on its website about this scam, saying neither the company nor any of its partners make unsolicited calls to computer users.
Since initial warnings circulated, some consumers have been able to recognize the scam when they are called. However, newer reports have said that when the consumer refuses the service or questions the validity of the call, the caller becomes hostile, makes obscene threats and even threatens to show up at the person’s house and harm them or their family.
“These scammers use despicable, high-pressure tactics to try and frighten consumers into giving up access to their private data,” Morrisey said. “If an unsolicited caller ever harasses or threatens you or your family, you should hang up and report the call immediately to local law enforcement and our Office’s Consumer Protection Division.”
Morrisey offers consumers the following tips should they receive an unsolicited phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft:
- Try to get as much information about the caller as you possibly can. Note their name, phone number, time they called and what was said.
- Never give remote access to your computer to any unsolicited caller for any reason.
- If you have caller ID and receive a call from a number you don’t recognize, don’t answer the phone. While not always, it is more likely for scammers to stop trying a number that never picks up.
- If you are using a cellphone that has the capability, put the number on your blocked contact list.
- If you do answer one of these calls and have concerns about your computer’s security features, call the manufacturer or take it to a reputable retailer or repair shop to be examined for viruses, malicious software, or corrupted files.
- Report the call immediately to local law enforcement and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.
If you have received one of these unsolicited telephone calls from Microsoft, please call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808. If you are concerned you already may be a victim of identity theft, call local law enforcement as well as the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338 or go online to www.ftc.gov/idtheft.