Jennifer Janszen was having trouble with her new laptop that she bought over the holiday season. So when a "Windows tech support" rep called, she figured Microsoft was just trying to help her out.
"I truly believed it, because my computer hasn't been working correctly," she said.
The rep told her to log into a website where he could fix her PC.
"I let them go into my computer, where they could do anything inside it," she said.
But Janszen says the caller suddenly said she needed to pay him $300, in the form of gift cards, for his help. According to Janszen, the caller told her to go to Wal-Mart's website and buy iTunes gift cards in increments of $100 and $50.
She realized, at that point, that she had just been scammed.
What makes this scam so convincing is that the caller is so professional. He tells his victims to log onto their computer so that they can see what he is talking about.
"They actually had me go in and push the Windows button and type some things, and there was a screen that popped up where they showed me a thousand errors and hackers on my computer," she said.
It's sometimes called the Microsoft Scam, the Windows Scam, or the Tech Support Scam. No matter what it is called, it's important to know that Microsoft will never call to say it found a problem with your PC. Its staffers are not monitoring millions of computers for problems.
Janszen hung up, but the damage had been done: the scammer had already downloaded malware onto her computer. She ultimately had to take her locked computer to Staples, where tech support staff cleared out the scammer's malware — for a small fee.
Her advice to others now? "Honestly, I would not take a phone call from anyone, saying they are from anywhere," she said.
Bottom line: if someone calls claiming to be with Microsoft or Windows, hang up. Microsoft will never call customers to tell them their computer isn't working.
Finally, be on the lookout for the digital version of this scam, where a box pops up telling users to call a phone number to remove a virus. A shutdown and reboot should prevent any malware from being installed on the computer.
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