Continuing my summer theme on Computer Security, today I want to address the issue of companies that contact you, alerting you to problems with your computer and offering to fix them. Sometimes these offers come up on your computer. Other times you get unsolicited phone calls warning you of problems with your computer. Either way, they are bad news.
One of the most notorious and seemingly never-ending swindles is the Windows Support scam.
Many people I know have received calls from someone purporting to be from “Windows Support.” Personally, I’ve received these calls countless times. When you answer, they start out by telling you that they are from Microsoft or sometimes just “Windows Support.” They’ve called to warn you that they have detected problems with your computer, and they can fix them online. They may have you run a program that lists a whole host of things that are supposed to be malicious. In fact, the things displayed, while they may look strange to you, may be completely benign. To “fix” these issues, they ask for your credit card and remote access to your computer. Not only can this cost you money, but when you open up your entire computer to a complete stranger, you have done the virtual equivalent of opening the front door of your house to a thief and inviting him in. They may install malware on your computer; they may download sensitive files. Whatever they do, they are definitely up to no good.
Another approach is a popup that may appear on your computer, warning you of a problem and instructing you to call a number to get help.
When you get someone on the line, they may claim to be a Microsoft contractor who has been authorized to take care of issues with Windows computers. At this point, the scenario becomes quite similar to the Windows Support scam. They request remote access to your computer, and then proceed to install virus and malware protection (programs that are actually available to you for free). You will not only be charged for these services at the time they are provided, but they may enroll you in a monthly recurring charge (sometimes without your knowledge) to supposedly monitor your computer and keep you free of problems.
Microsoft will never contact you about a problem with your computer. And any kind of pop-up warning that instructs you to call someone else for help is not on the up-and-up.