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Microsoft Warns of Internet Phone Scam

By - Source: Microsoft | B 26 comments

Internet phishers have turned to making actual phone calls to potential victims in order to steal hard-earned cash.

Thursday Microsoft said that there's an emerging form of Internet fraud that is costing victims an average of $875 USD. But unlike the typical phishing hooks that arrive via email and lead to identity-stealing malware, these scammers are making it personal by contacting consumers directly by phone, posing as computer security engineers.

"The scam works by criminals posing as computer security engineers and calling people at home to tell them they are at risk of a computer security threat," Microsoft said Thursday. "The scammers tell their victims they are providing free security checks and add authenticity by claiming to represent legitimate companies and using telephone directories to refer to their victims by name."

Microsoft said that once these phone-calling sharks have tricked their prey into believing they have a problem and that the caller can help, the scammers supposedly run through a range of "deception techniques" designed to steal money.

After surveying 7,000 computer users in the U.K., Ireland, U.S. and Canada, Microsoft discovered that 15-percent of the participants actually received a call from the scammers. Out of that group alone, 22-percent actually fell for the phone scam and followed the hackers' instructions which ranged from permitting remote access to their computer, downloading the hackers' software code, providing credit card information and making a purchase.

"The vast majority (79-percent) of people deceived in this way suffered some sort of financial loss," Microsoft said. "17-percent said they had money taken from their accounts, 19-percent reported compromised passwords and 17-percent were victims of identity fraud. More than half (53-percent) said they suffered subsequent computer problems."

The lowest amount of money stolen from victims was $82 in Ireland, and the highest spiked to a hefty $1,560 in Canada. The cost to repair the damage caused by the hackers have ranged from $1,730 to $4,300 so far.

"The security of software is improving all the time, but at the same time we are seeing cybercriminals increasingly turn to tactics of deception to trick people in order to steal from them," said Richard Saunders, director of International Public and Analyst Relations at Microsoft. "Criminals have proved once again that their ability to innovate new scams is matched by their ruthless pursuit of our money."

To read more, check out Microsoft's survey results here.

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Top Comments
  • 11 Hide
    sliem , June 16, 2011 11:46 PM
    Oh man I want to get that phone call and frustrate them... "how do I turn on my computer?" "where's the start button?" "drag what? I don't have rodents in my house, sir." "Drag this across my desktop? Won't that throw everything to the floor? Who will clean that, you??"
Other Comments
  • -1 Hide
    otacon72 , June 16, 2011 10:16 PM
    If you're stupid enough to fall for this you deserve everything you get.
  • 6 Hide
    Anonymous , June 16, 2011 10:34 PM
    I'm in the UK, and received a call from "Thomas" who worked for microsoft, apparently, which had detected a virus emanating from my PC. They knew my name, and clearly had my (ex-directory) phone number. Apart from the incredibly crackly line and Indian accent, they sound /very/ convincing. Their MO. is to start off by offering to work with you to identify the virus. A friend's parents were caught out by this. The 'support engineer', talked the user through navigating to the IE Cookie folder and demonstrated that there was personal information in that folder. He then got them to download a 'cleaner' (i.e. trojan). When he asked for payment of £435, my friend's dad had presence of mind to say "Invoice me", to which the 'engineer' hung up.

    I've called TPS, OfCom, BT and written to our local MP (recieving a reply from Ed Vasey, no less), assuring me that there's nothing anyone can do, because these scams originate abroad.

    Until someone in some power leans on BT to actually chase up these scam calls, it'll just continue, and these criminals will continue to operate with impunity.

    BT's best offer was to 'block all international calls'. I suggest that everyone call BT and ask for this feature, if you can.

  • Display all 26 comments.
  • 1 Hide
    dalethepcman , June 16, 2011 10:42 PM
    There is a sucker born every minute, and if you don't realize this, then you probably already are, or are about to become one.
  • 0 Hide
    alidan , June 16, 2011 10:52 PM
    im hopeing for a call like this now...

    i dont get the chance to really f with people sense telemarketers stopped calling. the last one called while i was... well lets say it involved porn and my right hand... and i put the phone close and on speaker so they could hear the sound... i miss telemarketers.
  • 0 Hide
    teflon2287 , June 16, 2011 11:19 PM
    I have been getting calls like this on and off for over a year (in Australia)...
  • 0 Hide
    opmopadop , June 16, 2011 11:41 PM
    My friend from Australia got one of these a few weeks ago. He asked to talk to their manager lol. Funny how these scams are going around the world.
  • 1 Hide
    upgrade_1977 , June 16, 2011 11:41 PM
    I love getting people like this on the phone, especially sales people. Nothing funner then letting them do there rant, and then I say "I'm sorry, could you please repeat that"? then they do, when they are done, I ask a few questions, then I say "i'm sorry, could you please explain it to my wife"? then after they explain, I have her ask them some questions, and then wait for them to ask for the credit card number, then just hang up.. LOL, i've actually had a few of them hang up on me. Hey, time is money, nothing you can do better then waste there time.
  • 11 Hide
    sliem , June 16, 2011 11:46 PM
    Oh man I want to get that phone call and frustrate them... "how do I turn on my computer?" "where's the start button?" "drag what? I don't have rodents in my house, sir." "Drag this across my desktop? Won't that throw everything to the floor? Who will clean that, you??"
  • 1 Hide
    livebriand , June 17, 2011 12:22 AM
    Seriously, you really think I'll trust that?
  • 3 Hide
    livebriand , June 17, 2011 12:23 AM
    sliemOh man I want to get that phone call and frustrate them... "how do I turn on my computer?" "where's the start button?" "drag what? I don't have rodents in my house, sir." "Drag this across my desktop? Won't that throw everything to the floor? Who will clean that, you??"

    LOLOLOLOLOLOL
    I've heard of people giving people complex questions ("What OS does this run?") just to baffle Best Buy employees. I'll bet it works too.
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , June 17, 2011 12:29 AM
    Had one of these a few weeks ago. Played along for quite a while - the Indian guy on the other end got me to run services.msc and said that all the processes with "stopped" next to them were responsible for the "viruses emanating from your PC, sir, at danger to yourself and your neighbours sir." ?!?

    Got as far as him trying to get me to download some remote access software before I asked him if the tables were turned would he click on an exe file if someone phoned him up from England. He said he wouldn't, sounded mightily pissed off with me and hung up... Hehe. That's 20 minutes of his time that won't be spent confusing people like my grandmother who may not be tech savvy enough to appreciate what would seem to most of us an obvious scam...
  • 0 Hide
    geraldfryjr , June 17, 2011 12:38 AM
    Ohh man I wish would get a call like that so I could have some fun running them through the ringer as I have several machines running 24/7.that would keep them busy until I got a trace on them!he,he
  • 2 Hide
    tokencode , June 17, 2011 1:26 AM
    Thes best way to get back at them is to ship them something with a high declared value (like a laptop) but send them some rocks and newpapers, dogcrap in a bag etc. They will have to pay the import tax on the declared value in whatever 3rd world country they are in. Nothing better than a nigerian scammer paying $500 for a bag of dog crap.
  • 5 Hide
    murdoc , June 17, 2011 3:50 AM
    otacon72If you're stupid enough to fall for this you deserve everything you get.


    It's not stupid. Not many people have such in dept knowledge about computers, especially the elderly. These scams work on those who have either 1) no interests in computers 2) Have little or no knowledge about computers other than basic windows operations.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 17, 2011 3:56 AM
    They call me often and try to get me to "run" a program. They try to make you navigate to a registry string that is identical on every system to validate there claims of personal info. Unfortunately I know many people who would fall for this. They are relentless and desperate. I strung one along for 25 minutes the other nite even though I first started off by saying I had no internet connection!. The girl said "there are other ways for spyware to connect". No matter how stupid I acted they kept at it.

    The anonymous phone providers should take some responsibility here. I am not saying "sue them" but rather they could shut down there accounts.
  • 2 Hide
    wowohwow , June 17, 2011 5:26 AM
    You've only gotta be someone who's not that computer savy, and there's your money. How many times have you been asked by your parents or someone you know about how to do something on their computer. Or why does it say I have 600 trojans on my computer and why do I need to download this software.
  • 0 Hide
    apache_lives , June 17, 2011 8:12 AM
    this has been going on for months here in Australia - at first we thought a major retailer was leaking information but as we asked everyone where they got there pc, its wasnt anywhere specific

    my old man last week got a call from "microsoft" saying he had a virus and they tried him but without luck, but many people come into my work because they fell for it

    THIS IS A COMMON THING NOW

    we get atleast 10 calls a week where they fell for it
  • 1 Hide
    HappyBB , June 17, 2011 9:37 AM
    The US seems to be late in being affected by phone scams. In my country, phone scamming is so common that people are very aware of and sensitive about it. Unfortunately, there are still people falling for it regularly. I wish LulzSec will hack those scam originators!
  • 1 Hide
    hoofhearted , June 17, 2011 1:59 PM
    I have DSL and it comes with a phone line. Never use it (for real) since I have my cell. It still get about two calls a day from telemarketers (shows the phone company has my best interests at heart). But, boy is that line fun. It is like Jerky Boys, except that they come to me!! I love telling the women marketers, "Well, I'll answer your survey, if you answer me this, How big are your hoohahs?" Can't get me for harassment, especially since they called me.
  • 0 Hide
    grieve , June 17, 2011 2:59 PM
    ""The cost to repair the damage caused by the hackers have ranged from $1,730 to $4,300 so far.""

    Who is the real thieves here? lol 4300?! wtf!
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