HOUSTON – It’s a scam that’s been around for a few years: you get a phone call from someone who pretends to be from Microsoft and says you need to go to a certain website so they can fix an issue detected on your computer.
Don’t go to the website. Just hang up.
If you go to the website, you’ll usually give the scammer full access to your computer. Most of the time, they then install a form of malware called “ransomware.” The malware will demand you make a payment (in the hundreds of dollars) via credit card to unlock your PC.
Some of this malware can look very convincing – just like your computer’s regular anti-virus or security software. You’ll know it’s a scam if it’s asking for money to fix your computer. Legit software will never do this.
Thankfully the Federal Trade Commission earlier this month launched a major crackdown on these types of tech support scams. Unfortunately, they’re still happening.
At the request of the FTC, a U.S. District Court Judge ordered a halt to six alleged tech support scams pending further hearings, and has frozen their assets.
“The FTC has been aggressive – and successful – in its pursuit of tech support scams,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “And the tech support scam artists we are talking about today have taken scareware to a whole other level of virtual mayhem.”
If for some reason your computer ever becomes infected with ransomware, don’t pay the fee that pops up on your screen. (If you do, you can always try and dispute the charge with your credit card company.) Hand the computer over to a friend or company you trust to help clean the malware off, or use free software from the web to try and do it yourself.
You can also file a complaint about these scams with the FTC via its online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).