Here’s how it works:
The telephone rings, another interrupted dinner this week. You want to hang up, however you hear key words warning of imminent computer disaster and decide to stay on the phone. A voice, usually accented, says “Hello, this is Microsoft and we’ve been notified by your computer that there is a problem”.
A discussion ensues as you explain any symptoms of slow operations or irregular actions. The “Microsoft technician” picks up on the clues you just gave and asks you to do some basic computer tests or reports, to gain your trust. He then asks you to download a software utility from a website or asks to log in at an unknown website that allows remote access to your computer. Unsuspecting, you give out the access codes or passwords.
The screen changes, the mouse moves itself while you wonder in amazement that your computer will soon be repaired. The caller then asks you for your credit card number. Bewildered and suddenly alert, you ask why such an amount for about 10 minutes of work? Now comes the blackmail: he says you will have to pay or else you will not be able to access your computer.
The scammer has actually done nothing to improve your computer but instead installed a high level lock on your Windows operating system. Frustrated and angry, you realize that you have just been duped by the Microsoft Phone Scam. All this could have been avoided had you been alerted beforehand.
■ Harry Mah