New twist on computer error message/virus scams: joint warning
SCAMwatch, Microsoft and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) are warning Australians to continue to be wary of scam calls claiming that your computer is infected with a virus or is sending out error messages.
In July 2010, SCAMwatch issued an alert regarding about these scams which continue to plague consumers.
Scammers, in a new twist, are making follow-up calls to people who initially fell victim to the scam. In these calls the scammer falsely claim to be from a foreign government, foreign law enforcement body, or from your bank, and offers to recover the money which you initially lost to the scam, in return for a fee. Beware – the scammer will not give you your money back and will only ask you for more money.
SCAMwatch has received numerous reports from consumers that the initial computer virus/error message scam telephone calls are continuing. Victims have reported receiving unsolicited calls from what they believe are foreign call centres. This scam typically involves a scammer cold-calling you and requesting remote access to your computer. If you give the scammer access, they will claim to run a scan, discover a fake virus and then apply high pressure sales tactics to convince you to buy unnecessary anti-virus software or technical services to ‘fix’ your computer.
Scam callers will tell you that you have a PC and then change their story if you advise them that you actually have a Mac. Scammers will even tell you that you have a computer when you don’t own one at all!
If you fall victim to this scam, as well as losing your money and getting a service which provides no benefit, your personal and banking details will be at risk. You may also expose yourself to a follow up scam like the one described above.
If you receive a call like this, just hang up.
- You receive a scam call out of the blue claiming there is a problem with your computer.
- The caller claims to be from a large computer company/brand, bank, financial institution, or legitimate technical service provider.
- They will request remote access to your computer and if you say yes will run a ‘scan’ that shows up a fake virus.
- The scammer will pressure you into buying unnecessary software or a service to ‘fix’ the computer.
- The scammer may be very persistent and use abusive or inappropriate language.
- The scammers may sound professional and knowledgeable.
- If you fall victim to the scam you may receive a follow up call falsely claiming to be from an overseas government or law enforcement body pretending they can recover the money you initially lost to the scam – Beware this is another scam!
- If you receive a phone call out of the blue about your computer system’s security status and requesting remote access - hang up – even if they mention a well-known company or product.
- Remember that you can still receive scam calls even if you have a private number or have listed your number on the Australian Government’s Do Not Call Register. Scammers can obtain your number fraudulently or from anywhere it has bee publicly listed such as in a phone book.
- NEVER give an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer.
- If you have given remote access to your computer, or you fear that your computer has been hacked, seek out help or advice from a qualified and reputable computer technician.
- Do not give out your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source.
- Make sure your computer is protected with regularly updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall - but research first and only purchase the software from a source that you know and trust.
- If you have fallen victim to a scam or you receive a lot of unsolicited emails and phone calls consider changing your email address and phone numbers.
- If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
You can report a scam to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch or by calling 1300 795 995.
- The ACMA's media release - The ACMA targets computer virus telemarketers - 24 March 2011
- ‘Scams beware’ on Microsoft Australia’s Government Affairs blog - GovTech or contact Microsoft Customer Service on 13 20 58.
- The ACMA’s consumer alert: Computer virus scam calls
- SCAMwatch radar July 2010: Telemarketing scam: your computer has a virus!