Warning over local Microsoft phone scam

This photo taken with a fisheye lens shows Microsoft signage outside the Microsoft Visitor Centre in Redmond. (Ted S Warren, AP, file)
This photo taken with a fisheye lens shows Microsoft signage outside the Microsoft Visitor Centre in Redmond. (Ted S Warren, AP, file)

Johannesburg - Fraudsters are masquerading as software company Microsoft in a telephone scam targeted at tricking consumers and companies out of thousands of rands.

“Many users” in South Africa are receiving phone calls from these fraudsters, according to Christopher Riley who is the chief executive of laptop and accessories retailer The Notebook Company.

Riley explained in a statement on Tuesday that these fraudsters pretend to be Microsoft officials who tell users that there is a problem with their PCs.

“Users often get duped into believing the caller and subsequently allow the caller remote access to their system. Key logging or similar software is then installed on a user’s system - unbeknown to the user,” said Riley

“Perpetrators then monitor the person doing their day-to-day work, including banking activities.

“There are also cases of these cyber crooks actually transferring people’s money, or changing people’s banking details in emails so that people pay money into the perpetrator’s accounts inadvertently,” said Riley.

Riley further said the extent of the scam is unknown at this stage.

Microsoft responds

Meanwhile, Fin24 on Tuesday asked software giant Microsoft to respond to questions about this alleged scam.

Microsoft has subsequently, in a statement, issued a warning to the public about the scam.

According to Microsoft, the scammers use public phone directories as information gathering sources on consumers “in an effort to convince clients that they can be trusted”.

Microsoft said that, in addition, these callers also claim to be from the Windows Helpdesk, Windows Service Centre, Microsoft Tech Support, Microsoft Support, Windows Technical Department Support Group or even Microsoft’s Research and Development Team.

The scammers then claim the user has a computer problem, infection or virus that has been detected by Microsoft.

“In reality, the scammer only tricked unsuspecting consumers into believing that there is a problem and that paying a fee would be the best way to sort the issues out,” said Ashleigh Fenwick, Microsoft South Africa’s public relations and communications manager.

“Often they will also push clients to purchase a one year computer maintenance subscription,” said Fenwick.

Fenwick further said that Microsoft will not cold call consumers and the company is urging users to not purchase software or services over the phone, and to never authorise remote control over a PC to a third party.

Fenwick also urged consumers not to give their credit card details over the phone and to call police if they encounter the scammers.

Have you been a victim of this scam or encountered these con-artists? Tell us by clicking here.

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