Ever so often you hear murmurs of the latest phone scams circulating. Last week I heard of a new scam going around; the callers claim they are from Microsoft and tell you that your computer has been hacked or has some sort of virus and that they need some personal information from you so that they can ‘fix your problem’.
What can actually happen if you give any of your personal information, go to any websites, or download anything that they tell you you need to download in order to ‘fix’ your computer is that they can gain access to your computer, install malicious software, or gain access to personal content on your computer without you ever knowing it.
Thousands of people in this country fall for these types of phone scams every year resulting in the loss of money, identity theft, and the list goes on.
The Microsoft company doesn’t actually make these types of calls and so the first thing you need to know is that if they are claiming to be Microsoft it is a scam.
Do not provide them with any information. Do not download anything they tell you to download. Do not visit any websites they suggest you visit.
In fact, the safest thing to do is to say, “No, thank you,” and hang up.
Here are some red flags to look out for when taking any calls from a number that you don’t recognize that may be a telemarketing scam. (Taken from the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information website www.consumer.ftc.gov):
• You’ve been specially selected (for this offer).
• You’ll get a free bonus if you buy our product.
• You’ve won one of five valuable prizes.
• You’ve won big money in a foreign lottery.
• This investment is low risk and provides a higher return than you can get anywhere else.
• You have to make up your mind right away.
• You trust me, right?
• You don’t need to check our company with anyone.
• We’ll just put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card.
The website also goes on to tell of some of the most popular subjects that these scammers use as bait, such as travel packages including low cost or free vacations, credit and loans, charity organizations, foreign lotteries, extended car warranties, and ‘free’ trial offers on varying types of products.
To protect yourself from these types of scams here are some guidelines:
• Never give your credit card, checking account , or Social Security number information out
• Always research a charity or company before making any donations
• Observe the time of day of the call. Telemarketers are only permitted by law to call between 8am - 9pm
The Federal Trade Commission website also warns that if you are getting a pre-recorded call to not press “1” to speak to a live operator or any other numbers that will take you off the list. If you do press a key on your keypad it will likely enroll you to receive more robocalls. The best thing to do is to simply hang up.
If you have received any of these annoying and potentially dangerous types of calls there are a couple of actions that you can take. Firstly you can visit the National Do Not Call Registry at donotcall.gov and register your number. After thirty one days of registering your number if you are still receiving these calls you can then report them to the Federal Trade Commission online at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222.