Phone Scams: What To Listen For & How To Avoid Them

With all of the modern forms of instant communication it is easy to stumble on a simple phone call from a fellow claiming to be someone he's not.  Phone scams are an extremely common form of social engineering that unscrupulous companies or individuals use in identity theft, credit fraud, and other illegal behavior that leaves you a victim without much recourse.

One of the most common phone scams is the Microsoft Security scam.  Someone calls your home number claiming to work for Microsoft (or one of their partners), saying they have detected security problems on your computer.  They claim to have software you can purchase to fix the problem and will try to get you to allow them remote access to your computer.  Oftentimes this software is either something you could download on your own for free anyway or it acts as an entry way for the attackers to record keystrokes, inject advertising, or do any number of other terrible things.

The most important things to remember are:

  • Microsoft will never call you.  That just doesn't happen (unless they are working with your ISP, then it's a possibility, but even then it's easy to verify).
  • Ask for a callback number.  If this is a legitimate business operation they will have a phone number you can call them back on.  If the individual on the phone refuses (or otherwise can't) to give you a call back number -- hang up.
  • Call your bank or credit card company.  If you've already given your information to a scammer call your bank and/or credit card company as soon as possible and cancel your cards.
  • Ask for help.  If your computer has had anything installed on it by these types of scams it should be considered contaminated.  We are happy to help you check your computer to see if any security problems remain.
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