Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Indian "Tech Support" Scam Catches My Wife

There is a telephone/internet scam originating from India that will steal your money, your identity and your files.  It is popular right now, and someone may call you claiming to be from Microsoft Tech Support, and that they have found viruses on your computer that need to be fixed immediately.  However, it is a SCAM, and the caller is not from Microsoft at all.  One of these scammers called my wife last Sunday, and she fell for it, giving the scammer online access to our computers, and even providing the scammer with the password to her bank debit card. 

My wife had been on the phone with our Internet Service Provider, discussing issues with our wireless modem.  So I was not alarmed when she came to me and said that a tech support person was on the phone, and that "corruptions" were found on our computers, and this was causing the modem problems.  The tech support guy called himself Steve, but "Steve" had a strong Indian accent.  Okay, probably calling from a call center, nothing alarming about that.  However, Steve was not from our Internet Service Provider as I had assumed.

Steve wanted to look at my computer too, so I handed it to my wife and went on smoking my cigar and drinking my morning coffee.  Steve showed us alleged corruptions on our computers using Eventvwr (Event Viewer), a utility built into Windows.  Steve, who announced that he is from Microsoft, said that Microsoft would fix the problems and protect against future ones for two years for $149.

Mrs. Chomper then gave Steve online access to our computers using a downloaded program called TeamViewer, a program that allows someone to remotely control your computer.  While TeamViewer displayed a graph on our screens, "Steve" was busily making changes to our computers behind the scenes, and installing locked passwords that would later deny us access to our own machines.  

I was sitting in the living room, but could hear my wife arguing with Steve about the necessity of providing him with a credit card.  My antennae shot up when Steve insisted on a debit card rather than a regular credit card, and stated that it was necessary for us to set up a Western Union account for transferring money.  I began yelling at my wife, "Hang up, hang up, it's a scam!"  She ignored me, perhaps too focused on her conversation with Steve, or more likely, she thinks she knows everything and needs no direction.  However, in her defense, the scammer knew her name, and provided details of her Microsoft accounts that convinced her he was on the level.  Somehow, the scammer had access to private information even before he called.

At this point, I turned on my iPad and googled "Indian guys calling from Microsoft" or some such, and immediately learned that this is the Microsoft Tech Support scam (though Microsoft has nothing to do with it).  I could find no way to shut off TeamViewer using regular means, so I pushed the power buttons down and held them, forcing our machines to power off.  This stopped any file transfers, but when I turned our laptops back on, we were unable to boot up Windows or access any programs or files.  A window came up instead, asking for a password to allow us to boot up.  It wasn't our regular passwords, and we were locked out.

Dell is sending us new Windows 10 CDs to reinstall Windows, and they should arrive tomorrow.  I suspect that we will lose both programs and files.  Meanwhile, we signed up for Lifelock, my wife cancelled her bank debit card, called Western Union and had them terminate our unwanted account with them (the scammer had already initiated a transfer of $500 from us to him, but fortunately it was cancelled in time).  Now we are busy changing all of our passwords.  For our online banking, I changed the log-in name as well as the password.  We notified the bank to be on alert for suspicious activity.

I am writing this from a nine year old Dell Inspiron, my wife's older computer that hasn't been booted up for more than a year.  It took some doing to get it operating smoothly, using a reg cleaner and updating Windows 7, reinstalling web browsers and such, and of course, running virus scans to be sure it is safe.  That took all day yesterday.

According to TechEye.Net, Microsoft seems to think that the scam "was being used by dodgy people within the Microsoft Partner Network." Microsoft terminated its relationship with certain partners who "are clearly misrepresenting their relationship with us and using our company name in order to facilitate their telephone scam operations."  Microsoft has also sued one Indian company for engaging in these scams.  Read more about it here.

The scammer's insider knowledge of my wife's Microsoft ID's and accounts is what fooled my wife.  However, Microsoft doesn't call people out of the blue.  If you get such a phone call, HANG UP.

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