I RECEIVED an email from a concerned reader regarding an apparent scam that attempted to mislead, frighten, gain their trust and take their money.
The individual was contacted via the telephone by a company claiming to be from Microsoft, or a company acting on their behalf, concerned that the invididual's computer had been "reporting error messages" to them.
Naturally, they were calling to "assist in fixing it".
What followed was a confidence trick, instructing the user to visit a website in order to begin a pre-written scripted error report that would appear on the user's screen.
However, the error report was entirely false. It was not even a report, but a recorded video that plays on the user's screen. This apparent "error" was nothing more than a series of pre-rendered scary images and animations, designed to look like an actual error reporting program that is "scanning the hard disk". It would produce whatever pictures, "errors" or special effects its authors designed it to.
Imagine a video tape playing on your television featuring the word "ERROR" flashing, while a "repair man" tells you that this means your television is broken.
After this, they began probing the individual for their Windows login password. On Windows Vista and after, this is required for non-Administrator users to install software that accesses the high-level system files.
Psychologically, most people in this situation begin to feel very anxious, leaving themselves very open to the suggestion that the apparent caller from Microsoft has the answer... for a fee. In this case, the individual thankfully was alert enough to not give out any card or bank account details. The tricksters hung up the phone shortly after they realised that they were not getting the individual's money.
Strictly for reasons of personal security and awareness, we will give out the details of the website that this fraudulent "company" appears to operate from. The website is msitexpert.com, and the phone number given is 02034682669. These were both cited during the phone call.
The website is of particularly amaterish design, which is a tell-tale sign of a trickster. You wouldn't expect a door to door salesmen to be selling a car... nor should you expect a Microsoft-endorsed website to look this rough around the edges.
Now, let's look at the facts of the situation:
Computers do not "report errors" to companies without user consent each time it happens, nor do companies contact users out of the blue regarding these errors. Your computer automatically reports errors to only one person: You.
Following on, if you receive an inbound call... it can be from anyone. Do not take anyone at their word if they are calling to fix your computer, and do not follow any instructions given. If you want your computer fixed, you will arrange for it with a reputable service engineer.
Do not give out any personal details to any inbound caller, certainly not bank details. Again, it could be anyone. If anything, request that they verify details to you.
Having done some investigation into the details we were given, there have been other less fortunate people who have given out their details and who were conned out of upwards of £200 as a result.
As we've seen on recent weeks on Inverclyde Now, con artists are as prevailent as they always were, targetting and swindling the elderly and insecure out of their money. This is no different, using the complex subject of computing to exploit people's lack of confidence in their knowledge. Make no mistake, however: These people rely on you, the victim, to follow their instruction under the illusion of manufactured fear and duress. It is their income, they do it constantly, and know the buttons to press, the language to use, and recognise uncertainty and the potential for manipulation in a person's voice to bully them into paying for these non-existent services.
If you ever deal with anyone who you feel is putting you into this type of situation, where you feel control of the conversation slipping away and fear begins setting in, assert control over the situation and simply hang up the phone.