Examiner reporter Martin Shaw wasn’t about to be caught out when he received an early morning phone call at home.
The caller, sounding distant and speaking in an Indian accent, claimed to be from computer software giant Microsoft.
He said Martin’s computer was sending “error messages” back to Microsoft and if the machine wasn’t put right immediately it would “stop working forever.”
His voice high pitched and urgent he appealed: “Do you want that to happen?”
Martin, realising he was the target of a scam, played along with the caller.
He kept him talking long enough to get his mobile phone and record a video clip of the scam in action.
The caller urged Martin to follow his instructions in a bid to persuade him his computer was doomed.
Martin said: “I was just having my breakfast when my landline rang. I was expecting it to be a friend.
“The caller mumbled something about Microsoft and said my computer was sending error messages and if it wasn’t put right immediately it would stop working forever. He asked me if I wanted to save my computer.
“He was very persistent and made everything sound urgent. I was aware of this scam so wasn’t about to be caught out but I can see how people could be taken in.
“And by the time they realise it’s a con they will probably have lost money.”
Martin, who likes nothing better than wasting the time of cold callers, kept the scammer talking for over five minutes.
“He asked me if my computer was on, then tried to talk me through some process to convince me that what he said about the error messages was true.
“My computer wasn’t on but I bluffed my way through to buy time to catch the conversation on video. He used scare tactics which could panic people into trusting him.”
Towards the end of the call, the scammer asks: “Do you want to save your computer?”
Martin replies: “Yes I do please.”
The scammer tells him to follow his instructions and Martin says: “I will follow your instructions but you are a scam, aren’t you?
“You’re trying to rip me off, trying to steal money from my bank account. You can’t see my computer.”
The scammer then hung up.
The so-called “Microsoft Scam” has been around for several years. The caller claims to be from “Microsoft Tech Support” and tells the potential victim they have a virus on their computer which needs special software to remove.
The caller either installs malware to seize control of the victim’s computer, gaining access to bank accounts and the like, or asks for credit card details to pay for the software.
Often it is the same software available free online.
Sometimes callers are told they need to “validate Windows” or they have won the “Microsoft Lottery”, which does not exist.
The best advice is to hang up and never give bank details over the phone.
Computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help fix computers. If in doubt, hang up and ring the firm directly on telephone numbers obtained from trusted sources.
National Trading Standards gives the following advice to avoid computer software scams
* Computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer. Fraudsters make these phone calls to try to steal from you and damage your computer with malware.
* Treat all unsolicited phone calls with scepticism and don’t give out any personal information.
* Computer firms tend not to send out unsolicited communication about security updates, although they do send security software updates to subscribers of the security communications program. If in doubt, don’t open the email.
* Microsoft does not request credit card information to validate copies of Windows.
* Microsoft does validate requests to download software from its website via its ‘Genuine Advantage Program’, but never asks for any personally identifying information, including credit card details.* The ‘Microsoft Lottery’ does not exist.