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Attorney General warns of Microsoft support scam

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Scammers posing as Microsoft representatives offering technical support are said to be the latest scam to hit the state.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a warning Tuesday about the scam, saying his office has received numerous complaints from consumers across the state.

The false Microsoft representatives allegedly call consumers and claim their computers are running slowly because of malware or viruses, or because they need additional software. The attorney general warns that the scammers then extract a fee after obtaining credit card information over the phone, or by directing consumers to enter PayPal, bank or credit card information on a website controlled by the scammers.

Mr. Schneiderman said the fake representatives have even spoofed the telephone’s caller ID to read “Windows Support” in some cases.

“Consumer fraudsters come in all shapes and sizes, from false advertisers and illegal pet sellers to identity thieves and predatory lenders. Unfortunately, we can now add scammers posing as computer experts to that list,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

According to the attorney general’s office, the scammers begin by leading consumers through steps to display Microsoft’s event viewer log, which displays various events that have occurred on the computer, including red-marked “errors” and yellow-marked “warnings.” Even though these events are often inconsequential, the false employees claim they are proof the computer is corrupted and requires additional action, which includes giving the scam artists remote access to the computer.

At this stage, consumers are directed to pay a fee, which Mr. Schneiderman said reportedly has been as high as $300. If the consumer does not pay the fee, the scammers use the remote access to delete consumers’ files, steal sensitive personal data, adjust security settings to leave the computer vulnerable, install dangerous software or disable their computers. The scammers reportedly are operating from overseas.

His office suggests anyone who receives such a call hang up and not give out passwords or billing information. For those who already have given computer access, the office suggests changing computer and email passwords and updating or downloading legitimate security software.

Anyone who has been a victim of the scam can file a complaint with the state attorney general’s office by calling (800) 771-7755 or visiting www.ag.ny.gov.

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