Microsoft Tech Support Scam
With computers becoming such integral parts of everyday lives, when they break down it can cause a moment of panic. After all, if you think about it, our lives have been captured on our PCs and most of our work revolves around its use. Bills are paid, letters are written, homework and office work is done, and much more is now done through the use of various computer and web-based programs. A great option for many people evolved a few years ago that allowed PC technicians to work on your computer from their office. There's no doubt this saved time, money, and inconvenience but, unfortunately, it didn't take long before scammers caught onto this trick and are now creating havoc in cyberspace.
Although many of these scammers are internationally based, many working from call centers in India, this is not the only place of origination. At UCM in Kansas City, Missouri, Daniel Fowler, 21, was caught after downloading a remote access virus into computer systems throughout campus. Form anywhere on campus he and his friends were able to download personal information from faculty, students, and alumni, transfer money into their school accounts, and even change grades. What was really disturbing to many, however, was the fact that they could turn on web cams and photograph individuals while they were in private locations.
In order to gain access, various methods were used to infect computers including offering to show vacation photos from a thumb drive that had been infected or plugging an infected thumb drive into various computers around campus. Once the virus was downloaded they could then capture users' keystrokes, access confidential files, delete files, move money around, and even crash systems. This pales in comparison, however, to supposed PC tech centers that are run by scammers who can do even more damage.
A recent report by an Australian news agency reported that scammers are calling consumers and saying they are from agencies like Microsoft or Dell. They offer to verify the computer for a presence of viruses. Once users agree, they are directed to a website where they download a remote access program. What this does is give the con artists access to their lives. Once plugged in the scammers have total control of an individual's computer regardless of where they live or where the scammer is stationed.
During the newscast, which can be viewed on YouTube, the users' cursor danced across the screen without the individual ever touching a key or mouse. Files were deleted, programs downloaded, and secure accounts accessed while viewers watched. This was possible because the scammers, once in a system can see every keystroke an individual makes. If you access your bank account, they can see it along with your password and secret code and there is nothing they can't do. In essence, the computer thinks they are you.
In Fowler's case he was caught and is now being prosecuted by the FBI Cyber Crimes unit. As for those who are internationally based, they are much more difficult to catch and stop especially since international governments, such as the case in India, have yet to respond to requests for assistance. The result is, victims are losing thousands of dollars along with their identities.
The FBI warns computer users to be wary of anyone who suggests establishing a remote access for any reason. Microsoft and Dell have also issued warnings stating they never call computer owners and would never suggest remote access as it makes an individual too vulnerable. For those already involved in this type of scam, the FBI states the only thing you can do is reformat the computer because once your computer is infected, it can rarely be cleaned.
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