December 05, 2016

The Latest Twist on Tech Support Scams or How to Lose $3,000

You may have already heard about the computer technical support scam where someone impersonating a Microsoft technician calls and says there's something wrong with your computer and that they can fix it for a payment of a few hundred dollars.  You give them your credit card number so the technician can fix the problem remotely.  Next thing you know, the scammer has accessed your personal information and accounts and/or continues charging your credit card (sometimes repeatedly) for its useless services.

These scammers have now gone even further.  In this latest twist, the scammer processes your payment for the "computer repair" and then calls back a few weeks later saying that unfortunately, the attempted repair was unsuccessful.  As a courtesy, the scammer offers to refund the $300 you paid.  He asks you to provide your bank information so the money can be directly deposited to your account.  The fraudster then "mistakenly" sends $3,000 instead of $300 to your account and asks you to wire back the $2700 overpayment. You feel safe - this isn't like one of those fake check scams.  The money was transferred right into your account.  So you wire the excess funds right back.  It isn't until later that you find out where the $3000 payment came from in the first place.  Your own credit card - the one you gave the scammer in the original phone call - was used to get a $3000 cash advance, which the scammer promptly deposited in your bank account.  Now the fraudster has your money and you've got $3,000 worth of charges on your credit card. 

To avoid scams like these, remember these tips:

  • Microsoft will never call you for this reason.  So if you get such a phone call, hang up immediately.
  • If you get a call or message and you're still in doubt, you should contact Microsoft's Answer Desk directly at 1-800-426-9400. 
  • Never give out your financial or personal information to a caller, regardless of who they claim to be. 
  • Don't click on pop-up windows; they may download malware onto your computer.
  • Do not call toll-free numbers that appear on pop-up windows.

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