The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

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July 6, 2013

Fraudulent Microsoft tech support calls sweeping East Texas

PALESTINE — Law enforcement officials are warning citizens to be aware of a phone phishing scam targeting PC users.

Numerous complaints from Texans receiving calls from someone claiming to represent Microsoft computer software company, have been filed across the state recently, police said.

The scam artists tell victims they are “tech support” for the company and they received information about issues the victim’s computer might be experiencing from the internet service provider.

According to Microsoft’s website, once a scammer has access to a computer, they can install or will get the computer’s owner to install malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords.

They might also then charge the victim to remove this software; take control of a computer remotely and adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable; request credit card information so they can bill the victim for phony services; or direct the computer user to fraudulent websites and request the user enter credit card and other personal or financial information there.

“Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or software fixes,” the software company’s website, www.microsoft.com/security, states. “There are some cases where Microsoft will work with your Internet service provider and call you to fix a malware-infected computer — such as during the recent cleanup effort begun in our botnet takedown actions.

“These calls will be made by someone with whom you can verify you already are a customer. You will never receive a legitimate call from Microsoft or our partners to charge you for computer fixes.”

Some of the organizations cybercriminals have claimed to be from include Windows Helpdesk, Windows Service Center, Microsoft Tech Support, Microsoft Support, Windows Technical Department Support Group or Microsoft Research and Development Team (Microsoft R&D Team).

More than 280,000 complaints of online criminal activity were reported in 2012, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and this particular version of the phishing scheme has been around since 2008.

“Criminals are increasingly migrating their fraudulent activities from the physical world to the internet,” Richard A. McFeely, executive assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch, stated in an online publication of the 2012 Cybercrime Report. “Computer users who suspect or become victims of online fraud schemes — including suspicious e-mails, fraudulent Web sites and Internet crimes — should report them to the IC3.

“The IC3 analyzes and makes connections among these reports and packages them for potential action by law enforcement.”

IC3 is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).

Since its start in 2000, IC3 has become a mainstay for victims reporting Internet crime and a way for law enforcement to be notified of such crimes. IC3’s service to the law enforcement community includes federal, state, tribal, local, and international agencies that are combating Internet crime.

Microsoft officials shared these actions a computer owner can take if someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support calls:

• Do not trust unsolicited calls. Do not provide any personal information.

• Do not purchase any software or services.

• Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the “service.” If there is, hang up.

• Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer.

• Take the caller's information down and immediately report it to your local authorities.

• Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support.

If you or anyone you know has received a similar call, file a complaint with the IC3 by visiting www.ic3.gov.

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