Several clients have told us recently of unsolicited calls they’ve received from a company claiming to be associated with Microsoft. Ultimately, our clients end up having their credit cards charged anywhere from $200 to $400 for this company supposedly fixing problems on their computers.
Apparently the company gives the impression that it is imperative that the computer be fixed immediately or it will cause untold permanent damage (which answers my question of, “If you thought there was a problem with your computer, why didn’t you give Geeks to the Rescue a call?”).
The business doing the scamming is currently called Tech-Optimizers. I say “currently” because there have been various similar scams over the past few years, which may or may not be the same outfit, with names such as:
Comantra, UnifyInfocom, SupportOnClick, TheNerdSupport, SecureSecurityInfotech, TheSupportOnline, Go4iSecure, ThesParkSupport, WinPCTech, CompStep, OrdinateurAssist, AdvPCCare, TechIsOnline, TechOnSupport, TechnoCure, FixOnClick, Log4Rescue, PCTechnoSupport, OnlinePCCare, or PCCare.
Tech-Optimizers typically call at night and say that they are a “Gold certified” representative of Microsoft and they are contacting owners of PCs who have been infected by a virus that it is spreading rapidly around the globe.
We don’t know how the scammers get the details of the people they call, but they seem to have enough knowledge to make their calls convincing. They often use the owner’s full name and one client said that they even knew how old her computer was. Other information they give, such as “You have a Windows computer” is no surprise because 4 out of 5 home computers are Windows computers.
However motivating the idea that your computer may have a particularly virulent infection is, if the PC owner has the presence of mind to say they haven’t seen any problems or that they have anti-virus software, the scammers tell them to use their computer’s “Run” utility and type in various commands (such as “prefetch virus”, “%temp%” and “eventvwr”) for proof. The scammers say that the results that come up prove that there are problems with the computer. In reality, the results are perfectly normal – I have to say that if you’ve never seen these sorts of things before they probably do look quite dire.
Once the PC owner is convinced that there is something wrong with their computer, the scammers give a final command to type in such as “iexplore www.logmein123.com”. This takes you to the perfectly-legitimate LogMeIn website whose purpose is to facilitate remote connections to computers. To this end, the web page that comes up asks that a 6 digit code be entered. This code is provided to the PC owner by the scammers and once it is typed in, LogMeIn automatically connects the scammers to the PC owner’s computer.
Accessing Your PC
Part of the banter to get you onside is to tell you that they will install the latest hi-tech virus removal tools for free on your computer. People love freebies and the scammers actually are being truthful here – of course, the catch is that these utilities are free for you to download from the author’s websites, anyway. However, while these free utilities are take their time scanning your computer for supposed viruses, the scammers are free to surf around your PC looking for interesting personal information you may have saved in easily accessible locations on your computer!
One of our clients told us that as she watched the cursor start moving around by itself on her computer screen, she had a mounting feeling of dread come over her and she quickly turned off her modem (clever thinking!). Within a minute, another call cam from Tech-Optimizers to tell her they’d lost the connection to her computer. She told them there had been a power failure and she’d call them back when it was over. They did hassle her with more phone calls over the next few days, but the important this is that she stopped them from continuing to play around on her computer and that she then called us.
Microsoft says they will never contact customers and ask for access to their computer system. Nor do they employ contractors to do so. So the moral to this story is if someone calls out of the blue telling you that something bad is happening to your computer, ignore them. Or, if you are feeling a bit bored, you could do like this guy does and string them along for a bit of a lark! (Warning: there are a couple of swear-words in this video).
The only time you need to be worried about viruses on your computer is if you’ve let your security software subscription lapse (or have none in the first place) or if you see symptoms of problems on your computer… in which case you should give a legitimate support business such as Geeks to the Rescue a call.