BBB alerts Oklahoma residents of 'Microsoft' tech support scam [The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City :: ]
(Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 17--Swindlers posing as computer experts and using the Microsoft name have been calling Oklahomans, claiming they can remove bugs from the Oklahomans' virus-infected computers -- for a fee.
Kitt Letcher, president of the Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma, said her agency began receiving reports of the scam early this month, and has fielded at least two complaints a day for the past two weeks.
If consumers balk, scammers ask for access to their computers so they can show them the offending items -- typically harmless files found on most computers, Letcher said. If the consumers bite on the pitch, the callers request credit card information or direct consumers to their PayPal accounts or other electronic payment methods, she said.
"While they're on the computer with you, they actually can put a virus on your computer that will extort all your information," Letcher said. One victim, she said, watched as her computer files were deleted one after another.
"The scammer told her she had to pay $179 to get them back," she said.
'We have your email'
A former co-owner of a florist shop, Sonjia Henderson, of Rush Springs, said she was caught off-guard by the call because hours earlier she had been discharged from the hospital and had gone days without sleep.
She said the caller, who had a Middle Eastern accent and said he was with Microsoft security, told her, "I noticed your mother's security has been violated, and I'm here to help you take care of it."
Henderson had lost her mother that month and her husband, who typically handled their computer affairs, the month prior.
She asked for the caller's employee I.D. and to talk with his supervisor, who he said was tied up. "Ma'am, you've already lost one-third of your hardware," he said.
Henderson said she panicked, fearing she'd lose sermons and photographs of her husband, who was a minister, as well as a book she's writing about their life together.
She gave the caller her Visa account number, and when he told her the card didn't go through, she gave him her American Express information.
Henderson then turned her computer off, took a four-hour nap and awoke with a clear mind, she said. She called both credit card companies. Visa didn't accept the charge from "Gimitts Global" and American Express hadn't yet processed it.
Henderson said she ignored several subsequent calls, including a call a few days later from someone claiming to be a supervisor, and another a few months later from a woman who said the company had dropped its account with Microsoft and wanted to help her with a refund.
Midwest City retiree Shirley Vollmer said she received eight similar calls from people saying they were with Microsoft and wanted to provide security.
"Are you at your computer now so you can get on it?" they asked her.
She said one caller said, "If you don't want to cooperate, we have your email."
Not just phone calls
Davis Merrey, owner and chief executive of TeamLogic IT of Oklahoma City, said he's received a few calls in the last two weeks from customers who said they had similar experiences. He said he's already warned most of his customers to avoid such scams.
"This latest one was via telephone calls, but they've also been done via emails, texts, links on websites and Internet pop-ups," Merrey said. "We advise our clients not to respond to such 'invitations,'" he said.
"My rule of thumb is: if you don't know and trust, for certain, who you're communicating with, be very suspicious and don't give them access to your data or device, nor give them any information that they could use to gain such access," he said.
If consumers receive pop-ups, they should re-start their computers and refrain from clicking on any parts of their desktops, Merrey said. "Clicking the little 'X' that you think will close the pop-up will in many cases cause your computer to download a virus or form of malware," he said.
Letcher concurs, and recommends consumers regularly change their computer passwords and, if they believe they've been victimized, place fraud alerts on their credit report with the three credit bureaus -- Equifax at (800) 525-6285, Experian at (888) 397-3742 and Trans Union at (800) 680-7289.
"That way, any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and must call you to authorize new credit," she said.
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