Scams come in all shapes and sizes. The evildoers who create viruses and spyware, for instance, often rely on scare tactics, like a pop-up window with an alarming message like, "Your computer is infected! Click here to scan your system and remove the malicious software."
Of course, savvy PC World readers know better than to click such a pop-up, and that such warnings are often the infections themselves trying to hack into your PC or trick you into entering your credit card number.
That's why scammers have turned to a new tactic: the telephone. As described over at the Windows Security Blog, at least 1,000 users have received phone calls with the same alarming message as the aforementioned pop-up window: "We've detected rogue software on your computer. We can take care of it for you; we'll just need your credit card number." Reports the blog:
"The callers pretend to be from Microsoft and try to sell the victim something, direct them to a specific website, asked for remote access, to install software, a credit card number, or run a bogus security scan that showed an infection."
The startling statistic is that of the 1,000 users surveyed, 234 fell for the scam, and nearly 200 were taken for an average of $800.
I hope it goes without saying that if any company calls your home or office and asks for personal information, you should never provide it. Instead, hang up, call the company in question, tell the representative about the call you received, and ask if there's a problem with your account.
For the record, there is absolutely no way for Microsoft to "detect" a problem with your PC. Windows can detect problems, and in some cases even report them back to Microsoft, but there is no such thing as a proactive Microsoft support department that calls you to offer help. (I can't help but laugh at the very notion.)
For more information, click the above link and read the complete blog post, which includes some additional tips for protecting yourself from these and other scams. As always, the best defense is knowledge.
Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at email@example.com, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums.