Eaton: Fun with a phone scammer (and how to protect yourself)


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IDAHO FALLS — When my phone buzzed this morning with a number I didn’t recognize, I figured it might be someone calling with a news tip.

Instead it was a man claiming to be with the Microsoft IT Windows department and he was calling to let me know that personal information from my computer, including credit card and bank account numbers, was being leaked online.

Our intern, Brandon, grabbed his phone and started videotaping the call. After playing along with the alleged IT man for a few minutes, he told me to get lost (in not so nice terms) and hung up.

It seems that I’ve been getting more of these types of calls over the last six months. I’ve received at least 10 calls from someone claiming they can restore my bad credit if I simply press 5, and then there’s the calls offering my family an all-inclusive vacation anywhere in the world with no strings attached.

Scam phone calls are not new. Microsoft receives an average of 10,000 customer complaints every month about tech support scams from all across the globe. Many of the victims are senior citizens who fall for the phony story being told to them from somebody in a faraway call center.

Two months ago law enforcement took action against a number of tech support fraudsters targeted by Microsoft’s Digital Crime Unit. The FTC and its partners announced 16 new actions, including complaints, settlements, indictments and guilty pleas, involving deceptive tech support operations.

Seven people received criminal indictments for their role in a Florida-based fraudulent operation where about 40,000 people were defrauded out of more than $25 million over three years.

If you receive a notification or call from someone claiming to be from a reputable company, here are a few key tips to keep in mind:

  • Microsoft and most businesses will never proactively reach out to you to provide unsolicited PC or technical support. Any communication will be initiated by you.
  • Do not call the phone number in a pop-up window on your device.
  • 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.
  • If skeptical, take the person’s information down and immediately report it to your local authorities.

Remember – if you are suspicious, hang up and then call the company’s listed phone number to confirm if they really are trying to reach you.