Just today, a friend of mine who I live with received a phone call on our house phone saying that their computer is infected with a virus and she was being instructed to do certain procedures on the household computer. Luckily she told the caller to hang up and put the phone down and didn’t head towards the computer. This was very good for someone who hasn’t much familiarity with computer technology.
This is part of a scourge that is affecting home and small-business computer users and computer novices are more likely to be at risk of this fraud because they may not know the difference between a virus attack or a computer being very sluggish.
There has been some press coverage and coverage in government consumer-protection Websites and bulletins around the world concerning this topic, with a lot of weight placed on reference to the scammers claiming they represent Microsoft. But the scammers can pretend they represent other legitimate IT companies like antivirus software firms.
If you needed outside help regarding computer issues, you will most likely have initiated the contact yourself, whether through your computer-expert neighbour, relative, friend or acquaintance; your workplace’s IT support if your workplace has such a department or your computer supplier.
What these callers tend to do is to lead the user to download and install malware, usually in the form of spyware or fill in forms with email addresses and credit-card details in order to facilitate various forms of fraud against the user. This can be in the form of milking their bank account and credit-card of useable funds, inundating their email inbox with spam email or stealing other information that is confidential to them or their business operations.
So I would encourage all users to be careful of unfamiliar “call-centre” phone calls about computer viruses or similar issues and simply hang up when they receive these calls. As well, they should keep their desktop security programs on their computers up-to-date so as to protect against the various scams.
Other tactics that you may consider would be to threaten the scammers with legal action or question them about whether they can do business legally in your country. A good example would be asking them for their tax-registration details that are required of them if they do business in your country, such as the VAT registration details if you are in Europe or the Australian Business Number if you are in Australia.