Recently, Pat, wrote to me about a strange call to her cell phone. The caller told Pat that he had identified a problem with Pat’s computer and asked if she was near it. Pat answered that she had a good virus program. The man countered that this virus couldn’t be caught by Microsoft programs. Pat countered that she would contact Microsoft directly and hung up. But since then, she’s been getting calls asking to verify her bank account information.
"Have you heard about this?" Pat asked me in an email.
I have. Jeff Karberg, administrator of Maryland's identity theft program, told me several weeks ago about scams his office has been hearing complaints about. One of them involved callers pretending to be from a tech company, saying they detected a virus on the consumer's home computer, Karberg said. They solicit information so they can access the person's computer and whatever is on it, including bank information, Karberg said.
I contacted Microsoft if they had heard of this scheme. The company emailed advice on phishing, including this tidbit:
"Cybercriminals might call you on the phone and offer to help solve your computer problems or sell you a software license. Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or software fixes.
"Once they've gained your trust, cybercriminals might ask for your user name and password or ask you to go to a website to install software that will let them access your computer to fix it. Once you do this, your computer and your personal information is vulnerable.
"Treat all unsolicited phone calls with skepticism. Do not provide any personal information."