Microsoft released the findings of a new survey on Thursday into an emerging Internet scam.
The latest scam targets English speaking individuals and costs victims an average of $875 according to the software giant. The scammers call people at home and post as security experts and engineers to trick people into thinking their computer is at risk of a security threat. “The scammers tell their victims they are providing free security checks,” says Microsoft. Some people have been tricked into permitting remote access to their computers and downloading software provided by the scammers. There are even cases where people have purchased software from the scammers, providing their credit card information.
Microsoft surveyed 7,000 computer users in the UK, US, Ireland and Canada. Around 15% of people had received calls from the scammers across the four countries, this rose to 26% in Ireland. Of those who received a scam call, 22% were deceived into following the scammers’ instructions. The vast majority (79%) of people deceived suffered some type of financial loss:
- 17% said they had money taken from their accounts
- 19% reported comprised passwords
- 17% were victims of ID fraud
- 53% said they suffered subsequent computer issues
The average amount of money stolen was $875. “The security of software is improving all the time, but at the same time we are seeing cybercriminals increasingly turn to tactics of deception to trick people in order to steal from them,” said Richard Saunders, director of International Public and Analyst Relations at Microsoft. “Criminals have proved once again that their ability to innovate new scams is matched by their ruthless pursuit of our money.” Microsoft is offering the following advice to avoid becoming a victim of the new scam:
- Be suspicious of unsolicited calls related to a security problem, even if they claim to represent a respected company.
- Never provide personal information, such as credit card or bank details, to an unsolicited caller.
- Do not go to a website, type anything into a computer, install software or follow any other instruction from someone who calls out of the blue.
- Take the caller’s information down and pass it to the authorities.
- Use up-to-date versions of Windows and application software.
- Make sure security updates are installed regularly.
- Use a strong password and change it regularly.
- Make sure the firewall is turned on and that antivirus software is installed and up to date.