It begins with a simple phone call. A scratchy voice, often sounding distant and foreign, introduces the caller as “John,” or “Steven,” but the accent suggests otherwise. The caller claims to be calling from Microsoft tech support, and says that there’s a problem with your computer. If you say that you have a Mac, they either hang up or say, “Yes, sorry, you have a Mac.”

And so begins an attempt at social engineering (social hacking), a way of conning people into allowing an unknown person to access their computer, possibly copy files, and eventually getting them to pay for this “tech support.” The scammer strings the user along, leads them to supposed “error” messages and malware files on their computer, and gets them to install software allowing the scammer to access their files.

Even though Microsoft recently stated that only 183,000 had reported this type of scam to the company in 2017, that’s probably just a fraction of the number of people who get contacted; it’s a very common scam. Most tech-savvy people know that this is a scam and just hang up, but as with phishing scams, it only takes a few people to be tricked to make the scam worthwhile.

Read the rest of the article on the Mac Security Blog.

10 thoughts on “

  1. My latest encounter featured a heavily accented caller who called himself “Adam Smith.” I told him that I didn’t agree with his theory of economics, which totally confused him. He started stammering and I hung up.

  2. My latest encounter featured a heavily accented caller who called himself “Adam Smith.” I told him that I didn’t agree with his theory of economics, which totally confused him. He started stammering and I hung up.

  3. Only a couple of weeks ago a land line call came into the home, my brother answered the phone. He called for me, the person who has access to the internet. I answered the phone and at first I could not understand the accent. So I explained the speech needed to be slowed down. Surprising they complied. The caller explained they were from the Telco “Telstra” and said my IP address was playing up with my modem. I needed to turn on my computer so they could fix the problem. I enquired how do I know you are from Telstra. The caller immediately terminated the call. The landline phone had been ringing here for weeks, some times 3 times a day. the calls were Skype calls. Lots of call centres use Skype. It does not cost every time you make a call. All it costs is for their internet fees. I know when a call comes in by Skype, there is 5 seconds silence after you say “hello”. Usually you can hear someone breathing or background noise on the other end of the phone, if they do not speak straight away, but Skype calls are dead silent for that first 5 seconds. So I terminate the call before they get to say “Hello” to me. Kirk not only can they do as you have written, they can also lock your computer files and request a ransom be paid to unlock the files. All the more reason to backup your files. Interestingly the Skype calls have stopped since I answered the phone, so they can be persistent and will call for weeks on end, until they make contact with you. But there is so many scams out there, not only by phone , I receive them in by email, so one has to be vigilant all the time.

  4. Only a couple of weeks ago a land line call came into the home, my brother answered the phone. He called for me, the person who has access to the internet. I answered the phone and at first I could not understand the accent. So I explained the speech needed to be slowed down. Surprising they complied. The caller explained they were from the Telco “Telstra” and said my IP address was playing up with my modem. I needed to turn on my computer so they could fix the problem. I enquired how do I know you are from Telstra. The caller immediately terminated the call. The landline phone had been ringing here for weeks, some times 3 times a day. the calls were Skype calls. Lots of call centres use Skype. It does not cost every time you make a call. All it costs is for their internet fees. I know when a call comes in by Skype, there is 5 seconds silence after you say “hello”. Usually you can hear someone breathing or background noise on the other end of the phone, if they do not speak straight away, but Skype calls are dead silent for that first 5 seconds. So I terminate the call before they get to say “Hello” to me. Kirk not only can they do as you have written, they can also lock your computer files and request a ransom be paid to unlock the files. All the more reason to backup your files. Interestingly the Skype calls have stopped since I answered the phone, so they can be persistent and will call for weeks on end, until they make contact with you. But there is so many scams out there, not only by phone , I receive them in by email, so one has to be vigilant all the time.

  5. A friend forwarded a voice message to me. It says her computer’s Microsoft license is out of compliance and she needs to call Microsoft support. Out of curiosity, even though I know it’s a total scam, I called the number. Just as it was in the message, I heard a voice with an accent from the subcontinent identifying himself as Microsoft support. I asked, who are you and how did you get my number? He hung up.

    I don’t know about the consumer support, the real Microsoft enterprise support comes with a price tag of US $500 per incident. They will not call you unless payment has been made by credit card, or you have support credit with MS.

  6. A friend forwarded a voice message to me. It says her computer’s Microsoft license is out of compliance and she needs to call Microsoft support. Out of curiosity, even though I know it’s a total scam, I called the number. Just as it was in the message, I heard a voice with an accent from the subcontinent identifying himself as Microsoft support. I asked, who are you and how did you get my number? He hung up.

    I don’t know about the consumer support, the real Microsoft enterprise support comes with a price tag of US $500 per incident. They will not call you unless payment has been made by credit card, or you have support credit with MS.

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