Scam alert: Co-owner of Computer Troubleshooters, Tony Hattam, is warning customers about phone-based computer service scams.
Scam alert: Co-owner of Computer Troubleshooters, Tony Hattam, is warning customers about phone-based computer service scams.

PC scam after your data

A TELEPHONE-BASED computer scam, which asks computer owners to install damaging and invasive software on the premise of a remote repair session has been stepped up in Grafton and Coffs Harbour in recent weeks.

Though the scam has been operating for well over a year nationally, with sporadic instances occurring locally, Computer Troubleshooters, Grafton reported it had heard of at least 10 customers affected in the Grafton area in the past fortnight and about the same amount in Coffs Harbour prior to that.

According to a Queensland police statement, the scam, which is sometimes known as ‘Support on Click’, involves people taking a call from a person working at a foreign call centre.

The caller claims to belong to a software support company that has been requested by Microsoft to fix problems on the victim’s computer.

The offender confirms the victim’s computer has sent error messages to Microsoft regarding problems with their Windows Explorer before directing the victim through a process on their computer, ultimately giving the offender remote access to the computer to download Trojans or gain access to personal information.

Once the offender has gained access, they will then give or sell the victim software in order to prevent this problem in the future. The victim, instead of downloading anti-virus software, unknowingly installs a virus on their computer which may be used to gather credit card data.

Microsoft’s Asia-Pacific director for internet safety, Julie Inman Grant, confirmed the company was not contacting its customers by telephone.

“Microsoft will never cold-call a customer and request access to their computer system. Nor do we direct third-party support companies to do so,” she said.

Computer Troubleshooters franchisee Bonnie Capell, who co-owns the Grafton and Coffs Harbour outlets, said she knew of at least one customer who had allowed the scammer to have access to her computer.

“She only stopped when they asked for her credit card,” Bonnie said. “We advised her to change her internet banking passwords as a pre-caution, and her computer does have viruses and trojans present and appears compromised.”

“We are really wanting to warn users to just hang up on these callers and not follow any of their instructions.”

Technician Gary Sowell said many people were unfamiliar with the workings of the internet and felt compelled to trust self-professed experts in the field.

Matt Chapman from Leading Edge Computers, Grafton said he knew of several people who had received the call but luckily none of them had followed through after they ‘smelt a rat’.



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