Microsoft customers should be alerted to possible identity theft, as a phone scam involving fake computer security engineers who contact them personally offering to fix problems they have detected on their computers escalates in Australia.

The scam, which Microsoft has been warning its customers about since last year, has even affected the head of CPA Head of Accounting Policy, Denis Pratt – according to a story ‘Microsoft Tech-Support Phone Scam Escalates,’ posted by business website SmartCompany yesterday.

Mr Pratt told SmartCompany he was contacted on his home phone this week by people claiming to be from “Windows technical support” who knew his name and address. He said the callers claimed they could see problems on his computer, and asked whether he
had noticed his computer becoming slower recently.

“They wanted to take over the machine and fix the problems,” Mr Pratt said.

Mr Pratt was luckily alert to the scam before any damage was done, but many people have lost thousands of dollars giving away credit card details to these fraudsters who claim to provide computer maintenance subscriptions.

Microsoft Australia released a statement in August 2010, warning Australians about these fraudsters, who conduct themselves in a professional manner, and sound genuine.

They say the scam typically unfolds in the following manner:

•A cold caller, claiming to be a representative of Microsoft, one of its brands or a third party contracted by Microsoft, tells the victim they are checking into a computer problem, infection or virus that has been detected by Microsoft.

•They tell the victim they can help and direct them to a website that then allows the scammers to take remote control of the computer.

•The cold caller will then spend some time on the computer trying to demonstrate where the ‘problems’ are and in the process convinces the victim to pay a fee for a service that will fix the computer.

MyCRA’s own Documentation Quality Assurance officer, Christina had also received a strange email last week from a Microsoft ‘gmail’ account, claiming to be advising about a Microsoft system error.

“I just deleted the email without even opening it – it was obvious to me it was a scam designed for me to send them my personal information, or some kind of virus,” Christina says.

The message is clear – be wary of anyone who calls or emails to request money or personal details from you and verify their information before parting with any information.

Microsoft delivered this advice a couple of weeks ago to its international English-speaking countries who had reported problems with this 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.

If people do suspect they have been scammed, firstly they should report the identity theft to the Police, and secondly obtain a copy of their credit file, to ensure it has not been tarnished by defaults resulting from identity theft.

Visit MyCRA Credit Repairs for more information on how to repair your credit file following identity theft.

Image: Idea go /

Image: Maggie Smith/