If you own a computer – or a telephone for that matter – you may be vulnerable to computer-related scam attempts. The old Microsoft virus scam may have been shut down, but a new one has popped up in its place. We look at the current computer cold call scam warning, what you should do if you are called by these scammers, and what the ramifications of falling for this scam could be for your financial identity and credit file.

By Graham Doessel, Founder and CEO of MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs and www.fixmybadcredit.com.au.

Remember the scam going around where fraudsters were claiming to be from Microsoft and were cold calling in Australia to offer “technical support” to remotely assist in clearing viruses off home computers?

First detected in 2010, the ‘Microsoft Phone Scam’ was clever, and caught out thousands. Callers knew the victim’s name and address. These fake security engineers were claiming to see problems with the victim’s computer and asking whether the victim had noticed their computer becoming slower recently.

They went on to offer to take over the machine and fix the problems. The scammers were using legitimate remote access software, such as LogMeIn, TeamView and Ammyy.

Scammers then requested money for this ‘service.’ On top of that, it put the victim’s personal and banking details at risk. It also gave the scammers remote access to their computer, which can potentially lead to infected computers and pilfering of personal information via keyloggers.

Gizmodo’s recent article ‘Global Operation Sees Infamous ‘Microsoft’ Scammers Finally Taken Down

[Updated]’ explained the extent of the success of the scam prior to its takedown:

Three years on from the first report into the ACMA about the Microsoft scammers, over 10,000 complaints have been recorded. The ACMA says that the worst point came two years ago, when every second complaint to the agency was about the Microsoft scammers. This was in 2011 — a year when scam activity had doubled on the previous period. 52 per cent of the 83,000 scam complaints the ACMA received in 2011 presented as phone scams. All in all, in that 12 months, Australians lost a total of $85.6 million to various scammers.

Gizmodo reported international efforts from Australia, Canada and the United States brought down U.S. based scammers only a couple of weeks ago. The scammers became the first individuals to be caught in connection with the scam. They’ve had their assets frozen and they are presumably now awaiting a hearing over fraud charges.

Not to be dismayed, scammers have obviously thought the gig was too lucrative to dismantle yet – and they have changed tactics – hitting those original victims with yet another scam. As if they hadn’t suffered enough!

On Friday Stay Smart Online issued a warning that computer-related scams were doing the rounds again. It may be important for those who may have been targeted last time.

“Following international efforts by agencies to close down the infamous ‘Microsoft imposter scam’, reported earlier this month, examples of scammers responding with new approaches have been noted.

This includes scammers making follow up calls to previous targets of the original scam, offering apologies and refunds in response to the closing down of (fake) support they provided previously.

Scammers may also claim to be from a foreign government, foreign law enforcement agency or bank, and offer to recover the money you initially lost, in return for a fee,” SSO notes in its warning.

Your personal information in the wrong hands can lead to identity theft which threatens the health of your credit rating. Fraudsters can duplicate your identity and take out credit in your name – leaving you with debts you didn’t initiate and bad credit from outstanding accounts in your name.

Think recovery would be easy? Think again!

Clearing bad credit history is always difficult for individuals to undertake. Most enquiries will result in Creditors telling you that bad credit is there to stay for the term of the listing (usually 5 years). The only thing you can do to change that is to prove there is an inconsistency by demonstrating that the listing was put there unlawfully. An identity theft victim’s task is then to prove that they did not initiate the credit in the first place, but proof is not always easy to obtain – especially when you have no idea of exactly how the fraud occurred. Many people don’t know they are victims until they go to obtain credit and are refused because their credit file is riddled with defaults.

So what should you do if you get a phone call from one of these guys? SSO gives this advice:

Suspect: Don’t accept anything at face value. Don’t make a payment over the phone or online without first checking the details.

Think: Recognise the signs. If you’re being pressured to act, disclose personal details or send money to a stranger, it’s almost certainly a scam. (Microsoft never makes unsolicited phone calls about its products.)

Report: Act to report the scam. Tell SCAMwatch and help stop scammers in their tracks.

Ignore: Never respond. Hang up or delete the SMS or email after reporting.

If you have had your credit file destroyed by identity theft, and need help recovering your good name – contact a professional Credit Repair Advisor on 1300 667 218 or visit the MyCRA Credit Rating Repairs website www.mycra.com.au. Professional credit repair can offer you the best chance of being able to clear bad history from identity theft for good.