After receiving multiple calls from consumers as well as the owner of a local computer repair business, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin is warning Rhode Islanders about the latest scam targeting your computer and your bank account.
Known as the "Windows Support Scam" or "Tech Support Scam," consumers receive unsolicited phone calls from individuals posing as Microsoft Windows tech support letting them know their computer has "corrupt" files and needs to be fixed. The caller then walks the consumer through a series of computer commands, allegedly fixing the issue, but actually installing malware or other software that allows the scam artist to remotely control the computer.
The caller then solicits credit card payment for the so-called fix. When consumers question payment, the caller threatens to shut down the computer and will only unlock it when payment is made.
According to Microsoft, neither the company nor its partners make unsolicited phone calls to charge consumers for computer security or software fixes.
"Most consumers don't have the technical skills to know that their computer has been infected with malicious software, exposing them to widespread theft and fraud," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "A growing number of consumers make purchases, pay bills, or monitor bank account information online. Giving a thief access to that information is akin to inviting them into your house to take whatever they want."
Attorney General Kilmartin suggests the following tips from Microsoft to protect from these telephone tech support scams:
• Do not purchase any unsolicited software or services.
• Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the "service." If there is, hang up.
• Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer.
• Take the caller's information down and immediately report it to the Consumer Protection Unit at the Office of Attorney General at 401-274-4400 (Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support.
About the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit The Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit investigates and mediates consumer complaints concerning unfair and unlawful business practices and misleading advertising arising out of alleged violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. If groups of people are victimized by a deceptive trade practice, this office may file in the Superior Court a civil investigative demand, which is a formal investigation. In appropriate cases, a lawsuit to stop the illegal business practice may be initiated.
Apart from carrying out its statutory responsibilities, the Unit also provides information and referral services to the general public. Consumers are directed to the appropriate governmental or private agencies for help in answering specialized questions or resolving disputes that are not within the Unit's jurisdiction.
The Consumer Protection Unit is available to speak to community groups on how to prevent being a victim of identity theft and other scams. For more information, please visit www.riag.ri.gov or call (401) 274-4400.