Ok, I’m mad. This weekend I am getting to spend time, which I didn’t have much of, fixing an issue on my mom’s computer. It’s not the fixing my mom’s computer that has me mad – it’s why we have to do it in the first place. What happened to her is happening to lots of people and that vulnerability is the real topic of this blog article.
Here’s what happened.
We, as I am sure a lot of you are as well, are the tech support for our parents and their computer usage. When we are out of town, and something goes bump in the night with their computers they will usually wait until we return. Unless, like my mom, they have become very dependent on their computers for news, paying their bills, or more importantly, ordering their prescriptions. Computers have empowered our elderly parents and, especially if they live in remote areas or are house bound, given them tools to help them.
The display on my mom’s laptop started to fail while we were out of town. Unfortunately for us, that same week, my mother got one of those calls that says “hi, we are from Microsoft and your computer has reported a problem.” Normally, my mom would have questioned this kind of call – she’s pretty savvy and is not easily convinced. But, her computer DID HAVE a problem so she “assumed” it was a valid call.
Thirty minutes later, my mom has paid them $59.00, reduced from the original $89.00 they wanted to charge her, which she got reduced by saying she didn’t have $89.00. She has a computer that is still broken but now has a bunch of software loaded to track her actions. AND that software has turned off her Microsoft Defender program.
Fast forward to today. We have brought her over to our place for a visit and to work on moving data from the old computer to the new one we had purchased. In the process of looking over her data, I noticed software I didn’t recognize. She says, “oh, yes, that was loaded by the people from Microsoft.” What people from Microsoft, I ask. And that’s when the story unfolded. And that’s when I got furious.
My mom had fallen victim to the ongoing tech support scam. This has been happening for years. The Federal Trade Commission knows about it and has closed down a bunch of these sweat shops. But they still keep cropping up.
So, that means we need to educate our friends and family to understand that unless you have specifically signed up for a support account from Dell, Geek Squad, or one of the other legitimate remote support vendors, these companies do not call us “out of the goodness of their hearts.” Trust me, it is not easy to tell whether or not it is a real call. They sound very convincing. The caller ID could even say Microsoft. But just like phishing has become a plague so have these calls. And once a company like this knows they have someone culpable enough to accept the call, they will do it again. And you think you are paying for one time support but instead find a monthly fee for telephone service, or internet support, or a variety of other charges.
If this has happened to you or a family member, do yourself and the rest of us a favor and report the service. Dispute the charge on your credit card. If you do not change the credit card that was used for the charge, monitor it for several weeks afterwards to make sure it hasn’t been sold.
None of this was in my plans for the weekend, but, as I worked on the problem I realized it would be a great blog article. Like I have told customers who ask me where I get my ideas for blogs, sometimes my inspiration comes from simply waking up and looking at what has hit the fan that day.
If you take only one bit of knowledge away from this blog, know that Microsoft Does NOT offer support contracts to individuals.
I’ve included a couple of links that talk about this issue as well as a link for the Federal Trade Commission where you can report a telephone scam. If you want more information or help with understanding security issues and identity theft, give us a call. We can help.
FTC Complaint form: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1
Microsoft Tech article: http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/avoid-phone-scams.aspx
FTC article about the issue: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/tech-support-scams-part-2