This morning, I received a call from Microsoft Technical support.
Caller > Good morning, I am calling from Microsoft Technical Support.
The accent was thick, I didn't recognize the format of the phone number, and the caller hadn't identified himself by name. It's 10 seconds into the call and I already suspect this is a scam.
Me > Oh my gosh, are you calling me to tell me I have a virus on my computer?
Caller > Yes, you have a virus on your desktop, but how did you know?
I know I don't have any virus that Microsoft would worry about, both my desktop and laptop are Mac computers. In addition, no legitimate company "calls" residential homes to let them know they have a virus.
Me > Because a lot of scammers call around to install virus on peoples computer and/or extort money from them.
Caller > No, no, no. We are not one of those. Let me assure you this is a legitimate call. This is a free service from Microsoft to determine if you have a virus.
Me > But you just told me you already know I have a virus ?
Caller > ...
At that point, I hung up. I had other things to do this morning than to troll a scammer. It is not always a good idea anyways. The sad reality if that last year, Canadiens lost an estimated $1.2B in scams. Scammers are getting very resourceful, using all types of media, including phone texts. I wouldn't always blame the victims, as some of the scams can be very convincing. Law enforcement is also fighting back, with some success.
The best protection to these scams is awareness. The "Scams and Fraud" page from the Royal Canadian Mounted Policy (Canada's FBI) is a great place to start.
Some additionnal general safety tips include :
- If you receive a suspicious call, it's probably a scam. If you want to be sure, take down their number and offer to call back. You can then do a bit of research.
- If you receive a suspicious email, don't open it. If you do open don't click on any link. If you are concerned the email might not be a scam, navigate to the site yourself and logging to check if any action is required.
- The Internet is a great source of documentation on people are being scammed. Never hesitate to look up information or ask a knowledgeable friend. You can even post a comment here.
Nowadays, it is unavoidable : scammers will come to you. They will try to use fear and disinformation to get your money. Be prepared, and you will be fine.
Photo : Istvan Takacs - Hungarian Telephone Factory - 1937. Budapest, CC 3.0