Security experts are warning computer users to be on their guard after reports of telephone scammers pretending to be Microsoft support staff, and attempting to hijack PCs to sell fake security products.
Banking security vendor Trusteer said that it had been contacted by a customer of its Rapport secure log-in product who said they had received a phone call from someone claiming to be from 'Microsoft Windows Solutions'.
The caller persuaded the victim to enable remote access of her computer so that he could fix some non-existent viruses which he said had infected her system, Trusteer chief executive Mickey Boodaei explained in a blog post.
"When he tried to sell me some software I ended the call and did not give him any personal details, credit card or otherwise. Nevertheless, I'm worried that my computer may be vulnerable to future attack," she is said to have told the Rapport help desk.
After getting nowhere with the woman, the scammer then put on his 'supervisor', who proceeded to show her yet more virus files apparently hidden away in the PC.
"As he rang off, he warned me that my computer was in very bad shape and would crash any day," she reportedly told the help desk.
"The call lasted around 20 minutes and I feel like such an idiot to have been taken in for that length of time, and very nervous that they had all the time in the world to infect my computer."
Boodaei warned that the victim is not alone in being scammed in this way.
"We can conclude that this is indeed a common method of fraud that users should be aware of and avoid," he wrote.
"It's easy to think that you'd never fall for this type of fraud. But keep in mind that these fraudsters are very experienced and good at what they do."
The scam appears to be a variation on the scareware con which has become very popular with cyber criminals. Usually this involves the user unwittingly downloading software that triggers security pop-up notices designed to convince them that their PC is infected with malware.
The user is then usually directed to a site and urged to buy some 'security software' which is actually worthless but will turn off the pop-ups and appear as if it has corrected the problem.
Scareware has become so widespread that Get Safe Online was forced to highlight the problem in a recent awareness raising campaign. Around a quarter of UK computer users have been tricked into buying fake anti-virus, according to figures released last year.
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