Havant pensioner Mick Dwyer was left feeling sick after scammers pretending to be from Microsoft rang to say his computer was full of bugs.
But once he gave them remote access to his computer they promptly raided his bank account and £950 vanished without trace.
Mick, 69, is just one of a number of readers who have contacted our Streetwise champion Richard Thomson requesting us to warn readers not to fall for the Microsoft impersonation scam, which appears to be making a comeback since it first surfaced in 2008.
Mick told us that three weeks ago he answered a phone call from computer crooks who asked for him by name claiming to be from Microsoft. They conned him into believing his computer was infected by a damaging virus which could be removed for a small fee.
Mick said: ‘I can’t believe how easily I was taken in. They took me by complete surprise, claiming the virus had gone through my address book and would infect everyone in it and my computer would eventually crash.
‘A woman with an Asian accent said she’d found more than 500 bugs on it, and a male technician would talk me through the process of accessing my computer online, and for a fee of £4.50 clean it up and remove the bugs. It all seemed so reasonable at the time.
‘I’ve no real technical knowledge and was so worried which is why they caught me off guard. It didn’t cross my mind I’d been taken for a complete fool until later that evening when I checked my online bank statement and found almost a grand had been debited from my current account.
‘I phoned up the bank who told me that the crooks had also just attempted to take a cash advance of £1,000 from my credit card but had declined the transaction because it was out of keeping and looked suspicious. They were in the process of contacting me about it.
‘They couldn’t decline the withdrawal from my debit card as it was too late so they were unable to help but a friend told me Streetwise might be able to step in.’
We advised Mick to report the theft to the police via Action Fraud and change all his passwords and usernames.
We also suggested he made sure his security software was up to date and do a scan to cleanse his computer. As the scammers had ‘worked’ on his computer it was a good idea to use the system restore facility to roll back his computer settings to an earlier date.
The Microsoft scam has been around in various guises for almost eight years. A number of mainly silver surfers have got in touch with Streetwise, many of whom didn’t have a computer and were at a loss to understand why the computer operating system giant would solicit them to fix a non-existent problem.
We discovered that most of the scammers were based in India, and had obtained victims’ names and numbers from telephone directories.
Action Fraud, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre has warned the ‘Microsoft’ computer service scam shows no sign of going away.
They told us that in the last six months of 2015 there were more than 12,000 reports of computer software service fraud, with total victim losses of nearly £700,000 pounds.
Cyber crooks claimed to be from a variety of firms, as well as Microsoft, including TalkTalk, and BT.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau stresses that anybody who has a home computer connected to the internet can become a victim. The average reported loss for this crime is £210.
Microsoft were so concerned about the emerging extent of internet fraud they surveyed 7,000 users in the UK, Ireland, USA and Canada.
Of those who received a call, 22 per cent, or three per cent of the total survey sample, were deceived into following the scammers’ instructions, which ranged from remote access to their computer to downloading software code provided by the criminals to obtain credit card information. The vast majority (79 per cent) of people deceived in this way suffered some sort of financial loss. Seventeen per cent said they had money taken from their accounts, 19 per cent reported compromised passwords and 17 per cent were victims of identity fraud.
More than half (53 per cent) said they suffered subsequent computer problems.
A spokesperson said: ‘These scammers use our name, but we never make unsolicited calls to people in this way.’
We got in touch with NatWest, Mick’s bank and following confirmation from Action Fraud he’d immediately reported the incident they agreed to return his money.
A spokesperson told us: ‘We were sorry to learn our customer was defrauded in this way.’
Mick said: ‘I’m so pleased you’ll warn others about how easy it is to be fooled by this nasty scam. I can’t tell you how relieved and thankful I am for all the help you gave me to secure my computer and get my money back.’