Conmen pose as Microsoft technicians

If you get a call from someone posing as a Windows technician, blow a whistle loudly into the mouthpiece or put the phone down. Otherwise you will find yourself in the same situation as an 80-year-old Kenilworth woman, Sylvia, who does not want to be identified for fear of victimisation.

Sylvia said she answered the phone and a girl who sounded Japanese or Korean told her she was from the Windows Service Centre and her computer had been hacked. But she would help Sylvia to fix the problem.

Sylvia was a bit puzzled by the call. When her computer gives problems, her son in London usually sorts them out through Team Viewer.

“The caller asked me if I was sitting in front of my computer and when I said yes she told me to follow her instructions. I pressed the keys and when it said ‘OK’ I followed the prompts. When she told me they could offer me protection, I began to smell a rat as I knew there was money involved, and asked to speak to her supervisor who had the same accent. He told me the same thing and said he could offer me protection: R2800 for one year; R3500 for five years and R4800 for 10 years. When I asked him how old he thought I was , he said ‘40’, I told him double it and that I had no need for that kind of protection as I wouldn’t be around long enough to enjoy it. I put the phone down and when I tried to restart the computer it wouldn’t boot up. I had to get an IT expert to fix it, and even he battled to do so.

“My son in London usually helps me to fix my computer through ‘Team Viewer’. He said, if they call again, I should ask them a few questions, for example, get their bank account details, as if I wanted to pay them, and then report it to the police.

“They said they were calling from Johannesburg but my son said they could be anywhere in the world. I was caught by these con artists. They sounded so plausible. I am not a naïve person but I am trusting. And sadly, I was caught. I am telling my story as a warning to other people,” Sylvia said.

And if you think the con is confined to South Africa, think again.

The scammers operate as far afield as Miami and probably beyond.

Attempts to contact Microsoft in Cape Town and Johannesburg proved futile. However, Microsoft told Fin24 and MyBroadband that the perpetrators get information from telephone directories to prove to the consumer they can be trusted.

Microsoft told My Broadband the callers claim to be from the Windows Helpdesk, Windows Service Centre, Microsoft Tech Support, Microsoft Support, Windows Technical Department Support Group or even Microsoft’s Research and Development Team, claiming the user has a computer problem and they will also convince people to buy a one year computer maintenance subscription.

Microsoft will not cold call consumers and they have urged users not to purchase software or services over the phone, and to never give a third party remote control (Team Viewer) over your PC unless you know who the person is and you trust them.

Cybercriminals also aim to trick consumers into installing malware onto their PCs, with the aim of gathering sensitive data such as online banking logins, according to Microsoft who said they will not cold call customers about malfunctioning PCs or viruses.

Microsoft warned users not to buy software or services over the telephone. if there is a fee associated with the service, hang up.

If you feel a caller is acting suspiciously, take down their information and report them to the South African Police Service on 08600 10111.