The Lee County Sheriff's Office is urging residents to "beware" of an emerging form of Internet scam that cyber criminals are using to trick Microsoft users into believing their computer may be vulnerable to an attack. The Sheriff's Office fraud line has received several complaints from concerned citizens; each one describing the same scenario.
The scam works like this: Criminals contact potential victims on their home phone posing as Microsoft computer security engineers. The scammer explains that "threats" have been reported to Microsoft and as a courtesy they are providing free security checks to customers who may have unknowingly downloaded a virus or malware. Once the caller has tricked the victim into believing they have a problem and that they can help fix it, the scammer runs through a range of deceptive techniques designed to steal the victim's money and/or their identity.
In most cases the thief will ask the victim to go to their computer and follow detailed instructions while still on the phone with the criminal. These instructions guide gullible computer owners through the process of installing evil malware apps to their machine, which allows the scammer to monitor passwords, steal personal and financial information and make the victim's personal computer part of a "botnet" used to distribute spam and other nasties.
Some callers report the scammer has actually gained remote access to their computer during the conversation; then threatened the victim by stating they would not give up remote access until the victim gave credit card information.
Below are a few tips you should follow to ensure protection of your money and identification:
NEVER give out your IP address to anyone.
ALWAYS check out the caller's identification before giving personal information. Hang up and call the phone number listed for the organization that is either on a bill, receipt or legitimate packaging.
DO NOT discuss your personal information with anyone you do not know and REFUSE to stay on the phone or online. Simply hang up or log off.
If you have questions about this or if you have received a call and would like to report it, contact the LCSO Fraud Hotline at 239-477-1242.