Microsoft Warns of Phone Phishing Scam

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The largest threats to the safety of your personal information are the criminals who claim to be experts and cleverly steal information right from under your nose. The wisest action you can take to prevent scammers is to be more aware of every phone call you receive, regardless of how legitimate it sounds.

It is good news that phone scam awareness has increased and many people are beginning to become more suspicious. As a result, they often think twice before divulging their personal information over the phone. Unfortunately, as people get smarter so do phone fraudsters.

The latest phone scam does not look or sound like typical scams. Intelligent criminals do not ask for personal information anymore; they ask you to download software, which to many may seem like a safe practice, especially if the request comes from a Microsoft expert.

Microsoft is now taking a stand against phone phishing and warning people of the fraud. Phishing refers to the act of stealing personal information via emails. The emails are often cloaked in professional logos and headers which seem official and legitimate to victims. Phone phishing is essentially the same practice; however, recipients are contacted by phone instead of email.

The latest scam involves criminals posing as Microsoft computer security engineers calling to warn potential victims of a computer security threat. They cunningly offer free security evaluations which leads victims to download software so criminals can access the computers remotely. With access to the victim's computers, scammers can retrieve passwords, bank information and any other personal data stored on the hard drive.

Microsoft conducted a 7,000 person survey in the U.S., Canada, Ireland and the U.K.. Out of those surveyed:

  • 22% were deceived by phone criminals allowing the scammers to remotely access their computer
  • 79% experienced a financial loss as a result
  • 19% had compromised passwords
  • 17% were victims of identity theft
  • 53% reported continuous computer issues

Richard Saunders, director of international public & analyst affairs at Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group, states, "The security of software is improving all the time, but at the same time we are seeing cybercriminals increasingly turn to tactics of deception to trick people in order to steal from them... Criminals have proven once again that their ability to innovate new scams is matched by their ruthless pursuit of our money."

Microsoft also reported that the average cost of repairing the computers was $1,730 on average across the four countries surveyed. In the U.S. the average reached nearly $4,800. Due to the high costs of repair, Microsoft suggests that buying a new PC may be the best option.

Though Microsoft is vigilant in their promotion of phone scam awareness, they are still expecting the scam to expand to other countries and continue to escalate in terms of intelligence. Microsoft advises, "Do not go to a website, type anything into a computer, install software, or follow any other instruction from someone who calls out of the blue."

"Innocent until proven guilty" is the best mantra to adopt to stay protected from intelligent phone scams.