I received a suspicious phone call recently from a gentleman with a middle eastern accent asking me if I had a computer. I said yes and he introduced himself as Alex Daniel from Microsoft IT support. He was calling because hackers had been downloading files, and my computer was sending error messages to them. As soon as he told me why he was calling, I knew it was a scam. I asked him to call me back in ten minutes so I could free up my hands.
SIDE NOTE: Believe it or not, as bizarre as it may sound, there are people that don’t have a computer. (I know a couple!)
Alex told me I had nothing to be concerned about because he would not be asking me for any information. He said I would be doing the entire setup myself and began speaking really fast. His accent was so thick, I couldn’t understand a word he said. He was talking as fast as he could; intentionally trying to confuse me. Alex said the files downloaded would put blocks on my computer, giving the hackers access to all my information.
SIDE NOTE: The individuals running this scam know they must talk fast so they will have a better chance of succeeding.
Alex told me to get on my computer and open up the command center. As he described the location of the keys, I realized he was referencing a standard keyboard. I asked him to verify my computer and operating system because that would affect how I opened the command center. He said that I was running Windows 10 and the type of computer didn’t matter. I told him I wasn’t using Windows 10 and the computer did, in fact, matter.
I asked Alex to verify the serial number of my computer before we proceeded so I knew he wasn’t the one trying to scam me. He told me to get a pen and paper and had me write down “888dca60fc0a11cf8f0f”. He said after we set up the blocks he would show me how to find it in my computer. Initially, he had tried running through it super fast, so I wouldn’t have the opportunity to copy it down, but I had him repeat it several times to ensure I had all the correct info.
SIDE NOTE: After looking through article after article written by people who are much more tech savvy than me, I have discovered that this “ID key” is one that is commonly used. You can find information directly from Microsoft Tech Support regarding this and other scams here.
I asked him for contact information just in case we got disconnected, but he insisted that it was against Microsoft IT policy to give that out. “02032866214” is a phone number that I saw frequently come up when looking into the con a little further. Be aware, even if the individual calling you provides a phone number, it’s still a scam, the number reroutes back to their location. It’s one more way to further confuse the person they are trying to scam. We went back and forth several times regarding this information but he would not provide me with any.
I for his supervisor’s name and he said “He is not here today….” I repeated my question and added that whether or not he was in didn’t matter. He finally said his supervisor’s name was Ron, but that it was also against policy for him to connect me. I told him if that was the case, I was uncomfortable proceeding. I said I’d take my computer back to where I bought it and let them help me. Then I thanked him for calling, wished him a good day and hung up. He phoned back over and over again, so I finally picked up.
SIDE NOTE: If someone tells you it’s against their policy to provide information that’s available on their website, they aren’t who they say they are.
I didn’t want to follow his instruction to set up blocks because I prefer to handle things this serious in person to be safe. Alex insisted he was not scamming me and I didn’t know what I was talking about. When I said it made no sense for me to allow him to do to my computer exactly what the hackers were trying to do, he began insulting me. He swore at me and said I was not a Microsoft IT technician. I said I knew he was a fraud, I’m not stupid and would not be participating. He reiterated that I was not a Microsoft Technician, and I didn’t know what I was talking about. I told him he wasn’t either and that I would report him if he called again.
Microsoft has confirmed that they will NEVER call you directly without you requesting a phone call from them first. You can find the contact information for Microsoft Tech Support here. From what I understand, if you are using a MAC or running a system other than Windows, while you might still be targeted, the individual calling you will likely be unsuccessful because, according to statistics, Windows operating systems are used by roughly 84% of users which making it the one most targeted.
So what do you do if you have a momentary lapse in judgement?
If you fall victim to the scam, there are a few things you can do. First and foremost, contact your credit card company and report your card as compromised. They will help you reverse the charges and reissue you a new card. If you would like to pursue legal action, file a police report and they will assist you from there. In the US, you can contact the FBI, State Attorney General, or local law enforcement if you want to pursue legal action. Lastly, don’t beat yourself up! Now you will know better and do better next time.