Tech Support Scammers Will Make $1.5bn this Year

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Microsoft claims it has received more than 175,000 customer complaints about tech support scams during the past year and a half.

David Finn, executive director at the Microsoft Cybercrime Center, claimed in a blog post that the problem is so bad that this year alone over three million US consumers will pay over $1.5bn to the scammers.

The revelations came as Microsoft hosted 300 members of non-profit interest group the AARP for a series of presentations on fraud prevention.

The discussions were apparently led by AARP’s Fraud Watch Network ambassador, Frank Abagnale, of Catch Me If You Can fame.

The Redmond giant said it is inviting members of the organization to its Microsoft Cybercrime Center every month to tutor them in how to spot scams, as well as working with police and publishing a booklet with the AARP designed to teach senior citizens about hi-tech fraud.

Tech support scams have been ongoing for years now with OAPs particularly susceptible.

Typically the scammer will call pretending to work for Microsoft or another big tech company, claiming that the victim’s computer is at risk from viruses or the like.

They either con the victim into paying a fee to ‘remove’ the malware, or even worse, trick them into allowing remote access to their machine. In the latter case, the scammer can place malware onto the machine to lift even more sensitive personal and financial information.

Microsoft signaled its intent to go after these fraudsters last December when it filed its first major civil lawsuit in the Central District of California against Omnitech Support for “unfair and deceptive business practices and trademark infringement.”

Finn reassured customers: “Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls to charge people for computer security or software fixes.”

He urged anyone on the receiving end of such a call not to purchase any software or services, hand over financial information or allow a third party to take control of their machine.

“Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the ‘service.’ If there is, hang up,” he added.

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