Phone scammer's $254 windfall sparks warning

PHONE scammers are doing the rounds of Esperance, telling users there is a problem with their computers and reassuring them they can fix it for a fee, of course.

"I don't want anyone else to be caught in this manner."

- Name withheld.

A local man, who has asked to have his name withheld, took a call late last week, with an "American-sounding" man telling them he was a Microsoft representative.

"In recent weeks, I have been having trouble with my computer at home," he said.

"It has continually popped up with an error message, directing me to send it onto Microsoft. So when this man called telling me he knew about my computer problems, I believed he was genuine."

The man said the scammer told him he could clean up his computer, which initially raised his suspicions, but his convincing credentials made him think otherwise.

"He gave me all his relevant credentials and told me our computer's registration number, which he convinced me no one else except Microsoft would have," he said.

The man said the scammer gave the impression that he had cleaned out a "whole bunch" of errors and told him there would be no charge for the service, but if he wanted to ensure his computer remained safe for four years, it would cost him $40.

"I was on the phone for ages and eventually he bought up my bank account. I refused. Then he told me that I had spam on my phone and I needed to clear it, but the only way I could do that was by giving him my banking code."

The scammer swindled the man out of $254.

The man said he wanted to warn others about the scam.

"I don't want anyone else to be caught in this manner, " he said.

"If you sense it's a scam, go through another means to verify its origin.

"Please be aware of any calls from Microsoft representatives and stay clear."

Department of Commerce Consumer Protection senior regional officer Ivo da Silva is based in Kalgoorlie and covers the Goldfields, Eucla, Esperance, Wheatbelt and Avon Valley Districts.

As a general rule, Mr da Silva said, people should never let anyone they don't know remotely access their computers.

"This is how people infiltrate your computer," he said.

"Be sure that the person you're speaking to is from the company they claim by either asking for their phone number or calling them directly instead."

Mr da Silva said these types of scammers are successful because of their persistence.

"These individuals use sophisticated methods to convince people to hand over their details," he said.

"If you do have a problem with your computer, go see your local retailer and have it looked at."

Sadly, this particular scam has been circulating for years.

The bogus operators, believed to be based in an Indian call centre, claim to be able to perform maintenance on computers remotely, but in reality they want to charge the user for an unnecessary service.

The Department of Commerce's WA ScamNet says people put themselves at risk of identity theft by giving these cold-callers their IP addresses and enabling remote access.

Once access is secured, scammers can alter security or anti-virus settings.

They can also add a key-stroke recorder, which registers personal or secure details during online banking or internet trading.

WA ScamNet's website details that Microsoft will never cold-call a customer and request access to their computer.

If you believe you have been targeted by a scam, contact the Consumer Protection advice line on 1300 30 40 54 or Ivo da Silva in Kalgoorlie on 9026 3250.

Have you been caught out by a scam? Send us your thoughts or write a Letter to the Editor to lauren.vardy@fairfaxmedia.com.au 

An Esperance man has warned others of the dangers posed by phone scammers.

An Esperance man has warned others of the dangers posed by phone scammers.

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