Technology giants are warning consumers about bogus computer technical support scams that costs victims billions of dollars each year.
Microsoft, Facebook and Google are alerting users to shun telephone calls from scammers who claim they work for the firms.
Microsoft forecasts more than 3 million US computer users will fall for the bogus claims and fork out more than $1 billion to the fraudsters.
The callers charge a fee for allegedly cleaning malware and viruses that are not present from computers.
“The number of people reporting these scams is increasing all the time,” said a Microsoft spokesman.
Thousands of complaints
The company has had more than 175,000 complaints from Microsoft product users about the scammers since May 2014.
The spokesman confirmed that any call purporting to come from Microsoft Technical Support was a fraudster as the firm does not cold call customers to solicit purchases.
“If you get one of these calls, then we have some suggestions about how to handle the incident,” said the spokesman.
“Our reputation is at stake here and we do not want our customers to think they cannot trust our products and services.”
To anyone receiving a call, Microsoft suggests:
- Do not buy any software or service
- If anyone offers a free subscription, ignore the deal
- Never allow someone you do not know to take control of a computer via remote access
- If you can find out the caller’s name and number, take them and pass them to the police or specialist fraud investigators
- Never give any personal or financial information to an unknown caller
Scammer‘s jail sentence
Trading standards officers in the UK have successfully prosecuted a man who ran a scam calling people and claiming to work for Microsoft technical support.
Mohammed Jamil, from Luton, Bedfordshire, paid an Indian call centre to tell victims they had problems with their computers which they would repair for a fee of between £35 and £150.
The software they loaded was available free direct from Microsoft.
Jamil was handed a four month jail sentence suspended for a year and ordered to pay a fine of £5,000, with nearly £20,000 in compensation and costs.
He admitted unfair trading by making false claims about computer services.