In 2010, I penned a post that talked about a popular scam that was rising in popularity around the UK, where someone would cold call a person and tell them that their PC had a bad virus. As it turns out, that scam would bleed through to the rest of the world; even in east coast Canada, we’ve received a couple of these scam attempts, and some locals I know have, as well.
The scam has proven effective because it targets inexperienced users, and because these folks fear that they’re about to lose everything on their computer, they feel compelled to shell out a lot of money unnecessarily. Once contacted, the scammer will pretend they’re from Microsoft, and then implore the recipient that they need to purchase anti-virus software to prevent data loss.
Once the user is genuinely worried about their data and PC as a whole, the caller usually gets them to install a piece of software that fakes the number of issues in a list, or will send them anti-malware software once the payment is made. According to this latest BBC article, the software in this particular case was made by Microsoft itself, and can be had absolutely free otherwise – I’d assume it’d be Windows Security Essentials; aka Windows Defender.
To the computer enthusiast, falling for something like this might sound insane, but for those who are not well-versed in computers, it’s not that hard to grasp why it’s so successful – even the smartest people on earth can fall for a scam if it’s presented to them in a believable manner.
In what we hope might be the beginning of the end for this scam, a UK man has been given a suspended 4-month sentence for heading-up his version of this scam. Users were instructed to shell-out £35~£150 to fix their PCs; money which it appears he has to pay back. The BBC reports that £5,665 must be paid in compensation, while £13,939 must be paid in prosecution costs.
UK authorities consider this to be a “landmark” case, a turning-point for those consumers who’ve been affected by the scam. “Now that one of the many individuals who’ve been operating this scam has been brought to justice, it’s a stark warning to anyone else still doing it that they can be caught and will be prosecuted.” states UK’s Trading Standards.
Let’s hope that it is in fact an effective deterrent. This individual certainly isn’t one of the few behind such scams; there are many. But, every little bit of this scam that gets stopped is a good win.