Monday, April 29, 2013

Beware of Windows License Scam

I got a question from a reader last week who was very concerned about a recent telephone call she received from a person purporting to be a representative of Microsoft.  The caller was reporting that “their records” indicated that the version of Windows on her computer had an expired license which needed to be renewed.  The caller went on to say that since the Windows license had expired her computer was susceptible to viruses and malware.  He noted that he could help her renew the Windows license and would be happy to scan her computer for any problems.

What these miscreants wanted of course was access to my reader’s computer so they told her to go to a special website.  Once there they could enable remote access into her computer so they could allegedly look for and fix any viruses or malware that might be there.  Once they have remote access they can examine or retrieve anything on that machine. 

To be sure, this scam is one that can result in a real hassle costing time and money not to mention lost data and stolen information.  Unfortunately, this is not a new scam but every few months it seems to rear its ugly head.

There is no such thing as an expired Windows license for the operating software on home computers.  For sure there are different versions of Window such as XP, Vista,

Windows 7, and the newest, Windows 8.  It is true that Microsoft does phase out support for some of the older versions but the license does not expire and you cannot renew it.

In most cases these scammers just want to sell you some useless antivirus software but some have a much more sinister plan.  They can harvest passwords, personal ID information and even bank account data.  This, of course, is not good.  While accessing your computer they can even place a Trojan Horse app that can continue to send data back to the scammers days or months after you thought you were rid of them.

I told my reader that she should at a minimum change any passwords that she might have stored on her computer and that she should make sure that her antivirus software was up to date so it might be able to detect any bad things that her guests may have left behind.

The best advice I can give is to never give access to your computer to anyone you don’t trust and know to be from a reputable company.  There are times when it is fine to give remote access to a person that is trouble shooting a problem for you.  In these cases you were the one to initiate the relationship.

My reader friend should have been tipped off when the caller said that they had identified her computer license as being expired.  Even Microsoft with its thousands of employees can’t keep track of the millions of versions of their software installed throughout the world.


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