Microsoft phone scam alert raised

An Innisfail resident has sounded the alarm on a phone scam to gain access to computer information.

An Innisfail resident has sounded the alarm on a phone scam to gain access to computer information.

Kevin Yovdoshuk was called by two numbers originating in the U.S. in the past 45 days, most recently on Tuesday.

The 45-year-old Central Albertan said the male caller claims to work for a company called PC Help and Support. The caller says Microsoft has hired PC Help and Support to monitor and remedy computers infected by a trojan or virus.

The caller eventually makes a request for remote desktop assistance to remove the trojan. That’s when the Yovdoshuk hung up.

The avid computer user is savvy enough to know private information, such as passwords and banking details, can be accessed through remote desktop assistance.

“(The callers are) putting the person into the panic state so that they think they are allowing these people in for good,” he said. “But they’re getting hosed.”

Yovdoshuk called Microsoft Canada after he received the second call.

The computer company told him it does not have a contract with PC Help and Support, and never calls people randomly.

“Microsoft does not cold call its customers, nor does it ask any of its partners to do that,” Microsoft Canada corporate communications manager Cynthia Keeshan told the Advocate.

Keeshan, who is based out of Mississauga, Ont., even received a similar call in June.

“It can sound very convincing,” she said.

“But that’s when you got to have your wits about you. Just like you would if somebody phoned you and said, ‘Hey, can I have your credit card information?’ ”

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre issued a release in mid-April that said about 350 complaints of this type were filed between Jan. 1, 2010, and March 2, 2011, primarily in Ontario.

The use of company names Microsoft, Windows or Online PC Care were prevalent in the complaints.

The centre stressed that allowing a third party to remotely access a computer presents a number of risks, including the installation of software that can capture passwords, bank account information and identity information.

John Weigelt, national technology officer with Microsoft Canada, offered a number of steps that people can take to protect themselves from computer fraud.

The first is to simply be aware that “persistent” scam artists are constantly coming up with new schemes to gain access to personal information stored on electronic devices, including smartphones.

The second is to keep your computer system and all electronics up-to-date by turning on the auto update feature.

And the third is to install an antivirus software.

Additional information and resources are available on the Microsoft Canada Security website, www.microsoft.com/canada/protect/.

Red Deer City RCMP remind residents to always be on the lookout for fraud, especially over the holidays.

Cpl. Kathe DeHeer said scams do not necessarily increase in number at this time of year, but people are more vulnerable as they are shopping more in malls and online.

“Ask tough questions,” she said.

“If you’re at all unsure, don’t do business with them or don’t follow the steps that they say. And hopefully you can come out through Christmas without being scammed.”

One of the first things to ask yourself is who initiated the contact, DeHeer said, and be cautious if a third party is contacting you by phone or email.

For the latest fraud trends, advice on how to protect yourself and victim’s guides to help recover losses from fraud, visit www.antifraudcentre.ca.

Anyone who has been a victim of fraud can also contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

ptrotter@bprda.wpengine.com

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