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New Phone Scam Surfaces — in Call to a Patch Editor

Police say scammers are becoming more creative in their attempts at identity theft.

Flickr.com photo.
Flickr.com photo.
Editor's note: Barbara Heins, who wrote this first-person account, is Greenwich Patch editor:

There are all sorts of telephone scams that thieves employ to try and steal personal identity and banking information — I know, I've written about many of them over the years.

A new scam has popped up in Greenwich — I know, because I was the intended target on Tuesday evening. His approach was creative — not the usual ploy of a relative has been in an accident and needs money to get out of jail.

The man identified himself as "Michael" and proclaimed "I'm going to fix your computer" that he said was "sending error messages." Hmmm, "What company are you with? What error messages?" I asked.

"I'm working with Microsoft," replied "Michael," who spoke with a heavy accent. The first clue that something was amiss occurred when I answered the phone — the phone began to ring anew, then "Michael" answered.

Perhaps I should've stayed on the line to ask him more questions, as I previously experienced WiFi issues. But the skeptic in me won out and I hung up.

Greenwich Police spokesman, Lt. Kraig Gray said the computer repair angle is just another "attempt to get personal information. Scammers are constantly looking for a new angle to ultimately gain their goal to get credit information on you and ultimately defraud you."

Gray added, "These scams vary week-to-week, month-to-month."

Given the fact that the call was made around dinner time — which can be chaotic for folks with young children, Gray said, "They are looking to exploit that moment of weakness — to get your guard down and then you are compromised. They indicate there is some sort of urgency on your part to get information on your personal accounts."

The spotlight on telephone scams preying on residents throughout Connecticut grew brighter last week when U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy asked the FBI for help in alerting state residents of the scams. 

Legitimate institutions including financial institutions "never reach out in that manner," Gray said.

And according to Microsoft, "They might offer to help solve your computer problems or sell you a software license. Once they have access to your computer, they can ... trick you into installing malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. They might also then charge you to remove this software.

According to Microsoft, if someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support calls:

  • Do not purchase any software or services.

  • Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the "service." If there is, hang up.

  • Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer.

  • Take the caller's information down and immediately report it to your local authorities.

  • Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support.
More valuable computer security tips from Microsoft can be found here.

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