A person calls you up and claims they've had a report your PC is running slowly (whose doesn't?) and they can sort this out for you. They'll address you by name, so have your details from somewhere and are likely to be calling from abroad (usually India), although they'll have a reassuringly English name.
In some cases the caller claims to be a Microsoft Certified Partner or is calling on behalf of Microsoft or has been passed information about your computer - or something similar. The Microsoft Certified Partner reference is good to establish credibility even though it may be completely bogus.
They will offer to check your PC for free::
- They'll ask you to download a file from their website. This is remote access software (probably sneakily including a virus with it to 'prove' your machine is infected).
- They may just get you to view an event log (eventvwr) showing errors, most of which are actually pretty meaningless and perfectly normal for most computers.
[NEVER allow anyone else to access your computer remotely who you don't trust or know is authorised to do so.]
At this point - having established the 'problems' with your machine - they do of course have the solution, they may even throw in a few words to convince you that your machine is outdated, invalid, at risk etc. Of course they can fix all your problems, improve the speed of your machine etc, etc ... for a fee. They will then persuade you to part with your cash in exchange for their 'maintenance' software/service.
If you haven't already heard warning bells and hung up - at any point you're asked to hand over your credit card details, do so NOW!
While some of these companies are only trying to get business for their software support services, it's probably totally inappropriate and unnecessary for the majority of users and you're likely to end up paying £200 for the privilege.
Microsoft will NEVER get a third-party to contact you. Report the company to Microsoft.
Download a reputable Spyware program to check your machine for keyboard tracking software or something even more malicious. AdAware is good and there's a free version - it may conflict with your existing virus software.
If you do get caught out and realise your mistake:
- Contact your credit card company to cancel the transaction or at least to lodge a dispute. You may or may not get your money back.
- Remove any software they've installed - Control Panel >Add/Remove programs. Get a tech savy friend or relative to help.
- Check your computer for viruses and malware (malicious programmes).
You may be wise enough not to fall for this but make sure your friends and family members aware. It can be easy to get caught out.
If you have the time - get as much information about them - company name, website, phone numbers and report them to http://www.actionfraud.org.uk