Tecumseh OPP are warning the public to be wary of cold callers claiming to be from a Microsoft-affiliated company and asking consumers to download software to fix a 'phony' computer problem.
Police said Tuesday they had received a call about a man who identified himself as Chaplain Brown, who told a Tecumseh resident to log onto a website so his "computer problem" could be fixed remotely by an online technician.
The call was made on Feb. 10.
The person logged onto the website, giving the fraudster access to his computer. The caller then asked the person to run a program and download software to his computer, said police.
The person became suspicious and didn't download the software. Police said the scammer then tried, unsuccessfully, to sell the resident software he claimed would fix the problem computer.
Had the Tecumseh resident followed through, OPP said, it would have allowed the criminals to download software which trawls the computer looking for personal or financial information and passwords.
"They can install a program called a key logger which can keep track of everybody's keystrokes," said Steve Perrault from local internet provider Managed Network Systems. "So it becomes a very serious concern, where somebody goes to a bank and types a password that could be logged somewhere."
For more information about fraud you can call the Canadian Anti-Fraud call centre at 1-888-495-8501, or check online at www.phonebusters.com.
Two MNSi customers were contacted with the same scam. Perrault said the fraudsters tried to convince his customers they had computer trouble.
The caller tells potential victims to run a program called "event viewer". It opens up a list of all events or programs attempted by that computer and it shows whether the actions were performed successfully or if there were warnings or errors.
"And the fraudsters take advantage of this and try and convince you that these little errors are big problems," said Perrault. "But the problem is this report will always have errors on it."
The OPP is urging the public not give out personal information unless you're certain of who you're talking to.
The fraudsters have tried the same scam at various locations world-wide, but police said this was the first instance they were aware of in Essex County.
Police told the man who reported the scam to change his passwords, perform a virus check on his computer, and monitor his bank and credit card activity.
Microsoft doesn't cold call
Microsoft Canada said Tuesday that the company "will never make an unsolicited call with regards to security, passwords, or computer errors." It said its affiliates are also not authorized to make such calls.
"If a customer contacts Microsoft and registers a complaint they will be sent an email with a case i.d.," said Mohammed Akif, Microsoft Canada spokesperson. "This is a unique code for their issue and will be used for tracking and verification purposes."