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Geoff Greenwood, Communications Director
515-281-6699, geoff.greenwood@iowa.gov
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, August 30, 2013

Microsoft Support Scam Targets Iowans

Criminals pose as tech support employees, seek
computer access & personal information

(DES MOINES, Iowa)  Attorney General Tom Miller warned Iowans about a scam where criminals are calling and emailing Iowans, posing as Microsoft technical support employees, and seeking access to their computers and personal information.

“We’re hearing from several Iowans every day reporting calls from people who claim they’re Microsoft tech support employees, and also claim they’re either trying to fix some sort of software problem, security problem, or are trying to sell a software license,” Miller said.

According to Iowans who reported the scam to the Consumer Protection Division, callers attempt to convince recipients to download software that may appear to be useful, but is malicious.  “This is a criminal’s key to unlocking your computer,” Miller said.  “This scam enables criminals to retrieve personal information such as passwords, financial information and a treasure trove of personal data.”  Miller added that criminals can also use the software to damage a computer or leave it vulnerable to future attacks.

Criminals have also requested credit card information or have directed recipients to fraudulent websites to enter credit card or other personal information, according to Miller.

“Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls to charge you for computer security or software fixes,” Microsoft said in an advisory the company posted on its website.  Microsoft warns that its technical support staff does not place unsolicited calls seeking payments for computer repairs or services.  The company does, however, occasionally place calls to users with malware-infected computers.  “These calls will be made by someone with whom you can verify you already are a customer,” according to the company’s online warning.

If you believe a criminal has targeted you through computer malware:

  • Change your passwords.  Change your email account password, as well as passwords to financial accounts.
  • Use anti-virus software, including Microsoft Security Essentials, available for free, to scan your computer and fix any problems.  Make sure to use a firewall.  Update your operating system and software.
  • Report the scam to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

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