I-Team Consumer Alert: Tech support scam

A tech support scam is targeting phone numbers in Rhode Island, the NBC 10 I-Team has learned.

It happened to Steffanie Windus. When her phone rang a few days ago, it was a caller claiming to be from Microsoft tech support. After 35 years running computer systems at the University of Rhode Island, Windus knew right away the call was bogus. But the same man called three more times.

So she called the I-Team, worried other consumers could be at risk.

"Then I decided to go further and call Channel 10 and get it out there so that other people will understand that this is a scam, and they shouldn't fall for it," Windus said. "They should hang up and not do this."

The caller told Windus her computer was sending out suspicious signals on the Internet, even though her machine was turned off at the time. Then, the caller tried to convince her to download software that would give him control of her computer, even getting his manager on the phone.

Windus was familiar with the software from her work at URI, and knew downloading it would be a bad idea.

"I wasn't about to let them use it, because who knows what they would do to my computer?" she said.

In a strange twist, I-Team reporter Katie Davis got the same bogus call on her cell phone last week. The caller threatened that she could lose all her data as well as internet access.

Davis told the caller she was a reporter with NBC 10, but he refused to back down. He repeatedly threatened that hackers would steal information from her computer until she eventually hung up.

Other NBC 10 viewers emailed the I-Team about the same scam, concerned after they received aggressive phone calls over and over.

"My 90-year-old father received six phone calls from a very dramatic man," Terry wrote in an email. "He identified himself as an agent from Microsoft."

"A man who claimed he was from Microsoft ... called me six times in a row yesterday," said Robin in a similar email.

Windus later called Microsoft to report the scam.

"If you have a problem with your computer there are better places to go to get it fixed," she said.

A company rep told NBC 10 that Microsoft is well aware of the scam phone calls, because "cyber criminals often use the names of well-known companies like Microsoft to convince people their services are legitimate."

Microsoft also said it doesn't make unsolicited tech support calls to consumers, and will only call you if you've contacted its tech support department first.