Consumer Alert: Warwick woman warns of fake Microsoft IT scam
Catherine Rose thought she was letting a Microsoft employee update her computer.
Instead, the Warwick resident said she gave a scammer remote access to some of her most sensitive files.
Even worse -- she paid him hundreds of dollars to do it.
Rose said it all started with a voicemail.
“Microsoft corporation has stopped the windows services on your computer, to renew Microsoft please call 877-278-9153,” repeats an automated voice message on Rose’s phone.
Rose said when she got the malicious message last month, she thought it was legitimate. So, she called back and gave a Microsoft IT imposter remote access to her computer.
“Basically, there was an icon in the lower right hand corner and I think I might have had to acknowledge that,” said Rose. “Then, he could pretty much come in and use the cursor -- a remote cursor and pretty much open what he needed to open.”
Just like that, Rose had granted a scammer access to some of her most sensitive data, including everything from retirement account documents to her browsing history.
Still pretending to work for Microsoft, the scammer then asked for payment.
“’We're not going to ask you for your credit card information, we want to protect your security,’’ said Rose, recalling what the scammer told her. “’What we want you to do is go to a local Walmart or Walgreens and buy a Google Play card in the amount of $200.’”
So, Rose bought the $200 Google Play card.
When the scammer called back claiming the card didn’t work, she went back and purchased another $200 worth of prepaid cards.
It wasn't until the scammer got a little too creative with the promise of a refund that she became suspicious.
“He said unfortunately the company cannot cut me a check to reimburse me that $200, the smallest denomination they can cut a check for is $1,600,” said Rose.
Rose hung up and reported the incident to the Warwick Police Department, who said scams like these are becoming common.
“So, they can't track them down, they can't get the money back for you,” said Rose.
Out hundreds, and still trying to figure out how much of the sensitive information on her computer has been compromised, Rose has a warning for other potential victims.
“I'm afraid that other people can get scammed just as easily as I was,” she said.
The computer hack is really the most dangerous part of the scam. No one wants to lose $400, but if you give a scammer remote access to your computer, they might be able to find your online banking password and drain your savings account or find your social security number and open credit cards in your name.
If you get a call, or see a pop-up window asking for access to your computer, always say no.