Latest hack in Singapore: phone scammers posing as Microsoft

August 16th, 2012 | by Alfred Siew

Scammers in Singapore have taken to an old medium – phone calls – to hack into users’ computers and swindle them of hundreds of dollars, in the latest con job revealed by the authorities today.

These scammers would call up victims here, pretending to be from brands like Microsoft, and trick them into giving access to their computers or even transferring money over in the hope of fixing problems on their PCs.

In the first half of this year, there were 32 cases of such IT-related phone scams, according to figures from the Singapore police. Five of these victims transferred S$1,462 to the scammers, each losing amounts between S$100 and S$800.

Though the amount involved is relatively small, Microsoft and the National Crime Prevention Council have seen it fit to put out an advisory to the public to avoid falling for such hoaxes. 

One reason could be that phone scams, in all its various forms, have been used to swindle S$2.37 million in Singapore in the first half of this year alone.

In the Microsoft-related hoax, this is how things will typically unfold:

1.     A scammer, claiming to be a Microsoft technical support staff or a Microsoft partner, calls up a victim and informs him/her that their computers or notebooks may be experiencing problems and are in need of a security or software update;

2.     The scammer may have many personal details of the victim, for example, name and home address, so as to convince the victim that he/she is a genuine representative from Microsoft;

3.     Once the victim is convinced that the call is genuine, the scammer would ask the victim to download and install one or more software from the Internet. The victim would be asked to provide the software user account identification codes and passwords to the scammer. In some cases, the scammer would direct the victim to a website that allows remote control of the computer; and

4.     Once access has been gained into the victim’s computer, the scammer would remotely control or delete files to convince him/her to buy additional software by making online payments or providing their credit card details. In some cases, the scammer may gain access to confidential data within the victims’ computers that can be used for illegal online transactions.

Needless to say, do not send payment to these complete strangers on the phone and do not divulge credit card information to them. Ignore the calls and do not follow any instructions to install software on your PC.

You can also contact Microsoft Singapore at 800-852-3543 if you have further queries or concerns about phone scams. If you are a victim of a scam, immediately report the matter to the police at 999.

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