Scammers pose as Microsoft to try to get access to Hoosiers' computers

Better Business Bureau warning consumers

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Better Business Bureau has a warning out for a scam that could soon be coming to your phone.

The scammers want to get into your computer, and pose as tech support employees from well-known companies like Apple and Microsoft.

The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission call it the tech support scam.

Often the scammer creates a sense of urgency—they've detected a virus or your computer is about to crash and you’ll lose all your data, according to the BBB.

Ellen Katinas of Indianapolis received a voicemail on her cellphone that appeared to come from Texas.

The message said her Microsoft Windows license was about to expire, and to call 866-800-4198 to renew it.

“I have never heard of that before,” Katinas said. “They’re trying every trick in the book to rob you blind, and I know they’re going to succeed with some people.”

Katinas deleted the message and contacted Call 6 investigates.

Call 6 Investigates called the number, but it was no longer valid.

“My father got caught by one of the tech support scams and ended up having to trash his computer,” said Katinas.

The Better Business Bureau of Central Indiana explained the scammers are trying to access your personal information, including your bank accounts.

They will ask you to download a program on your computer so they can access it remotely.

"They'll say our server detected you have a virus on your computer and we want to check it out and of course they find a problem and they can fix it for a price,” said Jennifer Adamany , spokesperson for Better Business Bureau of Central Indiana. “They spend hours on your computer getting your personal information and then charge you for it.”

Microsoft is the 5th most impersonated organization in the country, according to the BBB, with government agencies, Publishers Clearing House and the BBB among the top impersonated.

Microsoft receives 13,000 complaints a month about tech support scams.

It’s such an issue, they have their own digital crimes unit that tracks down the cybercriminals and works with law enforcement to shut them down.

“Tech support scams are an industry-wide problem and it’s important to know that Microsoft will never proactively call you to provide technical assistance,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Call 6 Investigates. “If you receive an unsolicited phone call or see a pop-up on your computer—don’t take the risk—just hang up or close your browser.”

People over the age of 65 are the most likely to fall for tech support scams.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” said Katinas. “I’m 64, so I guess I came in right under the wire.”

RELATED: Do not call list doesn’t stop unwanted calls

Tips to spot this scam:

  • Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you know it is the representative of a computer support team you contacted.
  • Legitimate tech support companies don’t call out of the blue. A popular way for thieves to get in touch with victims is through cold calls. The callers often claim to be from a tech company. But remember that scammers can spoof official looking phone numbers, so don’t trust your Caller ID.
  • Look out for warning screens: Nearly half of tech support scams begin with an alert on the victim’s computer screen. This pop up will have a phone number to call for help. Instead of calling, shutdown your computer and restart it.
  • Be wary of sponsored links. When you search online for tech support, look out for sponsored ads at the top of the results list. Many of these links lead to businesses that scam consumers.
  • Don’t click on links in unfamiliar emails. Scammers also use email to reach victims. These messages point consumers to scam websites that launch pop-ups with the fake warnings and phone numbers.

If you are a victim of a tech support scam:

  • Contact your bank immediately.
  • Take your computer to a trusted local business and have it checked out.
  • Remove any software that authorized remote access to your computer.
  • Change the passwords you use to access your bank and other sensitive sites. 
  • File a report with BBB Scam Tracker and with law enforcement authorities, such as the FTC 
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