Business

Consumer Alert

Some flimflams never die, so stay vigilant

Some scams just won’t go away. The reason: People keep falling for them.

Recently, a scam that invokes the name of computer software giant Microsoft resurfaced. Readers have increasingly mentioned it of late and the state Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation reports receiving a spate of complaints.

The scam typically starts with an unsolicited phone call (it could be an e-mail, too) from a caller posing as a technician from Microsoft. The caller either wants to update your account information, help you because you have a virus, or discuss selling software.

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The approaches may differ, but what they want is the same: personal and financial information. They might ask you to download software that will allow them to take control of your computer, steer you to a website, or simply get you to divulge the details over the phone. If you do any of those, you could have some serious problems. So just say no.

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The scam seems easy enough to avoid, but that’s when you take a step back — not in the middle of a call that seems believable. The thing to keep in mind is that in the incredibly rare instance in which someone from Microsoft would call you, they’re not going to ask for personal information.

“Always be wary of unsolicited calls, especially when the caller requests access to your personal information, and in this case, full access to your computer,” warns Barbara Anthony, who heads the state consumer affairs office. “If you have any suspicion about the validity of the caller’s affiliation, ask for a phone number to call them back and double check that number with the company’s website or printed materials.”

In other words, don’t just take their word and trust that they are who they say they are. If you get the call, check caller ID, note the phone number, and report it to the state attorney general’s office and Federal Trade Commission (www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov).

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and can be reached at consumernews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.