In the wake of a string of hacker stunts, some crooks are going old school by using phone directories and calling landlines to gain access to victims’ computers and steal their money.
According to a new survey by Microsoft Corp, scammers posing as computer security experts call people at home to tell them they are vulnerable to security threats. The crooks tell their victims they are providing free security checks and claim to represent legitimate companies. Once victims have been tricked into believing they have a problem, the scammers reportedly use various techniques to steal money.
To establish how widespread this scam was, Microsoft surveyed 7,000 computer users in the U.K., Ireland, U.S. and Canada. The survey showed that across all four countries, 15 percent had received a fraudulent call. In Ireland, that number rose to 26 percent.
Of those who received a call, 22 percent followed the scammers’ instructions, which ranged from permitting remote access to their computer and downloading software code provided by the criminals to providing credit card information and making a purchase.
The average amount of money stolen was $875, ranging from $82 in Ireland up to $1,560 in Canada. The average cost of repairing damage caused to computers by the scammers was $1,730 — rising to $4,800 in the U.S.
Microsoft’s research indicate that the scam targets only countries where the main language is English. However, it is only a matter of time before the scammers acquire skills in other languages and expand their operation, said Richard Saunders, director of international public and analyst relations at Microsoft.
“Fake lottery scams and other forms of Internet scams have followed this pattern,” he said.