A longstanding scam has experienced a spike recently, state administrators warned, as callers aim to gain access to personal financial information via computers.
Dotti Woodring, of Waunakee, got a call on Thursday from someone claiming to be from Microsoft's tech support department. The caller said Woodring's computer was sending out error messages, and the only fix was to give up control of the computer, Woodring said.
"It was as fishy as could be," she said. "The first thing I thought was, 'I need to check with Microsoft. Even though it sounds absolutely false, they should know about it.'"
The same scam has been ongoing since 2009, state consumer protection officials said. The callers request remote access to computers or get people to download malicious software so the scammers can gain access to personal information.
"They install some kind of malicious software on your computer that will allow them to capture keystrokes, including your banking information, PINs, credit card numbers," said Sandy Chalmers, an administrator with the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. "If you lose your money, they can be very difficult to track down."
Administrators have seen a spike in reports in the past few months from all over Wisconsin, indicating the scam must have some success, she said.
Microsoft, which knows about the problem, has warned its customers not to fall for the trick.
"Microsoft says it does not contact consumers this way," Chalmers said. "So, if you get a call from somebody claiming to be from Microsoft tech support, hang up because you know it's a scam."
Woodring, the laptop user in Waunakee, credits her growing technical know-how for stopping the scam.
"I'm at least a beginner, possibly close to intermediate," she said, laughing.
For details on how to protect yourself from the Microsoft scam, click here: www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/avoid-phone-scams.aspx. To report a consumer complaint to the state, visit this link: datcp.wi.gov/consumer/consumer_complaints/index.aspx.