7 On Your Side exposes computer tech support scam

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Criminals are using new scare tactics to get access to your computer and your money. 7 On Your Side explains how this type of scam works.

It's a new twist on the Microsoft tech support fraud. In the past, scammers called victims on the phone but now they are using pop-up windows and voice alerts to trick their victims via their computers.

Andrea Hahn was browsing Facebook when suddenly a voice shouted out from her laptop. "A woman telling me that my computer had just been infected and it was at risk," she said.

The warning kept repeating.

"It was quite loud and I don't know how they controlled the volume with it. I actually had to turn the volume down," Hahn remembered.

Then a pop-up warning came on the screen, giving a phone number to call tech support.

"I was nervous. Oh no, what just happened, my computer just got infected with a virus," she said.

This was a new laptop, so Hahn figured this was the new security system. She called the number and a man on the other end said he was from Microsoft.

"And then they took control of the computer," Hahn said.

The man directed her to a website that allowed him to remotely control her computer.

"He said, 'I'm moving your mouse now,'" she said.

The man said he needed access to all her computers. They might be infected, too.

Hahn called her husband and he said to hang up because it was a scam. She did but not before the scammer had disabled everything on her machine.

"Instead of doing it to actually provide tech support, they're scamming you," Symantec security expert Satnam Narang said.

He says the crooks actually cause a problem so you will pay to fix it. They may also plant a virus or steal your data.

"Once you allow someone access to your computer, it's open season," Narang warned.

"And I was really concerned they had some of our personal information," Hahn's husband, Greg said.

Greg figured out how to undo the damage the scammer caused and, luckily, there were no viruses.

He then contacted 7 on Your Side, hoping we could expose the fraud. So we called that number again.

"Did you say you need remote access to my computer?" Greg asked the man on the phone.

He wanted control of the computer, but instead Greg kept asking questions.

"Oh, $69.99? That's not too bad," Greg responded after the man estimated the cost to remove the virus, but he also warned it could be more.

"He did say $400, if there were multiple devices, especially Apple devices because they cost more," Greg recalled.

His wife is just glad all is well in the end. "It was a huge relief when my husband was able to fix the computer," she said.

If you're wondering how scammers place a pop-up on your computer, experts say they either buy the ad space or infect a website that has weak security.

Microsoft says it will never prompt you to call an 800 number for tech support - you should always be the one to initiate a call for help.
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