Scam artist calls wrong number, gets caught

Scam artist calls wrong number, gets caught »Play Video

A con artist pretending to be a Microsoft worker made a call to the wrong people : the KATU Problem Solvers.  They used the opportunity to investigate the scam---and catch the scammer in his lies.

The caller began by saying he worked for Microsoft and he was checking to see if our computer had a virus.

"I can see you've been a loyal customer, OK?" the caller said.

He claimed his name was Alex Rodriguez and he worked in San Diego.  He instructed us to go to a web site and download a file.

We checked in with local tech expert Benjamin Diggles, who works for Webtrends in Portland. He told us the file was dangerous.

"It's like installing a ticking time bomb that at any point they can control," Diggles said. "It's when you actually decide to launch it: you're fresh meat, you're done."

Diggles said typically, these files will hold your computer hostage, telling you that you have to pay a large sum of money to get use of your computer again. If you pay, the company may fix your computer, but possibly for just a short time.

"They're basically resetting the time bomb so in six months they can hit you again," Diggles said.

There's more. The caller wanted us to read off a number code that would appear on our computer screen when we downloaded the file.

"Let me know when you see the numbers," said "Alex."  "Can you help me with the numbers?"

Diggles said the numbers would allow the scammer to take over our computer and control it remotely.

"That's the key moment. You do that, all bets are off," Diggles said. "They can do whatever they want. They can open the CD tray if they want. They have complete control of the hardware and software."

Diggles said scammers used to try to get you to download this kind of file by having you click on a link in an e-mail or in a pop-up ad.  He said that security software is getting better and better, so now scammers often call you to try to get you to download it manually.

"Reality is, Microsoft has never and never will call people based on their computer's performance," Diggles said.

If you have already fallen for this scam, Diggles said you should immediately disconnect from the internet, including Wi-Fi, and go to a computer repair person you trust to reformat your computer and bring it back to its beginning state.