Target 11 uncovers Microsoft computer scheme

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PITTSBURGH - Target 11 has discovered one of the top schemes in the country is being played right here in Pittsburgh.  The thieves claim to be helping you get rid of a virus on your computer, while they’re really stealing your money.  Consumer Investigator Robin Taylor talked to a woman who almost fell for the scheme.

The callers can be very convincing.  They say they're from a trusted company like Microsoft or Dell.  Then, they either try to sell you bogus tech support, or they try to access your computer and steal your personal information.

When the phone rang, the caller ID said "unknown," but Patty Tincha answered it anyway, and that's when a fast-talker told her he was from Microsoft and her computer had malware.

"It was serious.  My computer was in danger, all my computers," said Tincha, who lives in Renfrew, Pa.

Tincha was skeptical, but the caller was so persistent that she opened up her laptop and played along.  She pretended to follow his instructions, while she was really doing an Internet search for the web address he'd given her.

"I look it up and it says scam, scam, scam," said Tincha.

The caller wanted her to press a keystroke sequence which she later learned would have given him remote access to her computer.

"Once they open up the remote control program, they can actually blank your screen.  They can disable your keyboard.  You won't even see what they're doing," said Otto Schellin, our IT specialist and director of engineering at WPXI.

Schellin showed us how the thieves try to win your trust.  They direct you to a page that shows errors and warnings, and frighten you into believing there’s something wrong your computer, but those warnings aren’t serious and are something you'll find on any computer.

Once you give them access, the thieves will steal user names and passwords and accounts numbers.

"If you have bank records, if you have tax records, if you have credit card information, contact information, emails, they could literally get access to all of that," said Schellin.

Their ultimate goal is to separate you from your money, whether they drain your bank account or steal your identity.

Fortunately, Tincha didn't fall for it and wants to warn others to be aware.

"If I would have pushed that button, once I put that website in, he would have just been right into my computer," said Tincha.

Remember this: Microsoft won't call you, not unless you've paid a lot of money for their tech support.  If you get one of these calls just hang up.

It’s also a wise idea to invest in a good anti-virus program.  That’s the best protection against computer viruses or malware.