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Microsoft fires legal guns at tech support scammers

Microsoft is taking the fight to tech scammers, and is certainly drumming up some goodwill for itself this Christmas season, with the company also battling against overreaching US government data demands recently.

Anyhow, you’re almost certainly familiar with tech scammers – if you have a phone line, doubtless you’ve received at least a few calls this year from a person claiming to be from some manner of security company, telling you that there’s a virus on your Windows PC.

We always tell them we’ve got a Mac, which gets them to hang up pretty swiftly, but the less tech-savvy and unwitting may believe that they actually have a virus on their computer, and fall for the scam which purports to rid them of it (while, in fact, probably introducing a piece of software to the machine which is malware loaded).

In a blog post, Microsoft noted that since May it has received over 65,000 complaints from Windows customers regarding such fraud, and the company is now taking action over in the US.

Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit has launched a lawsuit filed in California against Omnitech Support for deceptive business practices and trademark infringement (claiming to be from Microsoft).

Courtney Gregoire, Senior Attorney at the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, noted: “Omnitech utilised the Microsoft trademarks and service marks to enhance their credentials and confuse customers about their affiliation with Microsoft. Omnitech then used their enhanced credibility to convince consumers that their personal computers are infected with malware in order to sell them unnecessary security services to clean their computers.”

In some cases, Omnitech also installed malicious software like password grabbers.

Not that we need to tell our readers, but of course the best thing to do with any cold call is to just assume it’s suspect from the off.

Whether it’s tech support, or your bank apparently ringing you up, if you think it might be real, say you’ll phone the company back about the matter (and for extra security, call back on a different line or mobile if possible – as some sophisticated scammers can even make you think you’ve hung up, and are dialling out again, while in reality they’re still on the phone line).