What began as alerts on a Highland Park woman’s computer that she needed to contact tech support because her “Microsoft program was having issues” resulted in nearly $30,000 being depleted from her banking account.
The 66-year-old woman, who lives in the 3800 block of Potomac Avenue, told police earlier this month that the warnings began about a year ago and specified that she needed to install new hardware on her computer.
After calling “tech support,” a customer service agent walked the woman through the installation and offered a complimentary year of service.
A year later, the company attempted to renew the service at the cost of $300.
When the woman asked for a refund, the company said they would need her credit card information. The woman provided her Bank of America credit card number to the customer service agent.
However, when the woman went to check her account, she noticed that instead of a $300 refund a $30,000 credit was sitting on her account.
“The company then called her back and stated that they ‘accidentally’ made a mistake and asked (her) to wire transfer the money back into their account,” according to an incident report.
After several calls from various numbers, the woman told police she felt harassed and finally agreed to the transfer.
She wired $29,650 through the Prime Commercial Bank (the account owner was Prakash Bahadur Kunwar).
“After transferring the money, (she) immediately called her bank and asked them to stop the transfer. However, the bank was unable to locate this transfer but did notice that there was a cash advance of $30,000 from her credit card to her checking account,” according to the incident report.
By the time the bank was able to see the wire transfer, it was already completed.
The homeowner told police that she believes that the program installed on her computer last year was some spyware that was waiting for the right time to be activated.
Police attempted to get the homeowner to reach back out to the company to tell them another mistake had been made, but she said, “it would be pointless because the company would either not answer or would not admit the mistake and give her the money back.”
According to the Microsoft support site, tech support scams are an industry-wide issue where scammers use scare tactics to trick you into paying for unnecessary technical support services that supposedly fix the contrived device, platform, or software problems.
The site said scammers might call people directly and pretend to be representatives of a software company or initiate contact by displaying fake error messages on websites users visit, displaying support numbers. The scammers also can put a computer browser on full screen and display pop-up messages that won’t go away, essentially locking the browser.
Microsoft offered the following advice on what to do if a tech support scammer already has your information:
- Uninstall applications that scammers have asked you to install. If you have given scammers access, consider resetting your device. To learn how to see Recovery options in Windows 10.
- Run a full scan with Windows Security to remove any malware. Apply all security updates as soon as they are available. To access Windows Security, type “windows security” in the search box on the taskbar.
- Change your passwords.
- Call your credit card provider to contest the charges if you have already paid.
- Monitor login activity. Use Windows Defender Firewall to block traffic to services that you would not normally access. For more information, see Firewall and network protection.
To report a tech support scam, click here or go to microsft.com/reportascam.