I fell for a Microsoft phone scam. What should I do now?

Got questions? Go ahead: Ask me anything!

Anonymous asks:

I fell for a Microsoft phone scam. I let them access my computer, but didn't pay any money. What should I do now?

Do you feel lucky?

Here's the thing. Some of these fakers are just looking to make a quick buck. They access your computer, pretend to find a virus and eradicate it, collect their money and that's it. Some are even more "honest" - they might actually install software that scans for viruses.

But others may have more in mind. They may search your computer for information useful to them in other contexts, like sending spam to your friends or even stealing your identity. They might even install malware on your machine. That could be something relatively innocuous like a browser toolbar or it might be something far worse like a keylogger to steal your passwords. Your machine might be zombified and used to attack bigger targets. It might be used as a repository for illegal files or as part of some other criminal enterprise. That's why I asked if you feel lucky.

The chances are that you can just download something like Malwarebytes, scan your machine and you'll be fine. However, nobody can guarantee that as there are always new things that scanners know nothing about.

If it were me, I'd wipe the machine and install from scratch. Even that might not be enough today as some systems are vulnerable to BIOS hacks. Nor is it just that machine that is at risk: it's possible that your home router could be compromised. Is that likely? No, but it is possible.

You have to decide what risk level you are willing to tolerate. One friend of ours decided to freeze her credit reports, throw out the computer and buy new after something like this happened to her. That might be extreme, but she felt that she'd rather be safe than sorry.

Do you feel lucky?


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