Scammers pretending to be calling from Microsoft are targeting New Zealanders at the moment, with one victim losing $5000.

Microsoft New Zealand and Netsafe have teamed up after a spike in reports of people getting calls from the scammers. Microsoft and NetSafe will be running advertisements and writing to community groups to alert people to the scam.

The callers claim to be from Microsoft New Zealand and tell people there is a problem with their computer. They ask for remote access to fix the computer and can then view credit card details and bank account numbers. Some people have allowed access, with the biggest loss believed to be $5000.

Microsoft NZ marketing and operations director Frazer Scott said the company never called and asked for remote access to a computer.

“If you have given someone on the phone access and start to worry, then disconnect the machine from the internet and then hang up and report the incident to us. If you have given any bank details to a caller, then advise your bank as soon as possible,” Mr Cocker said.

NetSafe’s executive director Martin Cocker said the scam wasn’t new but worked because Microsoft is known to have trusted experts.

How does the scam work?

  • Overseas caller states they are from Microsoft or are a Microsoft certified technician.
  • They suggest the victim’s computer is infected and harming others online or that their ISP has identified their system as a problem.
  • They then get the computer owner to give them remote access using a genuine networking service or website like logmein123 or teamviewer.
  • They will use the ‘Event Viewer’ tool on the computer to highlight error messages which are supposedly signs of an infection.
  • The cold caller will offer to clean up the infection and/or install security software and provide an ongoing support service costing anywhere up to $500.

What to do if you get the call

  • Hang up the phone - engaging with or taunting these companies can lead to you receiving many more calls at all times of the day or night. Some technicians have resorted to threats or abuse to get computer owners to give remote access.
  • If you do give access but become suspicious, disconnect the machine from the internet immediately. NetSafe has received some reports of these cold calling companies installing ransomware on the computer to ensure they get paid to unlock the PC.
  • If you have previously given remote access, it may pay to check what has been installed on your computer and be certain there is no way for the company to continue accessing your system and files. Consult a trusted local PC technician if unsure.
  • If you have paid money to these companies using a credit card, call your bank and discuss your options. If you sent funds via Western Union or another wire transfer service then the money is gone and cannot be recovered.
  • To report the call or incident to NetSafe, either log the incident via its website https://www.theorb.org.nz/forms/scam-or-fraud/ or call on the NetSafe toll-free number 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723)

Check out our scams report for information on other common scams.