Over the last five years, NetSafe has received thousands of reports from across New Zealand of people being cold called by ‘Microsoft’ or Microsoft qualified technical support staff wanting to help you with a slow or infected computer.

Due to the persistent – and sometimes aggressive – nature of the people calling and the various angles being used to persuade you to give them remote access, we consider these companies to be operating a widespread scam.

They have been active in NZ, Australia and the UK and Consumer Affairs, Microsoft and various NZ media have made great efforts to alert people about the tactics used.

You can read the reports on the Scamwatch website (original Scam Alert and later follow up) and watch the 2011 episode of TVNZ’s Fair Go that brought almost 500 reports through to NetSafe after the show.

Over 2015, NetSafe has recorded hundreds more reports with the scammers now using the names of popular ISPs such as Spark, Vodafone and Chorus to trick unwitting computer owners. Excuses they use to gain remote access include:

  • A virus infection harming others on the network
  • A free assessment to upgrade to Windows 10
  • Help security checking your computer
  • The disconnection of your internet if you do not give access

The scammers aim to get credit card details and are charging some people up to $1500 for a security check and service contract. Other companies have been stealing online banking logins or insisting on scans of passport or driving licence documents which can result in identity fraud.

Hallmarks of the computer scam:

If you give the scammers remote access to your computer they may:

  • Use the ‘Event Viewer’ tool to wrongly suggest that your computer is infected or needs cleaning to speed it up. They will then try to sell you software or a support contract for anywhere up to $1500.
  • Charge you for free security software they are installing – you can use our guide to selecting anti-virus and anti-spyware security software to protect your computer.
  • They are watching people pay via online banking, PayPal or other online money transfer services and may be able to record your banking login, credit card information or personal details for identity fraud or theft.
  • They may be installing rogue software like Trojans or keyloggers to record your computer use and gain your login information for online banking, auction sites and more.

You can read more about the scam and comments from others receiving calls on our blog:

What to do if you have been affected by the scam

If you have been called by one of these companies:

  • Please report this through the ORB website so we can gather as much information from you as possible.
  • Please try and get a company name and NZ telephone number before you simply hang up.
  • Tell your friends, work colleagues and family members so more people are aware of their tactics
  • If you need help speeding up your PC then check out this article from the real Microsoftways to speed up your PC.
  • Plus find out how to use Event Viewer and understand the messages shown – these may be jargon filled warnings but can be easily deciphered.

If you gave the scammers remote access or paid them money

If you used a service like TeamViewer or logmein123.com and gave the scammers remote access to your computer it may have been compromised. In these cases we are advising you do 4 things to protect your information and your computer:

  1. Run a full security scan to see if there is any new malware on the computer. If you don’t currently have an updated security suite or you feel your software may have been uninstalled or compromised then consider running an online scan from a reputable computer security company <LINK>.
  2. Change ALL your passwords from a DIFFERENT computer.  That is banking passwords, social networking sites like Facebook , email passwords, any trading accounts like TradeMe, anything else like TAB, etc.  This is just to be sure that the scammers cannot use your accounts.
  3. It is advisable to notify your bank if you use online banking as they may have been able to access bank details or credit card account. Keep an eye on your accounts and check statements for rogue purchases over the coming months
  4. If you are still concerned that something may have been loaded onto your computer while they had control, or via the application they got you to download, then disconnect the computer from the internet and do not log back on until you have had your hard drive re-formated and your operating system re-installed.  This requires some specialist technical skill and you may need to seek the advice of a computer hardware specialist – remember to backup any essential files before doing this.

New Zealand banks are aware of the scam and have been helpful in reversing charges on credit cards if you notify them very soon after the transaction.