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New twist on computer error message/virus scams: Joint Warning

22 March, 2011 | Sydney, Australia

March 2011: SCAMwatch, Microsoft and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) are warning Australians to continue to be wary of scam calls claiming that your computer is infected with a virus or is sending out error messages.

In July 2010, SCAMwatch issued an alert regarding about these scams which continue to plague consumers.

Scammers, in a new twist, are making follow-up calls to people who initially fell victim to the scam. In these calls the scammer pretends to be from a foreign law enforcement body and offers to recover the money which the victim initially lost to the scam, in return for a fee. Beware – the scammer you will not give you your money back and will only ask you for more money.

SCAMwatch has received numerous reports from consumers that the initial computer virus/error message scam telephone calls are continuing. Victims have reported receiving unsolicited calls from what they believe are foreign call centres. This scam typically involves a scammer cold-calling you and requesting remote access to your computer. If you give the scammer access, they will claim to run a scan, discover a fake virus and then apply high pressure sales tactics to convince you to buy unnecessary anti-virus software or technical services to ‘fix’ your computer.

Scam callers will tell you that you have a PC and then change their story if you advise them that you actually have a Mac. Scammers will even tell you that you have a computer when you don’t own one at all!

If you fall victim to this scam, as well as losing your money and getting a service which provides no benefit, your personal and banking details will be at risk. You may also expose yourself to a follow up scam like the one described above.

If you receive a call like this, just hang up.

Warning signs

  • You receive a scam call out of the blue claiming to be from a large computer company or brand or legitimate technical service provider or support service claiming there is a problem with your computer.
  • They will request remote access to your computer and if you say yes will run a ‘scan’ that shows up a fake virus.
  • The scammer will pressure you into buying unnecessary software or a service to ‘fix’ the computer.
  • The scammer may be very persistent and use abusive or inappropriate language.
  • The scammers may sound professional and knowledgeable.
  • If you fall victim to the scam you may receive a follow up call falsely claiming to be from an overseas government or law enforcement body pretending they can recover the money you initially lost to the scam – Beware this is another scam!

Protect yourself

  • If you receive a phone call out of the blue about your computer system’s security status and requesting remote access - hang up – even if they mention a well-known company or product.
  • NEVER give an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer.
  • If you have given remote access to your computer, or you fear that your computer has been hacked, seek out help or advice from a qualified and reputable computer technician.
  • Do not give out your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source.
  • Make sure your computer is protected with regularly updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall - but research first and only purchase the software from a source that you know and trust.
  • If you have fallen victim to a scam or you receive a lot of unsolicited emails and phone calls consider changing your email address and phone numbers.
  • If you are considering providing your details to a company, read their privacy policy/terms and conditions first. If you do not agree with how they will use your details, do not provide them.
  • If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.


You can report a scam to the ACCC via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch or by calling 1300 795 995.

More information:
SCAMwatch issued a radar on these scams in July 2010:
Telemarketing scam: your computer has a virus!

See also ‘Scams beware’ on Microsoft Australia’s Government Affairs blog - GovTech or contact Microsoft Customer Service on 13 20 58.

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