It's Sunday afternoon, and maybe you're watching TV, or doing housework, when the phone rings. It's a well-mannered caller with urgency in his voice as he explains that he is from Microsoft, and that his team has detected the presence of a dangerous virus on your computer. He continues telling you not to be alarmed he can definitely remove this virus if you follow his instructions.

Regardless of what this person tells you there is most likely nothing wrong with your computer. This is a recent type of scam affecting computer users nationwide. There are several known companies, typically in countries like India or Russia that perpetrate this scam and others like it. They use scare tactics and misinformation to convince people to allow them remote access to their computer. Then after performing some unneeded and likely useless actions they will request your bank account or credit card information for payment. Usually this payment significantly exceeds a typical service charge for this type of repair.

So what are the dangers? The main danger comes from the fact that you receive no confirmation of identity from the person on the phone. They say they are from Microsoft or some other reputable company, but they initiated the call, and could be anyone, anywhere. Once you allow them into your computer, they have full control of it and can change security settings making you vulnerable, copy personal files and information, or even install malicious software that could allow them to monitor or connect to your computer at a later time. In addition if you give them financial information there is nothing to prevent them from billing your accounts for whatever they desire. Then, because you don't really know who or where they are, you have little, if any, recourse.

So what should you do? If you have fallen victim to a scam like this, take your computer to a local, computer professional and have them check it for malware, and viruses. Then monitor your bank account and credit cards for unusual or unauthorized charges. If you still can, have your credit card company or bank dispute the charges, even the original services charges. If you receive one of these calls, report it to the company they were claiming to be, and to law enforcement. You may not see any results directly, but if you report, it is more likely that these scams will be stopped. Finally, never allow someone you do not know to connect remotely to your computer. There are many reputable companies who use remote administration to help customers, but a reputable company will never call you unsolicited, and they will always have a physical location where you can go in case of a problem. In short, make sure you are confident that the person you are speaking with is the person they are claiming to be.