The scam always starts the same way: the phone rings at someone's home, and the caller – usually with an Indian accent – asks for the householder, quoting their name and address before saying "I'm calling for Microsoft. We've had a report from your internet service provider of serious virus problems from your computer."
Forecasts are made that if the problem is not solved, the computer will become unusable.
The puzzled owner is then directed to their computer, and asked to open a program called "Windows Event Viewer". Its contents are, to the average user, worrying: they look like a long list of errors, some labelled "critical". "Yes, that's it," says the caller. "Now let me guide you through the steps to fixing it."
The computer owner is directed to a website and told to download a program that hands over remote control of the computer, and the caller "installs" various "fixes" for the problem. And then it's time to pay a fee for a "subscription" to the "preventative service".
The only catch: there was never anything wrong with the computer, the caller is not working for Microsoft or the internet service provider, and the owner has given a complete stranger access to every piece of data on their machine.
Often, the victims are inexperienced or elderly, convinced by the apparent authority of the callers and the worrying contents of the Event Viewer. In fact, such "errors" are not indicative of any problems.
Quote from Microsoft: “Microsoft takes the privacy and security of our customers and partners personal information very seriously. We are advising customers to treat all unsolicited phone calls with skepticism and not to provide any personal information to anyone over the phone or online. Anyone who receives an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft should hang up. We can assure you Microsoft does not make these kinds of calls.”