[This is an edited and updated version of a post from 2013.]
If someone calls you claiming to be from Microsoft and tells you that your computer is reporting errors to Microsoft, it’s a scam. If that person offers to “fix” your computer, you should hang up immediately. Please note: Microsoft does not receive error reports from your computer, and they aren’t in the habit of calling you out of the blue.
Recently I received a call from a new client whose elderly mother was the victim of such a scam. She allowed the caller remote access to her computer, and after he got in, he demanded money from her to fix the “problems”, which were normal log entries showing trivial errors as well as routine information. When she refused, he locked her out of her computer and told her if she didn’t pay up, she’d never be able to use her computer again.
Fortunately she didn’t give these bad guys her credit card info, as that would only have compounded the problem. Instead her daughter called me. The hackers had created a “syskey” password (an excrypted password which is very hard to crack) that locked her out of the machine. Fortunately, after booting into the third-party utility Offline NT Password and Registry Editor, I was able to delete the syskey from the registry and get this customer back into her machine.
Warning: Offline NT Password and Registry Editor can damage your system if used incorrectly. Please consider calling us instead of attempting to use this tool yourself.
Although this article was originally intended to discuss a situation in which a scammer calls you, it is just as important not to call the scammer!
We’ve received several help requests lately from customers who accidentally visited a hacked website. The user saw a pop-up that claimed his computer had been infected and was instructed to call a number on the screen for help. Again, no legitimate company will contact you that way. Just close your browser if that happens. If you can’t close it, restart your computer and then clear your browser cache.
If you are unsure if you have a virus or other malware, call a qualified computer services company that you trust to help you, not an unfamiliar number flashing on your screen.
Remember, anti-virus can only go so far. If you let a stranger into your house, you can’t blame the locks on your door or the police if you get robbed. So don’t let a stranger into your computer.