“Instead of stealing information from computers by exploiting technical weaknesses, they are instead exploiting the human users,” Per-Ragnar Johansson, an advocacy specialist with Microsoft in Sweden, told The Local.
Reports about the scam, which has been perpetrated in other countries for several years, first came to Microsoft’s offices in Sweden in late May and early June.
Victims of the scam receive a phone call from someone speaking English, often with an Indian accent, who claims to have some important information about a virus problem on their computer.
According to Johansson, the fake tech support callers then employ a number of different tactics to obtain access to their victims’ computers or credit card details, including selling phony virus protection services, or getting them to install malicious code on their computers.
Several reports of the scam have also shown up on several web forums where victims have shared their stories, often citing calls coming from the number 001000181.
“A female person called and claimed that I had a serious problem with my computer,” reported a victim using the pseudonym MammaRebb on the forum WhoCallsMe.
“Trusting as I am, I went along with it in the beginning, which resulted in my computer being hacked and it being taken over.”
While refusing to give out any specific figures regarding complaints received so far, Johansson said the number of cases so far was “fewer than in other countries”.
“With every scam like this, they are trying to make as much money as possible,” he said.
“It’s quite natural that they would expand to other countries.”
Johansson added that knowledge is often the best defence against falling victim to the phone hacking and other scams.
“The most successful way to combat these scams is by making people aware of them,” he said, adding that IT-savvy Swedes are generally good about contacting Microsoft after receiving suspicious calls.
He added that potential victims should be suspicious of unsolicited callers who ask for bank details or a credit card number adding that Microsoft would never call someone and ask for money to fix a computer problem.
“If you haven’t called us, we aren’t going to call you out of the blue.”