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Phone scam alert sweeps Duval, St. Johns County

Scammers claim to be with Microsoft

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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Scammers posing as Microsoft representatives are calling people in St. Johns and Duval counties to try and gain access to their computers and personal information.

"They're called con artists for a reason. They can always find a way to con you out of something else," said Northeast Florida Better Business Bureau President Tom Stephens. "Unsolicited calls in general, you know, half of the time they're not legitimate." 

Frank Garcia told Channel 4 Monday night that he received a call at his home from a man who told him he was with Windows. Garcia said the man on the line told him that they needed to gain access to his computer because of a virus and Garcia quickly became suspicious of the caller. 

"I got the call out of left field, literally," said Garcia.  "He proceeds to tell me about this bug within my Windows program and he goes, 'Well, you're going to need to get your laptop so I can walk you through it,' and I went, 'Well, OK.'" 

Garcia said he almost learned an important lesson in being scammed the hard way. 

"Is this related to the last 'Heartbleed' bug that came on the news just the other day?" Garcia said he asked the man. ""He goes, ‘Oh no, this is a new bug that is undetectable and I have to walk you through it so I can show you where it's at.'"

The BBB said cyber criminals are calling Microsoft customers like Garcia and offering to solve their computer problems or sell them an upgrade. 

"Microsoft is never going to call you and let them into your system," said Stephens.  

The scammers target not-so-tech-savvy people into installing malicious software that can capture sensitive information, including passwords, username, and banking and credit card information.  

"It's just a pure scam," Stephens said. "People (are) fishing for personal information, trying to get personal information from your computer system and if they do, they then have access to all of your personal records."

Fortunately for Garcia, he didn't hand over any of his personal information, but with calls like these on the rise and with tax season in full swing he wanted to warn the community of the scammers.  

"Some senior citizens can be too passive, they're not as active as the workforce may be. They may be home doing their thing and these calls come in and they could catch them off guard so, consumer beware," said Garcia. 

The BBB is telling people if they've received any calls like this and gave out their personal information there are some things that can be done to protect consumers. 

First, BBB recommends that people change their passwords on their accounts. Second, consumers should alert their banks of the security breach, especially if banking is done online. Finally, the BBB is telling consumers to run a security check on their computer.  There are programs called Microsoft Safety Scanner and Microsoft Security Essentials that can detect problems on computers.