A popular robocall scam originating from India is costing American consumers thousands of dollars. The “Microsoft Refund Scam” involves a robocall in which the scammer uses an automated robocall message like, “This is Microsoft Refund Department. We are calling you to offer a refund.”
Once they have successfully tricked the victim into accepting the “refund”, the scammers persuade the victim to give them access to his computer in order to “repair it” and provide a refund.
Other versions of the scam use different company names, or tell the victim that his computer has a virus and must be repaired.
The scam itself isn’t exactly new— it’s simply a new twist on the old “computer repair scam.”
However, the Microsoft Cybercrime Center has been tracking and cracking down on these types of robocall scams since its opening in 2013. They receive more than 12,000 complaints every month.
So far, the center has been able to work with law enforcement in India and crack down on hundreds of scams. Last November, they shut down16 illegal call centers, arresting at least 68 people.
When asked by CBS News why Microsoft would be interested in spending the money to investigate robocall scams, their response was, “We think that this type of cyber fraud is really undermining, fundamentally, customer trust in technology, not just Microsoft. The only way they’re gonna use it is if they trust it.”
In addition, a techie who calls himself Jim Browning has hacked into the computers of the Microsoft refund scammers who call him, even changing the automated robocalls they send out to say things like, “Ignore this call, it is just a scam.”
In an interview with CBS, in which he withheld his true identity, Browning explained his reasons for doing so. “One is really I want to get back at these guys,” Browning said. “But the other one is just [to] raise awareness of scams in general — and particularly these type of scams.”
Browning uses his pseudonym to upload videos of his experiences with the scammers to YouTube. He hides his real name for security reasons. His videos show his conversations with the scammers, how he foils their plans, and even the inside of an Indian scam call center. His video “Inside a call center” has over 2 million views.
If you receive a robocall telling you that you are eligible for a refund, or that your computer needs repairing, hang up and block the number. Use the Call Control app to block the number from your phone. Never give anyone you don’t know access to your computer and personal information.