Danielle Shanks says she was putting on makeup and minding her own business when the phone rang and someone on the other end said her computer needed urgent attention.

“I answered the phone and I was told ‘Mrs. Shanks this is Microsoft…your computer has been invaded.’”

Shanks says she was told to go to her computer right away so they could help her through the troubleshooting process. She says she reluctantly complied because the person -- who identified himself as Charlie in Seattle, Washington – said he was from Microsoft.

“I started to get worried when I saw them infiltrate the computer,” says Shanks.

Even then, it wasn’t until an hour into the phone call that she decided to hang up. By then, ‘Charlie’ had already convinced her the anti-virus software on her computer was useless and took her credit card information in order to purchase a new one.

“So when I decided to hang up, I Googled  the 1-800 number that he had given me…and that’s when I saw a whole list of stories,” she says.

Those were stories from other victims warning of the scam. Some said they hung up immediately; others also fell for the story.

The official Microsoft website has issued a warning titled “Avoid tech support phone scams”:

Cybercriminals don't just send fraudulent email messages and set up fake websites. They might also call you on the telephone and claim to be from Microsoft. They might offer to help solve your computer problems or sell you a software license. Once they have access to your computer, they can do the following:

  • Trick you into installing malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. They might also then charge you to remove this software.
  • Take control of your computer remotely and adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable.
  • Request credit card information so they can bill you for phony services.
  • Direct you to fraudulent websites and ask you to enter credit card and other personal or financial information there.

Microsoft says neither it nor any of its partners would ever make “unsolicited phone to calls to charge for computer security or software fixes.”

But by the time Shanks hung up and called Visa it was too late. Her credit card had been charged $130. Shank says the next day she took her computer to Staples Business Depot where she learned it had happened to someone there as well. It cost her $200 to wipe her computer clean of any potential threats that could allow the cyber criminals to continue capturing personal information.

Shank says trust was betrayed and that she is even scared to open the door.

Her warning to others:

“Don’t do what I did. Hang up real quick”

With a report from CTV Ottawa’s Stefan Keyes