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Archive for the ‘e-mail scams’ Category

Congratulations! You’ve won $800,000!!

Well, maybe not.

But that’s just one of the many ploys that scammers send in their relentless efforts to part people from their money or sensitive personal information like passwords and account numbers.

Microsoft is asking people to take a survey of their experience with online fraud—what kinds of scams they’ve encountered (including those on mobile devices and Facebook), how concerned they are about online or phone fraud, and what steps they take to protect themselves.

In 2012, Microsoft fielded its first such study, interviewing 1,000 US residents to understand their exposure to, and perception of, online fraud and scams.

Respondents reported having encountered roughly eight different scams on average, with these as the top four:

  • Scams that promise free things or coupons (44 percent)

  • Fake antivirus alerts that imitate real programs offering virus repair but that download malware instead (40 percent)

  • Phishing scams using fake messages that mimic those of trusted businesses to trick people into revealing personal information (39 percent)

  • Fraud that features a request for bank information or money upfront from someone (such as a “foreign prince”) who needs help transferring large sums of money for a cut of the total (39 percent)

In the new survey, we’re interested in how scams and responses to scams might have changed since 2012. Are there different scams? What are the most common? Where are they most often occurring—on mobile devices? On Facebook?

Results of our last survey showed that nearly everyone (97 percent) took steps to safeguard their computers, but more than half (52 percent) did nothing at all to protect their mobile devices. So we’re particularly interested to see if these numbers have changed. 

You can help us fight online scams and fraud by taking our survey.

We will release the results of the survey during National Cyber Security Awareness Month this October. Follow the hashtag #NCSAM to read the story. 

Congratulations! You’ve won $800,000!!

September 2nd, 2014 No comments

Well, maybe not.

But that’s just one of the many ploys that scammers send in their relentless efforts to part people from their money or sensitive personal information like passwords and account numbers.

Microsoft is asking people to take a survey of their experience with online fraud—what kinds of scams they’ve encountered (including those on mobile devices and Facebook), how concerned they are about online or phone fraud, and what steps they take to protect themselves.

In 2012, Microsoft fielded its first such study, interviewing 1,000 US residents to understand their exposure to, and perception of, online fraud and scams.

Respondents reported having encountered roughly eight different scams on average, with these as the top four:

  • Scams that promise free things or coupons (44 percent)
  • Fake antivirus alerts that imitate real programs offering virus repair but that download malware instead (40 percent)
  • Phishing scams using fake messages that mimic those of trusted businesses to trick people into revealing personal information (39 percent)
  • Fraud that features a request for bank information or money upfront from someone (such as a “foreign prince”) who needs help transferring large sums of money for a cut of the total (39 percent)

In the new survey, we’re interested in how scams and responses to scams might have changed since 2012. Are there different scams? What are the most common? Where are they most often occurring—on mobile devices? On Facebook?

Results of our last survey showed that nearly everyone (97 percent) took steps to safeguard their computers, but more than half (52 percent) did nothing at all to protect their mobile devices. So we’re particularly interested to see if these numbers have changed.

You can help us fight online scams and fraud by taking our survey.

We will release the results of the survey during National Cyber Security Awareness Month this October. Follow the hashtag #NCSAM to read the story.

Why do I have to update my email account information?

August 21st, 2014 No comments

We’ve noticed comments from many of you asking why we want you to verify your Microsoft security information. We’d like to explain why verifying this information is important. To help protect your email account and your personal data, we ask everyone who has a Microsoft account to make sure that the security information associated with their account is correct and up to date. When your security information (like an alternate email address or phone number) is current, we can use it to verify your identity.

For example, if you forget your password or if someone else tries to take over your account, Microsoft uses your security details to help you get back into your account.

If you see a message asking you to update or verify your Microsoft account security information, you have seven days to do it. If you no longer have access to your security information, you will have to fill out a support request.

Get a quick overview of how to add security info to your account

Why do I have to update my email account information?

August 21st, 2014 No comments

We’ve noticed comments from many of you asking why we want you to verify your Microsoft security information. We’d like to explain why verifying this information is important. To help protect your email account and your personal data, we ask everyone who has a Microsoft account to make sure that the security information associated with their account is correct and up to date. When your security information (like an alternate email address or phone number) is current, we can use it to verify your identity.

For example, if you forget your password or if someone else tries to take over your account, Microsoft uses your security details to help you get back into your account.

If you see a message asking you to update or verify your Microsoft account security information, you have seven days to do it. If you no longer have access to your security information, you will have to fill out a support request.

Get a quick overview of how to add security info to your account

5 ways to protect your Microsoft account

May 15th, 2014 No comments

Your Microsoft account (formerly your Windows Live ID) is the combination of an email address and a password that you use to sign in to services such as Xbox LIVE and Outlook.com, as well as devices such as Windows Phone and computers running Windows 8.

A Microsoft account is free and you can use it to:

  • Purchase apps from the Windows Store
  • Back up all your data using free cloud storage
  • Keep all your devices, photos, friends, games, settings, music, up to date and in sync.

5 ways to help protect your Microsoft account

  1. Create a strong password. Strong passwords use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numerals, punctuation marks, and symbols. The longer the better, and don’t use personal information (such as a pet’s name, nickname, or driver’s license number) that can be easily guessed.
  2. Protect your password. Don’t use the same password you use on other sites, and remember to change your Microsoft account password (as well as other passwords) regularly. Watch out for email social engineering scams designed to trick you into turning over your password to a cybercriminal.
  3. Enable two-step verification. Two-step verification uses two ways to verify your identity whenever you sign in to your Microsoft account. Two-step verification is optional, but we recommend that you use it. Learn how to turn it on.
  4. Make sure the security information associated with your account is current. If the alternate email address or phone number you’ve given us changes, update the settings of your account so that we can contact you if there’s a problem.
  5. Watch out for phishing scams. If you receive an email message about the security of your Microsoft account, it could be a phishing scam. Don’t click links in any messages unless you trust or check with the sender. 

Don’t have a Microsoft account yet? See How do I sign up for a Microsoft account?

Tax scams: 6 ways to help protect yourself

March 20th, 2014 No comments

We’ve received reports that cybercriminals are at it again, luring unsuspecting taxpayers in the United States into handing over their personal information as they rush to file their taxes before the deadline.

Here are 6 ways to help protect yourself.

1.     Beware of all email, text, or social networking messages that appear to be from the IRS. Cybercriminals often send fraudulent messages meant to trick you into revealing your social security number, account numbers, or other personal information. They’ll even use the IRS logo. Read more about how the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or use any social media tools to request personal or financial information.
2.       Use technology to help detect scams. Scams that ask for personal or financial information are called “phishing scams.” Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook, and other programs have anti-phishing protection built in. Read more about identity theft protection tools that can help you avoid tax scams.
3.       Check to see if you already have antivirus software. If a cybercriminal does fool you with a tax scam that involves downloading malware onto your computer, you might already be protected by your antivirus software. If your computer is running Windows 8, you have antivirus software built in. Download Microsoft Security Essentials at no cost for Windows 7 and Windows Vista. 
4.       Make sure the website uses secure technology. If you’re filing your taxes on the web, make sure that the web address begins with https, and check to see if a tiny locked padlock appears at the bottom right of the screen. For more information, see How do I know if I can trust a website and What is HTTPs?
5.       Think before you download tax apps. Download apps only from major app stores—the Windows Phone Store or Apple’s App Store, for example—and stick to popular apps with numerous reviews and comments.
6.       Be realistic. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. From companies that promise to file your taxes for free, to websites that claim you don’t have to pay income tax because it’s unconstitutional—keep an eye out for deliberately misleading statements.

5 safety tips for online dating

February 13th, 2014 No comments

If you’re going to be connecting online this Valentine’s Day (or ever), follow these safety and privacy tips.

  1. Avoid catfishing. This is a type of social engineering designed to entice you into a relationship in order to steal your personal information, your money, or both. Always remember that people on the other end of online conversations might not be who they say they are. Treat all email and social networking messages with caution when they come from someone you don’t know.
  2.  Use online dating websites you trust. Knowing when to trust a website depends in part on who publishes it, what information they want, and what you want from the site. Before you sign up on a site, read the privacy policy. Can’t find it? Find another site. For more information, see How do I know if I can trust a website?
  3.  Be careful with the information you post on online. Before you put anything on a social networking site, personal website, or dating profile, think about what you are posting, who you are sharing it with, and how this will reflect on your online reputation. For more information, watch this video about the dangers of oversharing.
  4.  Be smart about details in photographs. Photographs can reveal a lot of personal information, including identifiable details such as street signs, house numbers, or your car’s license plate. Photographs can also reveal location information. For more information, see Use location services more safely.
  5.  Block and report suspicious people. Use the tools in your email, social networking program, or dating website to block and report unwanted contact. Read this if you think you might already be a victim of a scam.

10 New Year’s resolutions for your digital devices and your online life

December 31st, 2013 No comments

It’s a new year, which means it’s time to resolve to create healthier habits in our daily lives. But we don’t have to stop at just improving our body, mind, and spirit. It’s also a good idea to resolve to keep our PCs, laptops, smartphones, and social networking sites healthy this year.

1. Keep your software up to date. You can help protect against viruses, fraud, and more by keeping your operating system, antivirus software, antispyware software, web browser, and other software updated. Microsoft releases security updates on the second Tuesday of every month. Learn how to get security updates automatically.

2. Create strong passwords, keep them secret, and change them regularly. This is particularly important for those passwords that safeguard your computer, important accounts (like email or Facebook), and sensitive information, like financial and health data. Get more information about creating strong passwords and protecting them.

3. Use antivirus software. If your computer is running Windows 8, you can use the built-in Windows Defender to help you detect and get rid of spyware and other malware. If your computer is running Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP, Windows Defender removes spyware.

4. Check and adjust your privacy settings. You can participate in the online world and keep your information private. Learn more about how to manage your privacy settings in Windows, Internet Explorer, your Microsoft account, Windows Phone, and more. 

Watch a video about privacy in action (1:19).

5. Teach your children about online safety. Before kids use computers, gaming consoles, or mobile devices, make sure you agree on clear limits, talk about how to keep accounts and passwords secret, and help them stand up to online bullying. If your child got a new device this holiday season, read this checklist for safety tips.

6. Monitor your children’s online behaviors, and continue to talk to them about Internet safety. If your kids are online, it’s important to have regular online safety conversations and to continue to keep track of what they’re doing. For more information, see Age-based guidelines for kids’ Internet use.

7. Upgrade to modern software that provides the latest security technologies and protections. Advanced security technologies in modern operating systems are specifically designed to make it more difficult, more complex, more expensive, and therefore, less appealing to cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities. Learn more about how support for Windows XP ends this year.

8. Use SkyDrive to help protect your personal information. Ransomware is a type of malware designed to infiltrate your computer and hold your files (photos, documents, reports, etc.) hostage until you pay the demanded amount of money to a cybercriminal. One of the best ways to protect your files is to back them up using a removable drive or a cloud service like SkyDrive.

9. Explore new tools for PC protection. If you feel comfortable performing more advanced computer tasks, consider downloading the free Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET), which will make it even more difficult for malicious hackers and cybercriminals to get into your computer.

10. Ignore fake tech support phone calls. Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or software fixes. If you receive a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft, all you have to do is hang up. For more information, see Avoid tech support phone scams.

 

Microsoft won’t ask for your credit card to unblock your email account

August 1st, 2013 No comments

Tom asks:

I’m getting messages from Microsoft about my email account. The messages say that my account is blocked and I can only unblock it with a credit card number. Is this legit?

No, these messages sound like a phishing scam, a type of identity theft designed to steal your personal information, such as credit card numbers, passwords, account data, or other information. Never provide personal information in response to requests like this. In fact, it’s best not to respond at all. Instead, delete the email message and report it.

If you can’t access your email account, get information on how to recover your hacked account.

Learn how to help protect yourself from email and web scams

If you’ve been a victim of identity theft in the United States, report it right away to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission

3 ways to help protect your Microsoft account

July 18th, 2013 No comments

A Microsoft account—formerly known as a Windows Live ID—is the combination of an email address and a password that you use to sign in to services such as Xbox LIVE and Outlook.com, as well as devices such as Windows Phone and computers running Windows 8.

If you think your Microsoft account has been hacked, we recommend that you reset your password right away. To change your Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail) password, sign in to your Microsoft account, and then go to the Password section.

Your Microsoft account includes settings to help protect your privacy

  • If you have added security information to your account and you have lost your password or your account is compromised, you can request an account-recapture code that Microsoft will send you in a text message or an alternate email address to help you regain access to your account. 

 

  • Scammers can get into your email account by installing malicious software on your computer without your knowledge. Make sure you use antivirus software that updates automatically, such as Microsoft Security Essentials, which is available for computers that are running Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP. If you’re using Windows 8, you already have antivirus and antispyware protection called Windows Defender.

To learn how to adjust privacy settings in your Microsoft account, see Privacy and your Microsoft account.

 

Have authorities detected illegal activities on my computer?

July 16th, 2013 No comments

John writes:

I got an email saying that illegal materials were found on my computer and it would be locked until I paid a fine. Is this a scam?

Yes, this sounds like a common blackmail scam called ransomware. Ransomware is an email, website or pop-up window that displays warnings about possible illegal activities and demands payment before you can access your files and programs again. Delete the email and report it immediately.

Do you think you might have already fallen for a ransomware scam? Find out what to do.

Catfishing: Are you falling for it?

June 20th, 2013 No comments

The news is filled with stories about people, famous and otherwise, getting caught in online dating scams. The phenomenon is so common that it now has a name: Catfishing. The term catfishing comes from the 2010 movie Catfish about a man who was lured into a relationship by a scammer who was using a fake social networking profile.

Catfishing is a kind of social engineering. It’s similar to messages that claim that your computer has a virus, that you’ve won a lottery, or that you can earn money for little or no effort on your part. All of these scams are designed to “hook” you with fear, vanity, and too-good-to-be-true offers. The cybercriminal in a catfishing scam might post fake pictures or send encouraging messages to entice you into a relationship, but the goal is the same as in other scams: The scammer wants to steal your personal information, your money, or both.

3 ways to help avoid catfishing

  • Always remember that people on the other end of online conversations might not be who they say they are. Treat all emails and social networking messages with caution when they come from someone you don’t know.
  • Never share your passwords, even with someone you trust. If you think your accounts have been compromised, change your passwords as soon as possible.
  • If you suspect that someone is catfishing you, report them.

For more general tips and advice on how to avoid scams, download our free 12-page booklet, Online Fraud: Your Guide to Prevention, Detection, and Recovery (PDF file, 2.33 MB), and browse our other resources on how to protect yourself online.

Fraud alert: Free “Xbox points”

April 25th, 2013 No comments

Although Microsoft was founded 38 years ago this month, don’t fall for a widespread scam that offers free “Xbox points” for wishing the company a happy birthday. Online offers that seem too good to be true probably are. Learn more about common scams that use the Microsoft name.

One way to recognize a scam is to check for inaccurate spelling or wording. Points used on Xbox LIVE Marketplace are actually called “Microsoft Points” (not “Xbox points”). You can purchase them on your console dashboard at Xbox.com or at a video game retailer. Learn more about Microsoft Points and Xbox LIVE Rewards.

See our Facebook page message about this scam

“Cyber Crime Department” scam

March 21st, 2013 No comments

We’ve received increased reports of a new phishing scam email message that uses the name and official logo of the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit (DCU). The wording varies, but it looks like a security measure and says you need to validate your account by confirming your user name and password or by opening a file attached to the message.  

This is a fake message, but DCU is a real worldwide team of lawyers, investigators, technical analysts, and other specialists working to transform the fight against digital crime through partnerships and legal and technical breakthroughs that destroy the way cybercriminals operate. The DCU is a unique team in the tech industry, focused on disrupting some of the most difficult cybercrime threats facing society today – including malicious software crimes fueled by the use of botnets and technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation.

DCU does not send email to individuals asking them to validate their account information.  If you get one of these email messages, it is a scam. 

There are legitimate times when, in the course of a botnet cleanup effort, DCU will work to inform known victims of a particular threat to help them remove the botnet malware and regain control of their computer.  Sometimes Microsoft will work with Internet service providers (ISPs) and Computer Emergency Response Teams, who in turn will work to inform malware victims by communicating through their already-established relationship with their ISP customers. This enables ISPs to be able to reach victims in a way that is clearly verifiable to botnet victims as legitimate.  Other times, Microsoft may indeed notify victims directly – but not in email and not to verify account information, as the phishing scams claim. 

When DCU does inform victims directly about a known malware infection on their computer, like in the recent case involving the Bamital botnet takedown, it will not ask people to click on a link or download an attachment.  Rather, DCU’s communication will be done over a secured connection and will be readily verifiable as legitimately coming from Microsoft.  These notifications will often also be accompanied by a high profile public information campaign that outlines the notification process, which will also help people independently verify that a warning is real and actually coming from Microsoft.

If you receive an email message claiming to be from the DCU, do not click on links or open any attachments.  Instead, you can either just delete it or you can report it.

Here’s a copy of the fake message:

This message contains three common signs of a scam:

  • Impersonation of a well-known company or organization
  • Time-sensitive threats to your account
  • Requests to click an attachment or link

Get more information on how to recognize phishing email messages, links, or phone calls.

Filing taxes? Beware of scams

February 26th, 2013 No comments

It’s tax season in the United States, which means it’s time for us to remind you about tax scams—especially email messages that appear to come from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or another legitimate organization.

These seemingly valid offers are designed to trick you into turning over your personal information or to click on links or attachments that will automatically download malicious software to your computer.

The most common tax scams we’ve seen include:

  • Fraudulent links to get your refund
  • Free tax preparation or tax preparation software
  • Promises to get you out of paying your taxes

To help avoid tax scams

Be careful when you click links or open attachments. If you need to go to the IRS website, use a bookmark or type the URL directly into your web browser. Read more about how the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information.

Use antivirus software. Download Microsoft Security Essentials at no cost for Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. Windows Defender is an antivirus feature in Windows 8 that replaces Microsoft Security Essentials. 

Use email software with built-in spam filtering. SmartScreen technology helps reduce unwanted email. It’s built into Microsoft email programs (Outlook.com, Hotmail, Outlook, Exchange, Windows Mail, and Entourage) and is turned on by default.

Read more about security features in Outlook.com and Hotmail.

Get help with phishing scams, lottery fraud, and other types of scams


Filing taxes? Beware of scams

February 26th, 2013 No comments

It’s tax season in the United States, which means it’s time for us to remind you about tax scams—especially email messages that appear to come from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or another legitimate organization.

These seemingly valid offers are designed to trick you into turning over your personal information or to click on links or attachments that will automatically download malicious software to your computer.

The most common tax scams we’ve seen include:

  • Fraudulent links to get your refund
  • Free tax preparation or tax preparation software
  • Promises to get you out of paying your taxes

To help avoid tax scams

Be careful when you click links or open attachments. If you need to go to the IRS website, use a bookmark or type the URL directly into your web browser. Read more about how the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information.

Use antivirus software. Download Microsoft Security Essentials at no cost for Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. Windows Defender is an antivirus feature in Windows 8 that replaces Microsoft Security Essentials. 

Use email software with built-in spam filtering. SmartScreen technology helps reduce unwanted email. It’s built into Microsoft email programs (Outlook.com, Hotmail, Outlook, Exchange, Windows Mail, and Entourage) and is turned on by default.

Read more about security features in Outlook.com and Hotmail.

Get help with phishing scams, lottery fraud, and other types of scams


Help! My email’s been hacked

February 22nd, 2013 No comments

If you use Outlook.com or Hotmail and think your account has been hacked, you should act right away to help protect your Microsoft account.

If you can still access your Microsoft account, sign in and immediately change your password. For Outlook.com, go to the Password and Security section; for Hotmail, go to the Account overview page in the Account security section.

If you can’t sign in, reset your password.

For more information, see How to recover your hacked Microsoft account.

Help! My email’s been hacked

February 22nd, 2013 No comments

If you use Outlook.com or Hotmail and think your account has been hacked, you should act right away to help protect your Microsoft account.

If you can still access your Microsoft account, sign in and immediately change your password. For Outlook.com, go to the Password and Security section; for Hotmail, go to the Account overview page in the Account security section.

If you can’t sign in, reset your password.

For more information, see How to recover your hacked Microsoft account.

Take care with ransomware

December 4th, 2012 No comments

Have you ever received an email or seen a warning page on a website claiming that legal authorities had detected illegal activities on your computer?

This scam infects your computer with a type of malicious software called “ransomware.” The aim of ransomware is to prevent you from using your computer until you pay a fee (the “ransom”). If you see an email or a warning like this, do not follow the payment instructions.

Some ransomware will lock your computer so you can’t use the Internet to get help. But you might be able to fix the problem if you have another computer with a clean operating system and Internet access. You can use it to download Windows Defender Offline onto removable media and then run the recovery tool on your computer.

Learn more about ransomware

See examples of ransomware and learn how to get it off your computer

The $500 Costco card scam

November 1st, 2012 No comments

Many respondents to a recent Microsoft survey expressed concern about trickier scams that are happening on social networks. The Microsoft Malware Protection Center recently blogged about one of these new scams that claims to offer a free Costco gift card to all Facebook users.

But don’t click the link. If you want to see what would happen if you clicked it and followed the instructions, read A Facebook scam, end to end.

If you see any kind of offer that looks too good to be true, it probably is. Always check the official company or product website to see if it mentions the offer.

For more information on how you can avoid becoming a scam victim, see Email and web scams: how to help protect yourself.