Dutch police warn of Microsoft scammers: nearly 2,000 victims since last year

Call center employees
File photo of call center workersPhoto: PGBS / Wikimedia Commons

The Dutch police issued a warning about a scam in which fake Microsoft employees gain access to their victims' computers by telling them they want to help them solve a problem. Over 2016 and in the first half of this year no less than 1,900 Dutch fell victim to this scam, losing hundreds of thousands of euros in total. "If you are called by a Microsoft employee: hang up immediately!" the police warn.

According to the police, the scammers often use the same method. An English speaking person, often wth a faint Indian accent, calls posing as an employee of Microsoft. "There are problems with your computer. We'd like to solve that for you."

A common method is that the the scammer convinces the victim to install software that gives them access to the victim's computer, to fix a problem. The scammers then ask to be paid for their "work", often high amounts. In some cases the scammers gained access to the victim's online banking and transferred money from the victim's account. One victim lost more than 70 thousand euros. 

The police believe that several criminal groups use this type of scam. So the methods they use may differ.

Microsoft never calls customers out of the blue, according to the police. "If someone introduces themselves as a Microsoft employee, do not answer the questions, but hang up immediately", the police advice. And always report this type of crime. Even if the scammers are hard to track down, reporting what happened still gives the police insight into how the criminals work. 

"This allows us to warn people and disrupt the scams", cyber specialist Rob van Bree said in the police statement. "Ensuring that many people are aware of this type of scam and thereby preventing more victims, is many times more effective. And it prevents a lot of suffering."

On Wednesday the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security released a report saying that Dutch are not responding quickly enough to growing digital threats. This type of scam is an example of that, according to Van Bree. This form of cybercrime first surfaced in 2009. "The recent increase in the number of reports shows that people are still not sufficiently resistant to it."