Scam artists work in many different ways.
In the digital age, it's incredibly convenient for a computer-savvy thief to blast millions of email addresses at the same time — be it a phony story about an inheritance or a "phishing" attempt trying to lure you to an authentic looking website — so even if a small and naive group take the bait it can pay off in a big way.
Same goes for those pop-up windows you might see when you're browsing the web: scammers can infect many millions of computers with these fake Windows warnings about a virus -- and of course you need to buy something to fix your computer.
But we're now seeing good old fashioned phone-based scams, even though there's a high-tech angle.
Computer users and mobile phone owners are receiving phone calls from someone who claims they're from Microsoft, and they say something like "I'm calling from Microsoft. We've had a report from your internet service provider of serious virus problems from your computer. Can I help?"
The person on the phone will tell them the problem is serious and they could be without Internet access if the issue isn't resolved. And so the computer owner is directed to a website to purchase software.
In some cases, the victim is also instructed to download a program that hands over remote control of the computer, and the caller installs various "fixes" for the problem. Now the PC user has given a complete stranger access to every piece of data on their computer.
Businesses have received a similar call on both landlines and mobile phones, claiming they're from "Microsoft Technical Support" and they've been asked to follow up about a problem. Anecdotally, I've received this one four times since the spring -- on both my landline and mobile phone.
The people calling who claim to be from Microsoft often have a thick accent. UK's The Guardian has reported most of these scams originate out of India.
Microsoft, of course, denies any connection with the companies that call people to offer antivirus services. On its website, Microsoft claims: "Microsoft does not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer. If you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft Tech Support, hang up. We do not make these kinds of calls."