Microsoft terminates scammer partnership

Microsoft has terminated its relationship with one of the members of its partner network after allegations that the party in question was using Microsoft's name to scare users to hand over credit card details and gain access to their computers.

Microsoft has terminated its relationship with one of the members of its partner network after allegations that the party in question was using Microsoft's name to scare users to hand over credit card details and gain access to their computers.

(No Scams image by Widjaya Ivan, CC2.0)

Graham Cluley wrote on Sophos' Naked Security blog that India-based Comantra cold-called users in the UK, Australia and Canada under the guise of being a Microsoft representative, claiming that a customer's computer was infected by viruses. The company did have Gold status as a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, but the status does not convey any ability to act on Microsoft's behalf.

Cluley explained that the callers would talk users into opening the Event Viewer in Windows, where routine warnings and error messages could be used as "evidence" of an infection. Callers would then convince victims to hand over their credit card details and enable the caller to remotely log in so they could "fix" the problem.

Microsoft said that after an investigation, it had confirmed the allegations, revoked Comantra's Gold status and terminated its relationship with the company.

"There are no circumstances under which we would ever allow partners or any other organisations to pose as Microsoft. We view matters such as these extremely seriously and take immediate action if such behaviour is brought to our attention and found to be the case," the company said in a statement.

The scam is a fairly old trick, with many Australians previously stung by fake calls.

In the past few months, some scammers have changed their tune, claiming to be from Telstra rather than Microsoft. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has recommended that users hang up if they receive a phone call out of the blue requesting remote access.