I recently had an experience with the Microsoft red screen scam. Apparently it’s a scam that’s been going around for quite some time and unfortunately, has been successful on too many occasions. As a person currently residing in the “mature” age group, I feel it necessary to warn my fellow “mature” people. Young folks seem to have a built-in scam detector, but us older folks come from a different, more trusting age. These new-fangled scams can confuse some of us.
Stumbling upon the Red Screen Scam
I was wandering around the internet in an attempt to find out more about a Microsoft error message I got when using their voice recognition software. I was attempting to compare Microsoft’s voice recognition program to Dragon NaturallySpeaking’s but kept getting too many error messages to do a true comparison.
Thinking I was doing something wrong, I went to the Internet to find a solution. While reading comments in a topic-related forum, my computer screen went red accompanied by an annoying mechanical beeping sound. The red screen went full screen. In other words, I was unable to access the little “x” in the upper right-hand corner to shut things down. Then another window popped up.
After my initial reaction of “GASP” (and yes, I actually said GASP), when confronted by such an annoying unexpected occurrence, the next thing I did was to shut it down. I didn’t read it, I didn’t click anything on it, I didn’t allow it to live on my computer any longer than it took me to shut it down. Since the exit “x” of the browser window wasn’t available, I used my old standby which is Alt+F4. Simultaneously pressing the Alt and F4 keys usually close most programs on a Windows PC. If that didn’t work, I would have pulled the power cord from the wall, but it wasn’t necessary.
What I did After Seeing the Red Screen
Immediately afterward, I ran a virus scan on my computer. Fortunately, it was clean. Next, I restarted my browser (Chrome). Since I had not shut Chrome down properly, it asked me if I wanted to restore the previous browsing session. Of course, I said no. I didn’t want a repeat of the red screen.
Having my browser available to me again, I abandoned the Microsoft voice recognition search and started a red screen scam search. What I found was rather heartbreaking. Of the information I found, one story was particularly upsetting. This individual (not knowing any better), called the “Microsoft” number on the red screen. The “technician” on the other end of the phone managed to convince the caller to allow the tech remote access to the computer. The technician installed all kinds of “helpful programs.” Afterwards, the tech charged the caller $150 and left the person with an infected computer.
Additional Information about the Red Screen Scam
I read quite a few articles and forum discussions about this particular scam. However, when I came across Martin Kadanasky’s article, Practical Computer Advice from Martin Kadansky, I felt I needed to share it here. Mr. Kadansky addresses several similar iterations of the same old scam. He also gives practical advice on how to respond or avoid such problems. It’s definitely worth a read.
Bottom line is, the red screen scam isn’t new. It’s been around for several years. There are various iterations of this scam, some have red screens, some don’t. If you find yourself on a web page and something pops up screaming at you about your computer having a virus, get out of that neighborhood as quickly as possible. Scan your computer as a precaution and open a new browser window. Never click on the links or call the “help” number listed in the pop-up.
Shame on those scammers!