Imposter scam spreading on phones and computers around Tampa Bay area

It’s called the Imposter Scam, and people everywhere are becoming targets. Brandon resident Mark Gustafson was an intended victim and so were his parents.

“I overheard my father talking to him and right away knew what the conversation was about and told my father to hang up the phone,” Gustafson said.

Eric Olsen, Hillsborough County's consumer protection director, warns people to hang up if someone calls wanting to fix a computer.
Eric Olsen, Hillsborough County’s consumer protection director, warns people to hang up if someone calls wanting to fix a computer.

This is how it works. You’ll receive a call on your phone from someone — often with a foreign accent — claiming to be from Microsoft. The imposter insists there’s some sort of urgent trouble involving your computer and they’re calling to help you fix it.

“Microsoft puts out patches,” Hillsborough Consumer Protection Director Eric Olsen said. “But they’re not going to call you.”

What the imposter really wants is to gain access to your computer with your assistance. Once you give them the necessary information, the trouble really starts. “You’ll lose money. You may lose access to your computer or your computer may be used in a crime you don’t want any of that to happen,” Olsen said.

The sales pitch is disarming because on one is asking for money, according to Gustafson who has received three such calls along with the two times someone called his elderly parents. “He’s not trying to sell them anything. He’s offering help to them so it’s scary,” Gustafson said.

Mark Gustafson says imposters tried to gain access to his computer through three different phone calls. They also made two more calls to his parents, he said.
Mark Gustafson says imposters tried to gain access to his computer through three different phone calls. They also made two more calls to his parents, he said.

Olsen says the scam has origins dating back to 2012 but seems to be increasingly active around the Tampa Bay area right now. We received an imposter call in the newsroom last week and we’re not alone. One imposter tried to victimize an 8 On Your Side producer in Miami Wednesday.

Recently, a relative of News Channel 8’s chief engineer did give access to an imposter who solicited her directly through her computer screen. Now her computer hard drive has to be wiped clean for security.

Anyone can fall prey. Even the Today Show’s Natalie Morales confesses she recently fell for it.

Imposter scam targets who want to file complaints can contact consumer investigators in Hillsborough County, Pinellas County or with the state.

The imposter scam currently making the rounds appears to stem from a foreign location. You can file a federal complaint with the FTC.

 

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