The Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office is warning all residents of the Hudson Valley about an ongoing computer scam.

According to the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, the scam starts when the victim is contacted by someone that they don’t know who claims to work for Microsoft. The victim can be contacted by phone or computer. On the computer a pop-up window appears telling the victim that their computer has a virus and to call Microsoft at the number provided.

Whichever the method of contact, the suspect then tells the victim that they can fix the computer for a fee and proceeds to get credit card and other information from the victim.

In some cases the suspects were able to gain control of the victim’s computer to convince them that something was wrong. This scam is similar to the FBI MoneyPak virus that has circulated in the recent past, in which the virus locks the victim’s computer and tells them to send money to unlock it.

In almost all case there was never anything wrong with the victim’s computer. And once the money is the received the suspect is not heard from again.

The Sheriff’s Office has offered the following tips to help people avoid being scammed:

  • • If someone contacts you unsolicited and out-of-the blue, it is most likely a scam. Microsoft or any other reputable company will generally not contact people to offer their services, especially before the person even knows they have a virus. Use extreme caution if you are contacted by someone in an unsolicited way.
    • If you are contacted unsolicited by someone claiming to work for Microsoft or another company, tell them you will need to verify their employment. Then hang up with them, research a number for the company, and call the company using the number that you found. Do not use a number that the person gives you, use an independent number.
    • Do not give credit card information, personal information, or passwords to anyone until you have verified who they work for and that their purpose is legitimate. Once the money is gone it is extremely difficult, and in most cases impossible, to recover it.
    • Don’t panic. The reason that scams are successful is because they prey on people using emotion and/or an urgent situation that they say needs to be fixed immediately – like a loved one in jail or a virus on their computer. Remain calm and you will then be better able to think clearly, weigh the options, and make the best decision. These suspects want their victims to panic and make hasty decisions because that is when they are most vulnerable. Don’t let them get you to make a hasty decision based on the fear of a supposed urgent situation. Keep in mind that if it truly was an urgent circumstance, you would have most likely already known about it when they contacted you.

If you suspect that you may be a victim of this or any other scam please contact the Sheriff’s Office at 845-486-3800.