Microsoft Corporation has issued a warning about a scam that could cost consumers a bundle of money – and damage their computers.

According to Microsoft, people posing as security professionals from legitimate tech companies are calling consumers. The fake expert asks for the consumer by name and proceeds to tell them that their computer is infected. The scammer tells the consumer that the infection can be cleared up if they will follow certain steps. Those steps include giving the scammer remote access to the computer, going to a website and downloading a “fix” – which is actually a malware program, and giving the scammer credit card or bank information.

The scam, at this point, is known to exist in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, and the United States. According to Microsoft, the company called 7,000 computer users in these 4 countries. Of those, 1,050 said they had received such a call. Only 210 had actually fallen for the scam. Of those who were deceived by the scam, 165 suffered financial loss, identity fraud, compromised passwords, and significant computer damage. Financial losses ranged from $82 in Ireland to $1,560 in Canada, while computer damage cost consumers in the United States an average o $4,800 in repairs.

Microsoft is offering advice to consumers on how to handle this scam:

* Be very cautious of unsolicited calls regarding security issues with electronics, even if they claim to represent a known company.
* Regardless of which company they claim to represent, never give out personal information, bank information, credit card information, or passwords to unsolicited callers.
* Refrain from following instructions from an unsolicited caller, especially those that tell you to visit a website, download and install software, or enter anything into your computer.
* Converse with them enough to get their information – name, phone number, etc. – and call the police.
* Keep your security programs updated for all programs on the computer.
* Change your password on a regular basis.

For those who have already been deceived, Microsoft suggests immediately changing all passwords and main email accounts as well as bank and credit card numbers. The company suggests that consumers also scan their computers for malware with a quality antivirus program. They should also contact their financial institution and notify them of possible fraudulent transactions.

While Microsoft says this scam is currently only targetting English speakers, the company expects it to become global as language skills are developed by the scammers. They caution all users to be aware of unsolicited calls that offer to “fix” their computers or request money in any form.