Microsoft Malta received about 20 reports from people who were targeted by fraudsters pretending to be computer security officers from the global software giant, a company spokesman has said.

The Times reported last week that fraudsters, claiming to be phoning from a Windows 7 security centre in Malta, inform victims that their computer has contracted a virus. They then guide their victims through fixing the situation with the intention of infiltrating into the computer and stealing personal information such as banking details.

Fraudsters may also ask for credit card details.

Jacqueline Harvey, from Microsoft Malta, said this was an “outright and harmful scam”.

Microsoft never ran any form of diagnostics tests over the phone and never sought to sell any of its products to individual customers over the phone, she insisted.

“Cybercriminals often use the names of well-known companies, like ours, in their scams, thinking it will persuade people to give them money or their personal financial information,” she added.

This is known as “phishing”, a way of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity.

“While they usually use e-mail to trick you, they sometimes use the telephone instead. Moreover, it is definitely not in Microsoft’s style to send an e-mail telling you that you have won the Microsoft lottery... or that Microsoft requires credit card information to validate your copy of Windows,” she said, referring to another Microsoft-related scam in which people were informed via e-mail that they had won a lottery.

She cautioned against using Windows software that was not genuine because users would not be able to install regular updates against viruses, spyware and other evil software available though the company’s website.

“There is only one thing that you can do whenever you receive an unsolicited e-mail message or phone call that purports to be from Microsoft and asks that you send personal information or click links: delete the message or hang up the phone,” added Ms Harvey, who urged the public never to give out sensitive personal details.

Available Microsoft tools to report a suspected scam

Internet Explorer: While on a suspicious site, click the Safety button or Menu in Internet Explorer 8 and point to Smart Screen Filter. Then click Report Unsafe Website and use the webpage displayed to report the website.

Hotmail: If you receive a suspicious e-mail message that asks for personal information, click the check box next to the message in the Hotmail inbox. Click Mark As and then point to Phishing scam.

Microsoft Office Outlook: Attach the suspicious e-mail message to a new e-mail message and forward it to

You can also download the Microsoft Junk E-mail Reporting Add-in for Microsoft Office Outlook.

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