Officers in Winnipeg have issued a public advisory about a computer virus scam.

Police said they've received numerous calls from the public about a scam in which callers contact people and claim to be calling on behalf of Microsoft or another legitimate company.

The caller, usually from outside Manitoba, makes potential victims believe their computer is sending out error messages, or is infected with a virus.

The caller offers to run a scan on the computer and asks to gain remote access to the potential victim's system. If access is granted, the caller then says the computer is infected and tries to convince the respondent to purchase anti-virus software immediately, which may be a one-time payment or an ongoing subscription.

While the suspects are remotely accessing the computer, they can install a key logger which will allow them to log each key stroke that the user makes, gaining access to usernames and passwords, as well as other sensitive information, said police.

Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of the scam is advised to contact their bank or financial institution immediately.

People who have allowed remote access to their computers are advised to take their system to a local computer outlet and have it examined professionally, said police.

People who have been scammed but have not lost money are asked to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501. Anyone who has lost cash in the scam is asked to make a police report by going to any police service centre.

Police also released the following tips:

  • Avoid the scam by hanging up on the caller
  • If you receive an unsolicited phone call from someone about your computer system's security status, hang up
  • Never give a stranger remote access to your computer
  • Do not give out your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you have made the call to a trusted source
  • Make sure your computer is protected with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall - but only purchase the software from a source that you know and trust