Published: Sep 23, 2011 5:22 PM EDT

SARASOTA, Fla.- The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office is warning citizens about an Internet scam that has been reported in other areas of Florida where cyber criminals try to trick Microsoft users into believing their computer may be vulnerable to an attack.

The scam works like this: Criminals contact potential victims on their home phone posing as Microsoft computer security engineers. The scammer explains that "threats" have been reported to Microsoft and as a courtesy they are providing free security checks to customers who may have unknowingly downloaded a virus or malware.

In most cases the caller will ask the victim to go to their computer and follow detailed instructions while still on the phone with the criminal. These instructions actually cause computer owners to install evil malware applications on their machine, which allows the scammer to monitor passwords, steal personal and financial information and make the victim's computer part of a "botnet" or collection of compromised computers. Some victims report the scammer has gained remote access to their computer and threatened they would not release it until they get the victim’s credit card information.

While this crime has NOT been reported in Sarasota County, we want to warn citizens of the potential danger so they do not fall victim to this scheme.

According to Microsoft, the company does not make unsolicited phone calls to fix computers. They say never give out your Internet Protocol (IP) address or financial information over the phone and hang up if you receive similar requests.