I was floored. I hate to see anyone, much less customers and friends, getting duped by these tactics because of a lack of knowledge.
I realized my very next blog post needed to be about this urgent topic. Please read the whole thing so you won’t be caught unaware by these crooks.
Getting Calibrated on the Problem
Fake support scams have become commonplace in the US and Canada.
In the United States alone, 77% of the FTC’s 1.3 million fraud reports started with an unsolicited telephone call.
Canada’s consumer protection agencies report upwards of 80% of consumer complaint calls relate to phone and software scams.
Microsoft’s blog claims they receive 10,000 calls per month from customers reporting fake support scams.
Of course, not all phone scams are related to software. You probably already know to ignore callers claiming to be from the IRS.
A common software scam is to claim it’s Microsoft calling.
Be aware. Microsoft is NEVER, EVER going to call you about your expired software license. Licenses don’t expire!
Microsoft is NEVER, EVER going to call you about your computer sending error reports to their server. They just don’t do that.
7 Simple Clues to Spot a Fake Microsoft Tech Support Scam:
Here’s a summary of what to watch out for.
- They call you OR you get a scary warning pop-up.
- The “support person” is from a generic “Tech Support” department.
- They urgently claim your computer is sending errors.
- They want to “show you the problem.” (The fake tech person asks you to open the Microsoft Windows Event Viewer, which is all smoke and mirrors deception.)
- They ask you to visit a no-name website to “fix” the problem (i.e., they use a generic website address such as “support dot support .com”).
- They want to log on to your computer remotely.
- They ask for money and/or personal information.
Now that you know the basics, let’s look at these scams a little deeper. I’ll also show you what you can do to protect yourself.
The Unsolicited Call
Microsoft published a statement on their website to make this crystal clear:
“Microsoft does not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer.”
IF you get an unsolicited call from “Tech Support” it’s a scam. HANG UP!!! End of story.
What does a fake support call sound like?
It might start out like this…
“Hi, this is Technical Support, Let me tell you, we’ve checked our information and found that your Windows license key is expiring. You will need to renew it or your Microsoft products will expire. I can renew your license if you provide us with some information and payment.”
“We’ve found a virus on your computer, we can help you remove it. There are infections getting into your computer from some of the websites you’ve visited. We will fix that for you.”
Fake support techs always have a very trustworthy English-sounding name like Charlie, Andy, or Mike. There’s likely a mismatch between the sound of their name and the sound of their accent. But they’ll do anything to gain your confidence and trust.
The Scary Pop-up
The scary pop-up scam starts with a message that says some of your accounts are at risk due to suspicious activity, or some other dire-sounding warning.
The pop-up is playing on your fears to get you to call. They may mention things like credit card info, Facebook chat, web cam images, bank details… anything that sounds scary and plausible.
Typically, the fake pop-up shows you a phone number to call, like an 866 number, or any number that looks legitimate.
These scammers will lead you to believe they are Microsoft support technicians. However, they identify themselves as Technical Support Department. They are careful not to mention which company they are from (ANOTHER CLUE!!!).
They may reference your Microsoft Operating System, claiming it has been sending error messages. These are non-existent computer errors, but they will tell you “your computer needs to be cleaned.”
Next, they want to help you “fix it.” They ask you to do things like pay them in advance with a weird payment type.
They may threaten to disable your computer to protect “their” networks (YET ANOTHER CLUE!!!).
Of course, the fake technician asks you to follow their instructions blindly. These jerks will sound very confident. They use a barrage of technical jargon to confuse you, but still sound credible. In truth, they are nothing but despicable thieves!
Whether you are approached through the unsolicited call or the scary pop-up, there are definitely things you can do to keep from being the spammer’s next victim.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
Here is a list of DOs and DON’Ts when dealing with suspicious phone calls.
Calls you should never answer (aka the “just hang up” list).
- Calls to inform you about computer viruses.
- Calls to ask you to give remote access.
- Calls to inform you they need to run a diagnostic test.
- Calls to sell you repair services.
- Calls to sell you a security subscription.
- Never click on links from pop-ups about spam or other urgent messages. Microsoft (or any other big company) isn’t going to show pop-ups like this.
- Never give money or access to your computer to someone who called you about a tech support issue.
- Never give money or access to your computer to someone who called you about an expiring software license.
- Hang up if you get one of these calls. Then, report it to the FTC on their website.
- Keep software up-to-date on your own, or with the help of someone you trust. (Software updates frequently include strengthened security measures.)
- Inform your friends and family about any scams you uncover and how to spot them.
- Report anyone who is falsely claiming to be from the government, from a business, or representing a family member.
Now that you know, stay safe!
We hope today’s Quick Tip helped you. If you found this helpful, you’ll want to check out the other computer How-To’s I’ve created on this page. You can always call us if you have questions: 800-387-5250