“Hello, we are calling from Microsoft and your Windows computer needs an update. We are calling to fix it for you.” Sound familiar? It’s a tech support scam.
Why do scams persist? Scammers never go away because there is so much profit to be had. In fact, to this day, tech support scams are a multi-million-dollar industry, and while we hope you’ve never heard that one above, it is, unfortunately, very popular.
The information below applies to all phone-call scams.
How “Tech Support” scammers operate:
Scammers use automated dialers pre-loaded with phone directories. The dialer makes the calls and if it detects you have answered the phone, a scammer comes on the line. They pretend to represent Microsoft or Windows or Apple in order to convince their victims of phony problems or errors, gain remote access to their personal equipment, and collect money for it. Their physical location could be a single room or a something similar to a call center and it is always hidden.
Here’s what happens when you relinquish control of your computer. Let’s say the professional scammers have successfully convinced you to run a legitimate application on your PC to fix whatever error, they’re claiming. Once they are logged into your computer, the remote technician will then fabricate errors or even viruses on your computer. They use default Windows tools and turn them against you.
For instance, they may fake an error that says your computer is infected with viruses when the only virus is the one they installed.
They may point out the CPU is spiking or show you other convincing screens.
Just know that if you’ve received these errors, AFTER you’ve received a call, it’s a tech support scam.
Protect yourself with this knowledge:
Forcefully Identify the caller! Scammers usually mumble while saying who they are. If you cannot clearly understand the name of the company calling you, say so and ask them to SPELL IT. In most cases, scammers will simply hang up.
You will never receive a legitimate call from Microsoft or their partners to charge you for computer repairs or updates. Microsoft doesn’t call anyone.
Although a large majority of “Tech Support” scammers are from China, Russia, India and other foreign countries, not all scammers have a foreign accent.
They will show a fake caller ID number or they may hide their phone number from your caller-id. The fake caller ID may have your local area code to further entice you to answer the call.
What to do?
If you receive an unsolicited phone call from a tech support agent out of the blue your best course of action is to simply hang up. You will never receive a legitimate call from Microsoft or their partners to charge you for computer repairs or updates.
If you do pick up, do not ever divulge any personal information over the phone.
If you fear or suspect that you have been taken advantage of, do this:
- Scan your computer for malware. Change all your passwords. Run a system restore. Check for missing files. If you have already paid the scammer, contact your bank or credit card company to reverse the charges, and be sure to keep an eye for future unwanted charges.
- If you provided personal information such as date of birth, Social Security Number, full name and address, you may want to consult the FTC’s website and report identity theft. https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/report-identity-theft
- You can also raise awareness by letting your friends, family, and other acquaintances know what happened to you. In fact, if you do have information to share about a recent tech support scam or scam attempt, please let us know, too, and we will update this page with any relevant new details.