We’re all familiar with how telemarketers occasionally interrupt our lives, often at the most inopportune times. However, even more upsetting is receiving an unexpected phone call claiming that your PC has been infected with viruses and can be cleaned only for a hefty fee. What’s worse is that the caller is almost certainly a fake — a bad guy who pretends to work for Microsoft or one of our partners.
Sound familiar? This tech scam follows a well-known pattern. A phone call comes in from a blocked or international number, and the caller urgently claims to be a Microsoft-certified tech agent who has detected viruses or malware on your Windows PC that must be fixed right away. These callers use scare tactics such as telling you to check your Event Viewer to reveal a bunch of “errors” or even ask to take over your PC remotely to reveal more so-called problems. And, inevitably, they demand payment via credit card or online payment system, usually to the tune of several hundred dollars, to clean your PC. If you resist, they often get angry or even threaten to destroy data on your computer.
What’s really alarming is that this type of scam shows no signs of slowing down. Increasingly, we hear via our front-line support team, and even from friends and family, that these scammers are getting bolder, targeting not only individuals but also businesses. It is appalling that they’re taking advantage of your trust in Microsoft in an attempt to steal your money. It’s immoral, it’s disrespectful and it’s certainly illegal.
What can you do to protect yourself? To start, check out our Web article on how to avoid tech support phone scams. (My personal favorite is simple: Just hang up the phone.) Second, report it. Tell the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the anti-fraud organization for your country. We’ve got a few links below to get you started:
The Microsoft Safety & Security Center is a hub of information and resources dedicated to helping keep your PC safe from threats, including viruses, malware and phishing attempts.
Help Microsoft stop cybercriminals by reporting information about your phone scam.
The FTC Phone Scam webpage has a phone scam reporting hotline and useful advice on what to look out for when receiving unsolicited phone calls.
In Canada, the Anti-Fraud Centre can provide support.
In the U.K., you can report fraud as well as cold calls.
Whenever you receive a call or a pop-up on your PC and feel uncertain whether it is from someone at Microsoft, don’t take the risk. Reach out directly to one of our tech support experts dedicated to helping you at the Microsoft Answer Desk, or simply call us at 1-800-426-9400 or one of our customer service phone numbers for people located around the world. We know how disconcerting it feels to be targeted by scammers, and we want to help.