Don't Fall For the Fake Tech Support Scam

Category: Security

Have you received an unexpected phone call from a helpful customer service rep of Microsoft, or perhaps your ISP? I didn't think so. But many people have received calls from scammers posing as tech support reps, warning that their computers are infected with malware and offering help to fix the purported problem...

Fake Tech Support Scams

The supposed "fix" usually involves configuring your PC to grant the caller remote access to it, or downloading a program that will fix the problem automatically. Of course, what really happens is that the scammer steals the victim's financial data or installs botnet software that enslaves the victim's computer.

An alarming number of users are receiving such calls, according to a Microsoft survey of 7,000 users in the US, UK, Canada, and Ireland. Fifteen per cent of all users surveyed reported receiving such bogus calls, and in Ireland the rate hit a high of 26 per cent.

Twenty-two per cent of those who received fake tech support calls followed the instructions they were given. In some cases, that included providing credit card information to purchase a (bogus) product from the scammer.
Fake Tech Support Scams

Of those who fell for the scams, 79 per cent reported some sort of financial loss; $875, on average. Seventeen per cent had money taken from their accounts. Nineteen per cent reported compromised passwords. Seventeen per cent more were victims of identity theft. Fifty-three per cent said they had "computer problems" following the fake tech support calls.

Why, you may ask, do scammers call potential victims instead of sending their pitches via email, which is a much cheaper and faster way to troll for victims? Anti-phishing protections are everywhere these days, on email servers and users' desktops. The computing public is constantly warned about the dangers of phishing emails, but more rarely told that a phone call might be phony. The immediacy of a phone call leaves little time to think, "Wait, can this be real", especially when the caller is trained to press hard for immediate action.

If It Happens To You...

Treat any unsolicited phone call as a probable scam, even if it supposedly comes from a firm you trust. Microsoft does not call Windows users; it distributes security fixes only via Windows Update.

Never reveal sensitive information, such as a credit card number, to any unsolicited caller.

Do not visit a Web site, install software, re-configure Windows, or follow any other instructions at the insistence of any unsolicited caller.

Write down the caller's name, company, and contact information. It may very well be fake, but at least you'll have something to give to the police or other authorities.

If you fall for a fake tech support scam and later realize your mistake, treat the incident as a serious security breach. Immediately change all of your passwords. Uninstall any software that you installed at the caller's behest. Disable remote access if you enabled it. Run a full anti-malware scan. See my related article System Restore, and follow the instructions there. Monitor your bank and credit card accounts closely and consider closing them if you detect any unauthorized transactions.

Have you or someone you know been victimized by fake tech support scammers? Post your comment or question below...

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Posted by on 17 Jun 2011

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Most recent comments on "Don't Fall For the Fake Tech Support Scam"

Posted by:

P D Sterling
17 Jun 2011

do you know of GoDaddy making outreach calls? I told the young man in the clearest possible tones, that if I wanted to buy SOMETHING ELSE from them, I would know how to get hold of them!

Posted by:

17 Jun 2011

In the space of three days I got two phone calls from 'Computer Maintenance Department' telling me that I had a problem. Foreign voice, difficult to understand. My wife got a similar call - same home phone number. Each time we ask them 'What makes you think I've got a computer?' That fixes them !

Posted by:

Murray White
17 Jun 2011

Had 2 of these in the same week. Fortunately I have enough knowledge to know what was going on. By the time I had finished giving the "lady" the run around with questions, comments, etc, she gave up and hung up on me.

Posted by:

17 Jun 2011

We had three 'phone calls within a few days. All from 'Computer Maintenance Department' advising that they had detected a problem with our PC. When we asked them why they thought we had a computer, they rang off! Two other techniques might be useful. Tell them to hold on a moment while you get someone to speak with them - put the 'phone down and leave it down until you need to use it or whatever. Or get yourself a loud whistle and blow it into the 'phone.

Posted by:

Arthur James
18 Jun 2011

They have rang me many times and in Australia they give you Microsoft's address and phone number when you ask for details.
I often let them babble on for a while, them tell them I only use Linux - then they usually quickly end the call. If you're busy, just hang up on them. (Yes, I do use Linux)

Posted by:

18 Jun 2011

The problem with these scammers is that they're too smart...

Posted by:

18 Jun 2011

So who is giving the spammers the customer phone numbers?

Posted by:

18 Jun 2011

Yes Bob,myself and others have received these calls many times. When I ask for a phone to ring them back, they provide a Sydney number, which is directed to the original caller. Have told them I would contact the Australian Federal Police and they hang-up.Hoping something can be done to catch them and bring them before the courts.

Cheers from "Downunder".


Posted by:

Mark Fotheringham
18 Jun 2011

This scam has been experienced in the U.K. for many months now. I personally have had such calls on four different occasions. At first the calling party number was displayed but recently the callers have been withholding their numbers. On the first occasion I booted up my computer as requested but (dual boot) elected to use my Ubuntu installation. The caller spent an interesting 15 minutes trying to guide me through his "windows idiot guide" before hanging up on me. On subsequent calls I just ask them to hold on until "my very slow computer" boots up. Callers have waited from between five and fifteen minutes before hanging up.
They are scum so have fun with them if you can spare the time. (I can as I am a retired I.T. worker). Whilst they are occupied with you they can't hassle some other potential victim.

Posted by:

Harvey Houghton
19 Jun 2011

Yes, I recently had such a call claiming to be from Microsoft Support in London, England (I live in Canada). Boy, were they ever smooth. I can easily see how someone might be taken in. They want you to allow them to have remote access control of your computer for a couple of hours and they want you to use your credit card to purchase ongoing support service.
Run very quickly if this happens to you.

Posted by:

Bruce H
24 Jun 2011

My wife received such a call supposedly from Microsoft Tech Support, saying there was a problem on my computer. I was out and she told the person to call back in a few hours when I would be home. My wife told me about the call and I said it was a scam. We received NO return call.

Posted by:

13 Feb 2012

Ya.. I have also heard about this scam..Cybercriminals often use the names of well-known companies in their scams.. They think it will convince you to give them money or your personal information. While they usually use email to trick you, they sometimes use the telephone, instead.. Windows 7 vs Windows 8

Posted by:

Kim NK
03 Apr 2013

About 3 weeks ago, a rep claiming to be from Microsoft saying my PC had a virus and was affecting their server; I told him "Really?!" I've sensed it was a SCAM; I know for a fact a MS rep will not call you. The rep was getting more aggressive and I still told them "No!!" Afterwards, I'd reported the incident to the BBB.

Posted by:

11 Apr 2013

I'm a senior in B.C., Canada. Suddenly one afternoon I was unable to double my Outlook access having one open at the time, I normally could access a second outlook page to my email. A message kept coming up asking for verification to my Microsoft Acct. requiring an alternative email. I used Google and found a listed Microsoft website with Tech Rep assistance available. Immediately the Rep ( from Oshi) put up before me on the computer an inside peek at my programs stopping one by one. he informed me that I had been hacked ! Unless I gave him access to my computer I would loose my computer to the hacker. He asked for my name, birth-date, email password, and my computer password. He told me he would fix everything up and bill me at the end of the estimated two hour FIX. He asked for my telephone number and called me twice. I observed what he was doing once he gained access to my computer. It appeared to me what he was doing wasn't much different than what I had already done to reset my computer password with Microsoft.I wondered why he was attempting this as I had said I had reset y password and now was alerted to wait up to 24 hours for this to become active. He also proceeded to remove a security feature for my computer. I phoned a relative savvy with computers and was informed to just shut down my computer and then no-one would have continuing access. Either the alleged hacker or this rep who estimated $280 bill which he said he would take payment for when he finished from a credit card. Fortunately, he didn't have my card or pin number. He kept verifying his legitimacy as of a Microsoft rep yet the company he said he worked for was named Oshi. I went to the BBB site and online I couldn't even find this company as it lists site removed.Although the rep had my phone number he didn't call me after I had shut down my computer. My relation was able to reset my passwords and make adjustments so my security was adequately running once more. There wasn't any hacking going on. My error was in panicking and going to a site I hadn't thoroughly checked out for Tech Support. The BBB has a format for complaints and the Business name is required and address. I couldn't find Oshi listed online so I wasn't capable of making an official scam report.
The Tech Support rep had given me a name and ID number yet without the company address or posting otherwise online this was useless. He also gave me a number to call him at which was bogus. Smooth operators can quickly access email addresses which he had copied three of mine to supposedly reset the Microsoft Acct. again. This is when I really got suspicious as I watched his ongoing efforts on my computer having remote access through my panicking initially over what he presented to me as my programs stopping again allegedly due to a hacker from the Philippenes. As far as Identity theft, my name, birth-date and telephone number are out there in the hands of the Oshi Tech Support Rep and so far I am not aware of just how I could make a complaint about this transaction officially. As far as protection for identity theft I would appreciate any valid comment as to how to address this. Thank you

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'd start by finding the link that you Googled. Check your browser history if you can't find the link with a search.

Posted by:

Bennett Brooke
04 Jun 2013

We received 2 calls from them today in Austin, Tx.

Posted by:

18 Dec 2013

I was just advised by a friend that he had received a phone call from a company advising that his computer was "calling for help for internal issues." My friend advised he has no service contracts in place on his computer and is not hooked up to a network. He advised he immediately hung up on the individual without giving any information out and was wondering if he had been "scammed" and how it happened. He is planning on reformatting his hard drive but is awaiting information from me on this issue.

Thanks for the information and have a joyous holiday season.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Don't Fall For the Fake Tech Support Scam (Posted: 17 Jun 2011)
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