[ALERT] Fake Tech Support Scammers Are Calling

Category: Reference

Have you received an unexpected phone call from someone claiming to be a helpful customer service rep for Microsoft? It happened to me yesterday, twice! Many others are receiving calls from scammers posing as tech support reps, warning that their computers are infected with malware and offering help to fix the purported problem. Read to see how I handled the situation, and what you should watch out for...

Fake Tech Support Scams

I've been hearing more and more cases of this tech support phone scam lately. The caller typically says he's calling on behalf of Microsoft, and tells you that there's a serious problem with your computer. 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. And of course, they'll want to ding your credit card for a couple hundred bucks. That's exactly what my callers tried to do, before I called their bluff.

What usually happens is that the scammer walks you through a set of steps to "prove" that your computer is infected. Sometimes they'll have you download a program that runs a fake scan which shows all sorts of problems. In one case, my caller had me open a command prompt, and issue the "assoc" command. He then read me a string of digits and asked if they matched one line of the output. Bingo, it matched! I knew that string of digits was just the class identifer of a program that appears on all Windows computers, so it proved nothing. But out of curiousity, I decided to let him continue.

I asked my caller the name and location of his company. He said he was from "PCUSA" in Plainview, NY. I quickly googled that, and found that he was either a Presbyterian, a Communist, or a scammer. Maybe all of the above, but definitely a scammer. He next transferred me to a supervisor who asked me to enter the MSCONFIG command, and proceeded to try and convince me that critical system drivers were stopped.

Fake Tech Support Scams

I should have played along further, but I was so annoyed, I asked him "How can you sleep at night, when you lie, cheat and steal all day?" After a moment of stunned silence, Mr. Supervisor angrily cursed me out for "wasting his time" and hung up on me. I didn't feel bad about wasting a criminal's time, if it meant he had less time to scam others. Next time, I'll try to have a little more fun with the caller, maybe ask some personal questions about his family, or tell him about an amazing opportunity in multi-level marketing.

The goal in all of these scenarios is to scares the victim into paying for a solution or a subscription to worthless "security" software. In other cases, the scammer's goal is to steal the victim's financial data or install botnet software that enslaves the victim's computer.

This scam has been around since 2010, and even though the Federal Trade Commission has shut down some instances of it, there seems to be no end in sight. Apparently, that's because it continues to be both successful and lucrative.

How Big is the Phone Scam Problem?

A Microsoft survey of 7,000 users found that 22 percent of those who received fake tech support calls followed the instructions they were given. And of those who fell for the scams, 79 percent reported some sort of financial loss; $875, on average. Seventeen percent had money taken from their accounts. Nineteen percent reported compromised passwords. Seventeen percent more were victims of identity theft. Fifty-three percent said they had "computer problems" following the fake tech support calls.

According to a 2015 Harris Poll survey, 27 million Americans got taken by phone scammers the previous year, resulting in an estimated $7.4 billion in losses. That includes all sort of phone scammers, not just the rogue technicians. You might think that seniors would be the most likely to get scammed. But actually it appears that the younger generations, who grew up with tech and don’t view it skeptically, are more likely to fall for a phone scam than their elders. Male millennials (age 18-34) had the highest rate of gullibility, with 38% reporting they’d lost money to phone scams in the past twelve months.

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? There are several reasons. 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 website, install software, allow remote access, 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. Call your bank and ask them to remove the fraudulent charges from your account.

Run a full anti-malware scan, with one of these free antivirus programs. 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.

If you're concerned about identity theft, see my Ten Tips for Identity Theft Protection.

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

Ask Your Computer or Internet Question

  (Enter your question in the box above.)

It's Guaranteed to Make You Smarter...

AskBob Updates: Boost your Internet IQ & solve computer problems.
Get your FREE Subscription!


Check out other articles in this category:

Link to this article from your site or blog. Just copy and paste from this box:

This article was posted by on 24 Jan 2018

For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.

Prev Article:
AVG Anti-Virus Gets A New Look

The Top Twenty
Next Article:
Geekly Update - 25 Jan 2018

Most recent comments on "[ALERT] Fake Tech Support Scammers Are Calling"

(See all 64 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

24 Jan 2018

We get these in South Africa regularly, too. I also tell them I have 3 computers and ask which is the problematic one. Then I tell them that they are old computers, so, yes, they probably have a serious problem and I'd appreciate their assistance. Then I say I need to switch the computer on, but, because it's old, it takes a long time, will they wait? Then I go have coffee and when I'm finished I come back to the phone and tell them it's still busy booting up. Then I go have breakfast or lunch. When I get back they are still hanging on! I tell them it's nearly ready. And so it goes on, until they realise what's happening. Then they get upset with me for wasting their time!!!! and they will charge me $100. I'm still waiting for the account to arrive.

Posted by:

Oliver J Fleming
25 Jan 2018

Yes I have had these calls, sometimes 2 or 3 a day. Australia must be fertile ground for these scammers. I try to put them on hold while I answer the door or suchlike. Sometimes I send them off with a flea in their ear. Suggesting there mothers were free with their favours etc.

Posted by:

Richard Alan Dengrove
25 Jan 2018

I don't believe anything I hear on the telephone these days. I never answer any calls right now. I let them ring. If they leave a message, I listen to the message. If it wants money, I delete it. The tech support scam isn't the only one. There is the IRS scam, the credit card scam, and, for all I know, the carpet cleaning scam.

Posted by:

25 Jan 2018

I got tired of wasting time on scammers. Now I interrupt all unwanted solicitations with "I've told you people not to call. Take me off your list."

Very effective. These people are usually paid only if they get money from you. Most quickly sign off when they get my negative response -- that "you people" sounds unfriendly enough to be convincing. Sometimes bona fide charities actually do take me off their list.

Posted by:

Dennis T Reynolds
25 Jan 2018

I had the SAME GUY calling me every 4-6 weeks claiming to be from Dell. For 2 years, starting about a year after I had financed a new computer thru Dell. He once told me about all these errors my computer was sending, when at the time my computer was shut completely off, and hadn't been turned on in over 2 months ! I started responding to him by saying "oh good, let met go get my credit card and get this fixed right away !" If they stayed on the phone, I have my credit card # as 1234 5678 9123 4567 exp 1/23 they hadn't called me in over 8 months now.

Posted by:

25 Jan 2018

A few months ago, I had one of these guys call me and after his opening schpeel, I laughed out loud at him an hung up. Sixty seconds later he called back and was "indignant" that I had laughed at him and hung up. "I was calling to offer you help, but now I will not help you" he said. I laughed again and hung up once more. This time he did not call back. What can you say? :)

Posted by:

Leslie Klee
25 Jan 2018

Tell the tech scammer to "F**K OFF" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by:

25 Jan 2018

Used to get these a couple of times a month. Was amazed at their persistence- even when I told them I had an Apple computer!

Posted by:

25 Jan 2018


Have you been getting lots of unexpected and unwanted ‘phone calls lately? Some come in at really inopportune moments – just when you’re sitting down to a meal is a likely time. An unknown caller opens the conversation by enquiring about the state of your health. This is not a genuine interest regarding your well-being – they only want to get you involved in a conversation about a product dear to their heart - double glazing, a ventilation system or a charity and to free you directly of some of your hard-won cash. They are a nuisance but will go away if you tell them you are not interested.

But there are a more sinister lot. They do not want you to buy some product – they want you to provide them with your credit card details. Then you listen for the whooshing noise as cash starts to haemorrhage from your credit card account!

These folks use a robot calling system of dialling ‘phone numbers. The robot just keeps calling numbers in the hope that they will get a live response. If someone (you!) answers the ‘phone then the call centre knows that there appears to be a live human on the line and will get into their sales-pitch. The centre is likely to be somewhere East of Suez and the accent will give you a big clue. They are going to tell you that there is something wrong with your computer or Windows 10 and they can fix it for you over the ‘phone. All you are required to do is answer a few questions, follow their directions and provide your credit card details.

So, how do you deal with these crooks? There are several responses you could follow:
If your ‘phone shows the number of the incoming call, then a four-digit opening number of zeroes gives you an immediate warning. Ignore the call or pick up the ‘phone and then hang up without saying anything or take the call if you don’t get this preliminary warning.

Now you have some options. It’s all downhill from here and it depends how playful you want to be! Wait for the sales pitch. They will tell you they are from Microsoft or are a Microsoft company and they have detected a problem with your computer. The simplest thing to do is put the ‘phone down now and end the call. Otherwise they will engage you in conversation regarding your computer.

Tell them you don’t have a computer (they won’t believe you). Say you have a Mac machine – they can help with that too. Say your house has more than 10 Windows – can they clean all of them? Pause for a while and then explain that you are waiting for the Police to join you on the line – they probably won’t hang around. Tell them you are going to get your son/anyone to deal with the call and ask them to wait for a moment – put the ‘phone down and get on with whatever it was when you were interrupted. When you remember to pick up the ‘phone you will be surprised to find that they have gone away! The biggest revenge is to have a loud whistle nearby and give the caller a healthy blast before replacing the ‘phone – this is guaranteed to make you feel better and that the whole thing has been well-worthwhile.

And have a nice day - unless you have other plans!


Posted by:

25 Jan 2018

Tom Mabe's murder crime scene is my favourite.

Posted by:

25 Jan 2018

Every one in a while when I am edge and open another tab I get this so called micro soft warning my computer has been hack with a phone number to call a micro soft tech to help fix it. I called the first time I got it and went though all the scam until the part of signing up to a support company that was going to fix it. that is when an alert flash in my mine and I told him I though he was scramming me that when he got upset and was mad I wasted his time. I still get the warning once in a while and haven't figure out how to clear it from my Edge but know to ignore it.

Posted by:

25 Jan 2018

The same calls keep coming to me; I had several supposedly from HP - he had my model#, serial#, even my case#. This after subscribing to HP's smart friend services; almost within the hour. They even had my cell phone#, which they keep using repeatedly. I kept this one call occupied for about an hour, then asked him if he was calling from the market place in Mumbai! He called me every nasty name he new, then berated me. He said his time was valuable - I said not as valuable as mine. Boy was he mad. I also received calls from " Microsoft", the "IRS", "AEP", etc.

Posted by:

25 Jan 2018

When they called and say they detect a problem with my computer. I asked the guy do you have a computer at home? He said yes. I said would he make changes to his computer if someone call him at home. He didn't know what to say.

Another person called and I said oh I'm glad you called because I'm so lonely. No one has called all day and I am sad and lonely. No one cares about me any more. They don't know what to say.

Posted by:

26 Jan 2018

I have a different way of handling these boobs,I tell them I have no computer at this time and would they give me their address a and phone number and I'll be sure to call them back to get the "Protection" when I get a new computer.To which I get a click.

Posted by:

26 Jan 2018

I'm really surprised at the comments - I can tell within a few seconds that a unsolicited call is bogus. THEN I HANG UP.
First - I've got better things to do (I'm retired).
Second - These boiler room callers sell their list of phone numbers that have callers that will listen! Doesn't matter if you called them names and wasted their time. They have verified there is a live listener at this number. Maybe you didn't bite on the Microsoft service scam, but maybe the IRS "you owe money" scam will work.
Just hang up and go do something constructive.

Posted by:

26 Jan 2018

I always tell them I do not own a computer. Then hang up. Or I tell them how stupid they are cause I do not own a computer.

Posted by:

27 Jan 2018

This has been going on for ages in the UK. The callers are always from an Indian call centre but give themselves English names and you can never understand a word they say as their accent is so bad.I just play around with them to waste their time and pretend to follow their instructions. When asked who they wanted to speak to they give the name of the previous owner who moved out in 2002.

Posted by:

31 Jan 2018

Received this e-mail this morning. It didn't come from Google, the IP address is located in Wichita Kansas and several reverse phone lookup sites list the number as scam-related. I'm sure they'd enjoy getting calls from anyone and everyone! Enjoy:

On Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 9:22 AM,
Gmail Security
Subject: Call Now Another Gmail Hack

You need to call now 1 855-739-7819
We Have Detected Unusual Activity With Your Gmail Account on Your Computer
Login Has Occurred on 1/31/2018 @ 7:04 AM EST
From IP: ​​ Geo Location Found: Eastern Russia
If This Was Not You Please Call the Google Security Team
(Be at your computer)
1 ​​855-739-7819

Posted by:

02 Feb 2018

I did not get a phone call. I instead got a message / warning on my PC to call Microsoft asap and to not turn off the computer. When I checked the phone number it was not for MS customer support. I turned off my PC and ran a virus scan and sure enough my PC was infected. Fortunately I was able to resolve the issue.

Posted by:

thomas felock
04 Feb 2019

lets just say I drive these idiots crazy when they call me HAHAHA (use your WILDEST imagination)

There's more reader feedback... See all 64 comments for this article.

Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions

*     *     (* = Required field)

    (Your email address will not be published)
(you may use HTML tags for style)

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important! Comments of a political nature are discouraged. Please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

All comments are reviewed, and may be edited or removed at the discretion of the moderator.

NOTE: Please, post comments on this article ONLY.
If you want to ask a question click here.

Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter

Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
About Us     Privacy Policy     RSS/XML

Article information: AskBobRankin -- [ALERT] Fake Tech Support Scammers Are Calling (Posted: 24 Jan 2018)
Source: https://askbobrankin.com/alert_fake_tech_support_scammers_are_calling.html
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved