If you get an unexpected phone call from Microsoft, hang up on them. It’ll be a scam where you could lose thousands and precious personal data from your computer.
We’ve mentioned this before but reminded by this Australian article warning that just in ‘Oz’ people have lost an estimated AUD$2 billion (US$1.3billion) to criminals in 2021 alone. The losses will be higher in other, more populated, countries.
How tech support scams work …
- ‘Microsoft tech support’ calls you saying they’ve detected a problem with your computer.
- They’ll make it seem urgent, talking about viruses, ransomware, possible data loss (hard drive fault) etc.
- There are also fake calls trying to get logins to organizations using Microsoft 365 hosting.
- OR an error message appears with a support phone number to call.
- The error dialog box or email is a fake – Microsoft does NOT include phone numbers in their error or warning messages.
- They get you to install ‘special support software’ from a web site.
- Or even use Windows own Remote Assistance feature which seems more credible (it isn’t).
- Once they have control of your computer, they’ll fiddle about on the machine to make it look like they are fixing something.
- In reality, they are grabbing personal and financial data from your computer.
- Likely also installing spyware to get more info sent to them automatically.
- If they are especially cheeky, they’ll charge you for their ‘help’!
- Often they’ll ask for untraceable payment via Bitcoin or even gift cards (iTunes etc).
- Any business or government agency asking for payment by gift card should be a HUGE 🚩red flag.
Microsoft does NOT call people with computer problems
For starters, Microsoft doesn’t track use of Windows or Office that closely. Even if the company receives notice of an error, that’s only used for aggregated purposes not to identify individuals.
For tech support, you have to call Microsoft – they won’t call you.
If someone calls saying they are Microsoft support, just HANG UP. Don’t waste your time.
Not just Microsoft
Fake support calls from Microsoft are the most common but the same applies to other large tech companies. Cold calls from Google, Apple (for Mac, iPhone or iPad ‘support’), Facebook etc should all get the same ‘hang up’ treatment.
There are also fake calls from banks or credit card companies. Again, just hang up.
Microsoft’s own advice
Microsoft has a page about tech support scams here’s their advice:
- Microsoft does not send unsolicited email messages or make unsolicited phone calls to request personal or financial information, or to provide technical support to fix your computer. If you didn’t ask us to, we won’t call you to offer support.
- If a pop-up or error message appears with a phone number, don’t call the number. Error and warning messages from Microsoft never include a phone number.
- Microsoft will never ask that you pay for support in the form of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, or gift cards.
- Download software only from official Microsoft partner websites or the Microsoft Store. Be wary of downloading software from third-party sites, as some of them might have been modified without the author’s knowledge to bundle malware and other threats.
They also have a recommendation to use Microsoft’s Edge browser because of it’s safety features. Microsoft can’t help dropping in a self-serving plug for their own product, ignoring the fact that other browsers (like Chrome and Safari) also have safety features.
If you hear of a support scam, report it to Microsoft via www.microsoft.com/reportascam . The accumulation of information might help block or even find these thieves.