We’ve seen many cheap Microsoft Office 365 Family, Personal and other plans sold as ‘lifetime’, ‘perpetual’ or ‘never-ending’. It’s all lies.
Some deals are obviously scams, like this one for just US$3 but others have more plausible prices. They are priced just under the regular street price to seem like a good, legitimate offer.
All Microsoft Office 365 plans are time-limited, usually for a year. Microsoft 365 Family or Personal can be extended for up to five years by buying multiple yearly plans and adding them to your account.
There’s no such thing as a ‘lifetime’ Microsoft 365 / Office 365 product key.
Check the fine print
Let’s dig into the details of one typical bogus Microsoft Office 365 offer to see what they’re up to.
Aside from the stupidly low price and the mix of ‘365’ and ‘2016’, the ‘fine print’ gives the game away. This is some of the details with our warning marks.
You won’t be able to use your own email to login to your Microsoft account. They’ll give you another email address and password to login. That’s not just for installation but also ongoing use of Office software. That special account is shared with others, allowing them to see your Recent Documents list, OneDrive files and anything else saved by Office in a Microsoft Account.
There are workarounds for some of that, for example adding your own OneDrive account.
The last paragraph is contradictory. It says the license is ‘legitimate’ but then explains how they a misusing an Office licence. We’re not sure what they mean by a ‘business licence … part of an academic licence’. Microsoft licences are either business or academic, not both.
It seems they are selling an organization or academic licence which is tied to a specific user/email address.
Anyway you look at it, what’s being sold is illegal and a breach of the terms under which the Microsoft Office 365 licence was issued. Once detected, Microsoft can and probably will disable use of Office.
Microsoft could also pursue people who bought this stolen product, though that’s unlikely.
What’s really happening?
The Ebay merchant is hoping to sell as many of these ‘Microsoft Office 365 licences’ as possible before being shut down.
If people complain, they’ll probably ignore them. The seller can shut down their Ebay account and restart under another name. Most likely the same person or group is operating many different merchant accounts at the same time.
Credit card chargebacks won’t cost the merchant anything. For such small amounts, the banks just write off the amount and don’t follow up with the merchant.. Scammers know this and take advantage. We all pay via higher credit card fees and interest.
Why is it happening?
For all the talk from Ebay, Amazon and Microsoft there doesn’t seem to be a lot of effort to stop these obviously illegal sales.
It doesn’t take much to find these bogus offerings on Ebay. Just the opposite, it’s hard to find legitimate offers among all the scams!
Yet the scams keep appearing and last for weeks before, maybe, being shut down.
We understand why the likes of Ebay and Amazon turn a blind eye to these offers. After all they make money out of the sales and the extra web traffic generated.
Why is Microsoft so complacent?
When specific scams are brought to the attention of the web site or Microsoft, the sale is usually deleted. Microsoft doesn’t seem to be at all proactive in finding these bogus offers and either forcing the site to stop or pursuing the sellers.
That lack of action is in stark contrast to the stern words and platitudes from the companies.