The ‘Microsoft phone scam’ simply won’t hang up

by , Conversation Editor Technology 4 November 2011
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The thing that annoys me most about cold callers is not when they’re out to sell something, but when they’re trying to scam me into handing over my card details. Phone scams are on the up, as your comments prove.

Hand over red keyboard

Cold callers pretending to be from your bank and scammers claiming they can fix your virus-riddled computer have much in common.

One, they’re preying on your fears. Two, they’re pretending to be from a legitimate company. Three, they’re after your card details. And four, they’re just old-fashioned confidence tricksters trying to make a quick buck at your expense.

Phone scams are still in vogue

We’ve been reporting on these scams for well over a year now, and our Conversation in June slapped Microsoft on the hand for not warning its customers about these cold callers. In fact, according to our survey in the latest Which? Computing issue, around half ‘strongly agreed’ that companies should do more to warn people about scams.

Almost one in ten said they had fallen for a cold-calling scam. So why are these phone scams still in vogue?

Apparently, they’re growing in popularity based on the availability of cheap phone calls and labour in countries like India. I haven’t personally been contacted by one of these cheery folk (I usually immediately hang up if I do) but a close member of my family has. Sadly, they were convinced into handing over their card details. They’ve since cancelled their card.

Falling for the cold calling scam

The scam goes something like this. They’ll try to persuade you to grant access to your PC via a remote access tool. They’ll install malware to show you a list of fake infections. And you’ll then be threatened (‘you’ll lose your data if we don’t fix this’) to hand over your card details.

You’ve continued to make comments about this phone scam here on Which? Convo – some have been called multiple times and others have sadly handed over money.

It’s worth pointing out that you’re not only in trouble if you’ve given them your card details. Once you’ve let them onto your computer, it’s been compromised, as they can see what you’re typing the next time you shop online or log in to your online bank account.

How to protect yourself from phone scams

So what should you do if you’re called by one of these phone scammers? Hanging up would be best, but certainly don’t let them remote in to your computer, and definitely don’t give them any money. If you have been targeted, change your passwords, do an antivirus scan and check for remote access software in the ‘Add or Remove Programs’ section of your Control Panel.

Another family member of mine said the scammer alleged that there were ‘computer viruses going around their area’. Firstly, they can’t know if there’s something wrong with your computer. And secondly, viruses do not travel geographically!

Finally, Which? Convo commenter Kermit has had lots of these scammers calling him, so I’ll leave you with his advice:

‘The best thing to do with these people is waste their time because the longer you keep them on the line, the fewer other potential suckers get called.

‘And you can indulge your creative talents in all sorts of ways to prolong their agony – “This machine takes forever to boot up”, “Hold on a sec, there’s someone at the door”, “Oops, I pressed the wrong button” etc.’

Almost makes you feel sorry for them. Almost.

Have you been cold called by a technical support scam?

Yes - but I didn't fall for it (73%, 949 Votes)

No - I think I've been lucky (19%, 242 Votes)

Yes - I let them remotely log in to my computer (3%, 45 Votes)

Maybe - I'm not sure whether it was a phone scam (3%, 36 Votes)

Yes - I paid them money (2%, 26 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,298

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295 comments

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Leigh

This happened to me 2 days ago about there being viruses in my computer but I had been havin problems with it so like an idiot went with it all they can be very persuasive n gave them my info n card info and as soon as the convo ended I new i had done something really dumb n call my bank n had my card blocked lookaly they hadent accessed it yet n they are callin me back Timoz to finalise things n I will be giving them a peace of my mind

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Brian

It is clear from reading the complete thread that they are both persistent and persuasive.

Now can you tell us what you have done about it who did you report it to and what have you done to stop this happening again.

There is little point in posting that you have been called as this does not help anyone as you can see clearly that posting on here means you have been called.

I would suggest you invest in a call blocker of some sort.

This is the one I have found best but it is more expensive than all the others I have tried.

You get what you pay for.

https://www.truecall.co.uk/home.aspx

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terry

just say that you have not got a computer ,that makes them stutter a bit but it works every time .

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Helen

Yes I fell for it !!!! or almost – On Saturday 14.06 in a weak and foolish moment I allowed someone who was purporting to be working on behalf of microsoft to have access to my computer ( thankfully I did not give him any credit or bank details ) Boy he was very, very,very convincing, giving me my address at the start of the conversation. Asking me to look to see if any Microsoft applications were showing as stopped ( they were ), asking if it was more than 7 that were stopped then my computer would have problems ( there were). I was suspicious all the way through asking him what company he was from.. he gave me the name which I googled and as mentioned below there was this really convincing website ! and lots of other questions whch he answered with ease. I kept asking me if he was trying to sell me something and he kept saying no, no !! Very knowledgeable and seductive and I am admitting this to help others as I have previous NEVER engaged in conversation with the rare cold caller that gest through despite my TPS being in action, I always just put the phone straight down..

He asked me to download Advanced WindowsCare 2.51 personal which I did and ran as instructed and of course it found lots of problems ( almost certainly installed on my computer by him) I ended his access and the phone call when he mentioned paying to clean the computer ( he had previously said it was free )

Following my falling for this foolish scam I endeavered to take all cookies, programmes etc off my computer that had been installed on 14.06.14 including all IObit files. ( the people who make advanced Windows care) I have managed to do that, ran both my paid for AVG programme and Microsoft safety scanner and both found nothing. AVG technician had a look today including into the registry and could find nothing untoward.
I did tell him about one application ( called “restore” ) that is still on and this is because I did a restore point with the Advanced Windows care programme AFTER I had stopped the scammers access. I cannot delete this application, neither could the AVG man or IObit companies own all singing all dancing Uninstall Programmes piece of software.
This is my fear.. That somehow the scammer has put something in the IObit programme that is spying on what I am keying in on this computer and have therefore not been using any passwords to do with banking etc.. Can’t keep this up for ever!
I have emailed to IObit company to ask their advise .
I have reported this and the company they purported to be from The Tech Helpline ( which has an all singing all dancing webiste which I was checking out as I was being scammed ) to Action Fraud. The website has an 0800 number which I phoned to complain too, principally about them trying to get money out of me and not telling me up front that I would have to pay. I got a woman who was very apologetic and said she’d make sure I wasn’t phoned again..

Do you think I am safe? What else can I do? Should I just buy another computer? I am feeling very, very stressed and fearful over this.. At some point I am going to have to start using passwords again.

Sorry for myself Helen !

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william

@helen, Where did you download Advanced WindowsCare 2.51 from ?

And yes definitely change all your passwords.

and when you say “ran both my paid for AVG programme and Microsoft safety scanner” was that a quick scan of full system scan ?

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Helen

Hi William,

Thanks for replying.

From the official IObit site . I remember I googled it first and could see it was legit. I was suspicious all the way through and questioned and questioned him.. he was good !
I googled the name of the company he gave me as I have mentioned .. https://thetechhelpline.co.uk/index.php looks pretty good doesn’t it.

Full system scan for AVG but a quick one for Microsoft safety scanner I think. As I say the AVG technician today looked deep in the registry and said he couldn’t find anything untoward but I still feel freaked out ( I’m off with work-related stress as it is !) not least because he gave me my full adress at the start of the conversation…

I was going to change all passwords but my worry is there is something on my computer now that is sending off everything I’m typing.. so as soon as I put in a new password they can access it anyway. I have not used any of my passwords on this computer since this happened so they shouldn’t have them. At work I’m used to having my desktop taken over and AVG have done this previously too so I was maybe not as alarmed as I should have been .

I’ll do a full Microsoft safety scan now..

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william

Well the iobit website would be the best place to download it from. Chances are the default is warn about everything. So a lot of what it warned about you could probably just ignore anyway.

The sad thing is you may think he’s good, but that’s only because you didn’t ask him the “right” questions. What’s my IP address? is a good one, as they’ll quote 192.168.?.? back at you and yes almost all PCs will have that as its your local IP address and if as he says your PC is sending out the informations he should be able to tell you your external IP address, which of course he can’t do because he doesn’t know it.

I’m not 100% sure what your referring too when you say AVG technician, did you contact AVG via phone or something ?

I can’t comment on the website you quoted as I don’t go to web address that I don’t already trust. Not that I’m paranoid of anything.

The restore you mention, is it a executable ( application ) or a folder?. Chances are windows has created it and therefore will stop you deleting it, windows doesn’t like it if you delete parts of its operating system, its quite good like that.

And remember almost everything that Asian gentleman quoted is likely to be a lie. Windows comes with loads of software that runs as services and many won’t be run , the event viewer will have loads of entries things like Microsoft office write to it all the time. And self respecting virus or dodgey piece of software won;t want to announce itsleff so won;t appear in there.

And you can get names and address out of a phone book. And with many companies selling on personal details, you can’t really tell how they got your info.

Many banks are now pushing people to use Trusteer Rapport software which should help with fighting keyloggers. Check with your own bank to see if they are providing links for a free download.

I’m fortunate I use 2 PCs one for online shopping and banking and the other for general surfing, to try and keep my details away from those who shouldn’t have access to it.

Sorry I can’t be more help, but I struggle with other peoples PC. A friend of mine drives me round to his house to work on his ( and its only 100 yards down the road ).

Good luck with the work related stress. I suffered with that for almost 2 years until I was made redundant then almost over night all the symptoms vanished. I’ve been “clear” for almost 4 years now, probably something to do with the fact that I’ve not bothered to look for work. I can definitely recommend a stress free life / work free life if you can afford it.

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Helen

Running Miscrosoft Windows malicious software removal tool and doing a full scan and going to run Microsoft’s safety scanner again too !!

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kermit

I had a call yesterday from these clowns in India and managed to keep them on the phone for nearly 10 minutes by telling them my computer was a desktop upstairs in the bedroom and my only phone was tethered to the wall downstairs.

This meant that in order to follow their instructions I had to keep running up and down the stairs. I had planned on becoming more and more breathless until I had a severe medical episode, but the guy got impatient and said that they couldn’t possibly sort out my computer problem if I couldn’t use the phone in front of it.

It was at this stage I informed him that I knew it was a scam, and for some unknown reason he started swearing at me. When I failed to react to his language, it became even fouler, with references to my mother and the number of fathers I had. I told him his language was puerile and that I’d rather have several fathers than be stupid.

He then seemed to be at a loss for words, so I hung up. I did record the call but it really should be ‘XXX’ rated!

At least I wasted 10 minutes of his time…

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Helen

Oh mine was very polite and patient and had a REALLY good answer for everything I threw at him. He was convincing in the extreme.. and I questioned and questioned him.. was on the phone etc for nearly 45 mins !! I’m surprised he didn’t give up on me sooner.. but when it’s happened to me who previously NEVER engaged in conversation, but always put the phone down and was always warning others… I think it could happen to almost anyone given the right day, set of circumstances and the smooth, knowledgeable, patient scammer that I had !

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bigmart

I had a call earlier today. I kept him on the line for about 5 – 10 minutes queryijng things he said – “I already have virus protection” he told me it was not a virus.

Anyway, eventually told him I had to go out and put the phone down !

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Sarah

We were called today about 2pm.

First our sims game kept shutting itself down then the phone rang and a guy with an indian accent claimed to be from Microsoft and said there’s some breach or something, my screen was going black then when pressed a key and it goes back. Then windows kept popping open and the mouse moved on its own while the guy described the ‘symptoms’. Clearly they already had access via a Trojan or something. Not sure how that got through our firewall and virus checkers… Not in the habit of running random exe files or strange scripts or plugins. Then they asked us if this was our only pc and if we used it the most etc and asks us to look at some event viewfinder thing. Tried to claim our licences were fraudulent but of course he could fix for £10.

We said nah it’s ok we will just reformat the laptop. Then he got stressed and said no no our laptop will be damaged permanently and would we risk it. At which point we told him to… Well, go away (in somewhat stronger words), hung up (20 min call total) then reformatted our laptop and reinstalled windows 7. So far all is well.

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william

Sounds like someone had already given them access from a previous phone call, as it seems he’d already got remote access.

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wev

How did they get your phone number?

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Helen

Update on my scam.(see above) I was greatly helped by an AVG (provider of my internet security ) technician – he took over my computer and searched the registry etc and helped me to get rid of the programmes I had downloaded on that fateful day. This was over and above what he is supposed to do because the issue wasn’t an AVG one which was kind of him but still the “restore” application in the IObit folder remained. ( this had not created by Windows William. Oh and I already have Trusteer )
I contacted IObit and they advised that they do not sell “Advanced WindowsCare 2.51″ so I obviously did not download from their site but I cannot remember where not that it really matters but I am sending them information about the website I have previously mentioned and they will follow this up.
IObit advised me to start my computer in safe mode and that would enable me to get rid of the “restore” file which I have done and one other rogue file associated with Advanced WindowsCare which they had told me how to find.
Since I did this I have also run Miscrosoft Windows malicious software removal tool again ( it had previously said there were 2 files that it could only partially remove) It found nothing this time.
I am running my AVG internet protection daily and hopefully I am in the clear now. I have let banks/credit cards know and so far there have been no problems as I did not give them any of those details and I hope that all the work that I have done on my computer to ensure everything that was downloaded on that day has been removed, means all will be well..
It has undoubtedly caused me a lot of stress and I won’t be making that mistake again !
The lesson is obviously not to engage in any conversation with anyone who cold calls but if you are unfortunate to have made the same mistake I did. Don’t panic, just don’t put in any passwords until your computer has been “cleaned”. Or buy a new computer if you can afford to !!!!
Good luck!

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william

Glad to hear you sorted :)

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Helen

Unbelievably the same person, his name ( or the name he gives) is Richard just phoned me again !!!! I immediately recognised his voice and he said he had spoken to me on the 14th and he wanted to check how my computer was. Beggars belief. I said I knew this was a scam and I didn’t want him to call me again and asked did he understand and he said “no I am just trying to help you ” at which point I put the phone down.. I cannot make it a rule not to answer the phone if the number does not show up because some calls I need to answer e.g from work, do not show their number.

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mo

I’m getting about 3 calls a day from these scammers. I tell them to keep talking so I can record the conversation for the police. The last one was so cheeky he asked me to tell him when I started recording. He gave me a company name ‘Peter’ something and an 020 number which I confirmed with 1471. He the threatened that he would block my computer from their website if I didn’t switch it on! I told him that would be great and to get lost.

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Jane

I have just had a call from someone from a support company, saying they were the official tech support for Windows. He was called Jimmy Wilson although he sounded very un English! He wanted me to turn on my pc as they had identified try that there was unknown software downloaded & he just wanted to show me where it was so that he could get rid. I questioned his validity & he became rude & impatient. After asking for a number that I could phone to check & a website address, he gave me – 0800 031 4014 – saying it was a London number, like all 0800 numbers!!!!? The upshot was that I didn’t turn on the pc. I rang this number & spoke to another man, who gave me different reasons for me being called in the first place! I hung up on him & took some time to hang up on the other one! He called back! Persistent, but I’m not in the mood. Got worthwhile things to get on with!

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william

I had one a couple of hours ago, the return number was 0000000000.

The lady started off telling me my computer was infected and would show me but then tried to get me to connect to a website to give her access, at which point I questioned her attempt to show me the infection and she hung up.

Isn’t it time someone actually did something about these pests?

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Keith Smith

I have found a sure fire way to stop the scam callers in their tracks.
I pretend to be doing what they ask, and when they ask me to do a search and ask me what I see on my screen, I say a box. They invariably ask what does the box say,
I tell them it is asking me a question, of course they ask me what is the question,
I say it is asking me – Is this search in response to a phone call? – Click Yes or No
Invariably the phone goes dead immediately.

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