The true cost of the ‘Microsoft support’ scam call

by , Editor, Which? Computing Technology 21 May 2013
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Have you been called by bogus Microsoft support scammers? We’ve heard from readers who’ve been conned into paying hundreds after falling victim. We’ve spoken to Microsoft to find out the scale of the scam.

Cartoon of man with phone

The phone rings and there’s a voice on the line telling you they’re aware you’re having computer problems, but not to worry – they’re with Microsoft, and they’re here to help. It’s a complete lie, and the opening gambit of an all-too-successful scam.

The person on the end of the line has no idea how your PC has been behaving lately. And they’re certainly nothing to do with Microsoft. They’re just after your cash.

These ‘tech support’ scammers will typically ask for remote access to your PC. They may then infect it with malware that could lift credit card details from your computer. Or they could simply charge you through the nose for PC ‘support’ that you never even needed.

Conned out of hundreds

Which? member Walter was conned out of £130 by a company claiming to work with Microsoft. Not only was he convinced to buy a £59 subscription, Walter was forced to pay a further £70 to have his computer fixed by a professional after the cold callers made his computer almost unusable. Action Fraud confirmed Walter was a victim of a scam and after Which? intervened on his behalf, his bank refunded the full £130.

Walter still gets cold calls from time to time, but now he doesn’t hold back:

‘The last time they called, I gave them a piece of my mind. It gave me the chance to inform them about the damage they had done to my computer and the cost of fixing it, which I must say made me feel a bit better.’

Scale of the ‘tech support’ scam

The scale of this scam call, which has been doing the rounds for nearly three years, is staggering. According to figures from Microsoft, one in five people surveyed in the UK had received one of these scam calls since 2010. Of those who have received a call:

  • Over a third said the caller tried to sell them something.
  • Over a fifth were asked to permit the caller remote access rights to their computer.
  • Over a fifth were asked to download some software.
  • And 18% were asked outright for credit card information.

According to Microsoft, half of the victims were aged 55 years or over, and the average amount lost has been a painful £745. Stuart Aston, Microsoft’s chief security advisor, told us:

‘It’s a dreadful crime. It targets vulnerable, often elderly people, and it can cost them a large amount of money. It’s a huge loss for the individual victim, but added up, thousands of successful scams like this can reap a small fortune for the criminals behind them.’

And Aston’s no stranger to the calls himself: ‘Somebody even called me once on my work phone here at Microsoft, claiming they were from the Windows support team.’

What’s Microsoft doing about the scam?

Microsoft’s working alongside international police agencies to tackle the scammers directly, but progress has been difficult. Many of the call centres are based overseas, and they change their names and tactics frequently.

At Which?, we’re campaigning to cut down nuisance calls and texts. However, this scam is more than a nuisance – it’s a criminal issue. Microsoft should continue raising awareness and working with police in order to stamp this scam out once and for all. And if you think you’ve been a victim of one of these tech support scam calls, run a virus scan, alert your bank and contact Action Fraud to report the scam.

102 comments

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wev

“I had been attempting to transfer funds to a mob in India called PC HELP CARE”

Why would you want to pay an Indian company to fix your pc and give it breakdown cover? You don’t get any help from Trading Standards and the Citizens Advice Bureau if something goes wrong, and if you don’t use your credit card to pay, you can’t get your money back if it turns out to be a scam.

For $600, you can get years of warranty cover from places like PC World, Currys and John Lewis.

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wavechange

PC World did poorly in a Which? survey on computer repairs: http://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/high-street-pc-repairs-poor/

Currys is part of the same group, which does not have a good reputation for customer service. You might be best to try Which? Local or try fixing problems yourself.

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wev

If anyone wants to fix it themselves, they should read hexus.net, hardocp.com and post to the forums there for advice.

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Shawn Stopper

I have been contacted by a man from http://www.myonlinepccare.com. He said I owe him $149.00 for 10 years tech support 2 printers and a scanner support! I was thinking that it was BS!! Please tell me that it is! Thank you, Shawn Stopper
[Comment edited for revealing personal details. Thanks, Mods.]

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Ruth Scott

I was chatting to a very spirited 90-year old lady, who, like the rest of us is sick of the Microsoft scam calls. She told the caller she was glad he had called as her computer was indeed playing up. (This was not true.) He got very excited and asked her for her password. She then proceeded to spell out slowly and in a mock doddery voice a very rude word starting with F and ending with the word “off.” He slammed the phone down. It hasn’t stopped the calls but it made her day!

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Ruby

I received another one of these calls this morning just before 10am, this time I hung up,
but when I called 1472 I discovered he had failed to hide his phone number.
With the hope that you can use it I am giving you the number that called me.
02030259569.
I am sick and tire arguing with the people who call my number telling me Microsoft has informed them that I have a problem with my computer.

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Graham King

Report the number to Ofcom as well

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Alison Greer

I was nearly sucked into one of these Microsoft Support Team scams at around 7.00 on Sat. evening. My reflections are thus:-
Microsoft will never call you ‘out of the blue’ (they don’t care enough).
Even if you try to check their identity by phoning the number they’ve given you, beware of not getting a ringing tone. It means they’ve not ended the call and you’re not dialling the number you think you are…
Never allow anyone to remotely access your computer until you’re absolutely sure they are legitimate. I did and found neither of my banks ran a 24 hour emergency line that enabled me to freeze my online banking accounts.
I was lucky but one tip I’ve learnt since:- if you can’t contact your bank over the weekend and are worried – access it online, put in three false passwords and your account will automatically freeze until you contact the bank directly by phone or via your local branch. Had I known this beforehand, it would have saved me a lot of anxiety…

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Angelap

I suffered the microsoft scam , but realized what was happening when the Indian caller deleted my password when they had access to my computer. I allowed them access as I have done so in the past when talking to Microsoft help site. These are usually Indian people and I was momentarily fooled. I stopped them before they could do too much damage, but could not work my computer and had to pay a specialist to fix it for me, I also had to change my passwords and inform my bank. I phoned the police but they said they could do nothing!
The absolute cheek of the caller kept phoning me to continue the scam, I was very angry and accused them of infecting my computer as they said no it was someone else not them!!!
Unbelievable!

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marcotheboy

I had another one of these calls.
This time I was prepared with my Arnold Schwarzenegger soundboard.
I had a bit of fun with him before he hung up after about 3 minutes.

Here is the ‘conversation’ on YouTube:
http://youtu.be/jVaLzZ0b_L0

or just search in YouTube for 02030259569

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marcotheboy

I had another one of these calls.
An Indian chap called “Steve Johnson” called me to “fix” my computer.

Here’s how I dealt with him:
Go to YouTube and search for 02030259569

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EmLo

Oh dear i’ve had one of these calls and did allow them access to my PC remotely – as i had just sent a report to ms re: faults on my PC and then was called an hour later so presumed it was legit! However i didn’t fill out any forms or give them access to passwords etc… do i need to be worried and change any details or look for anything suspicious do you think??

Help!!

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edd

I got snookered for $240 and now don’t know if my computer is secure. Should have just gone down to staples and bought a $350. lap top and a virus protection. This all started when I bought a Toshiba that offered a 90 day Norton free trial. I contacted Norton and explained that I already have a Norton annual subscription that is automatically debited to my account each year and that I wanted to apply the program to the new computer and they agreed to do so. 90 days later, without my knowledge, Norton was discontinued although the subscription was fully paid. Next thing I knew, computer was all screwed up with viruses and malware. Apparently cannot win. Edd

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edd

Received a call from click4protect who told me that my Kapersky virus protection was not compatable with windows 7. offered to show me all the virus’ and malware that has infected my computer and stated that it was not safe or secure to use my computer. Then, offered to clean my computer and give me a lifetime of protection for a one time fee of $240. What now?

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Segya

You believe them?

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edd

unfortunately.

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edd

What action should I take now to fix situation? Any suggestions? Edd

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Segya

Ok, so you let them take control of your pc?

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Parra

I am still receiving calls from these b******* offering the same deal,,,I reckon I get at least one a week. I am starting to have fun with them.
One Indian called and said his name was Mark Wilson. I asked him where he was ringing from? He said Melbourne. I asked him how he got into work today with the TRANSPORT STRIKE (there was no strike)…I rode in on my bike…”In all that rain and hail, you must have got drenched”
Where is your office? “Down by the River”…What’s the name of the River? “Victoria”….(everyone knows the Yarra flows through Melbourne…because it is upside down…:lol:.
I told him to get a fair dinkum job and to p*** Orf…He hung up on me…..

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JEAN

I know how you feel…in am in the UK so told the bloke to pee up his back and play with the steam…….then I had a woman……………..I have a very powerful gadget that i now keep by the phone……it almost takes your eardrums out ,,,,,they don’t come back to often for that one……………………………..its getting less……….for someone in their 80′s it ain’t funny………………………………..

[This comment has been edited for breaking our guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Parra and Jean – I can understand your frustration, but please try to mind your language! :)

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william

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don Horton

I too have bgeen the victim of click4 protect.they told me I had been hacked and brought up pornographic pictures on my screen which they said had been put there by Hackers and to remove them and prevent it happening again I must buy there software. I told them to get lost & hung up only to find my computer had been vandalised. I reportedit to the Police but they were’nt interested.later I found they had down loaded a load of icons titled “Hacked”.surely if money is being sent to these people the police must be able to trace it.

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