/ Technology

Have you been called by a ‘BT technical support’ phone scam?

Has the ‘Microsoft technical support’ phone scam evolved? Is it now the ‘BT technical support’ scam? We’ve heard from people who’ve been called… and we want to see whether there are more of you out there.

02/09/2019: BT technical department call

We continue to receive large numbers of reports of scammers impersonating BT’s ‘technical department’ in order to gain access to victims’ PCs and/or extort money from them:

It would appear that this call is similar in nature to the Visa ‘fraud department’ scam, which has also been plaguing people across the country.

Thanks to you and your frequent comments here on Which? Conversation we’re well aware of the scam and are able to warn others. We’ll also be making BT aware of the volume of comments we’ve been receiving.

As always, if you’re worried about these calls or fear that you may well have fallen for a scam, our guide to phone scams can advise on what you need to do.

These calls can also be reported to Action Fraud online or by phone on 0300 123 2040.

Have you received this scam call? If so, let us know in the comments and help others avoid falling into its trap.

Original convo 22/11/2013

Remember the Microsoft support scam? It starts with a nuisance call, but can end with your PC being compromised and a dent in your bank account.

An unsolicited caller claims to be working for Microsoft’s support team, they ask to remotely access your PC, they ‘prove’ that your computer’s infected with viruses, and they offer to fix it for a fee.

The thing is, they’re not from Microsoft and your computer may be virus free. And even if your PC was infected, you could get it in ship shape condition with free antivirus software.

Hundreds of you have told us that you’ve been subject to this scam. Microsoft’s own survey found that one in five people in the UK have been called by one of these scam callers. Of those who fell victim to the scam, the average amount lost was  £745.

The ‘BT technical support’ scam

We’ve now received reports that the scam has changed, or at least that it’s evolved to be a call from ‘BT’s support team’.

One Which? member told us he thought he was speaking to someone from BT – he was then tricked into paying the best part of £400 to remove viruses from his PC.

Our Twitter follower Brian experienced something similar. He was called by someone claiming to work for BT’s Wi-Fi team. They told him there were problems with the broadband connection in his area and that they needed remote access to his computer to fix it. This took control away from Brian, his computer shut down and now he can’t start it up.

So we want to hear from you – have you been called by someone claiming to be from BT’s support team? Did they remotely access your computer? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Advice on technical support scams

Oh, and some advice for you if you’re called by one of these scammers, whether they purport to be from BT, Microsoft or another company. A caller does not know whether your PC is infected with viruses. Do not ever let a caller remotely access your PC – this hands them the keys to your personal data. And never hand over your bank details to an unsolicited caller.

If you think you’ve been a victim, run a virus scan, alert your bank and contact Action Fraud to report the scam.

One final thing you can do to help call time on scams is sign our stop nuisance calls peitition.

Helen says:
18 October 2019

yes frequently!

Roger Felgate says:
18 October 2019

Not had the recent SCAM call but back in the summer had two calls from “BT” claiming my broadband line had been hacked and I must replace my router. Told them there was nothing wrong with my router and would not be replacing it. Callers then just hung up.

Hazel Lawrence says:
18 October 2019

I almost fell for his scam and had it not been for Western Union informing my bank that someone was trying to access my bank account I could have lost a lot of money I still regularly get these calls sometimes I let them waffle on and then tell them to get lost other times I just tell them to F off I block their number every time but still get calls at least 2-3 times a month

My most recent example of these calls involved the scammers asking me to check my upload and download speeds.

I used the Which? checker (of course) and then reported nothing amiss.

The scammers then tried to get me to install TeamViewer but cut off the call when they could not tell me how to do this for MX Linux. By then we’d spent about 10 minutes and got as far as a choice of Linux downloads, but I certainly wasn’t going to install that software on one of my proper PC’s. If I’d had more time, I might have stung them along more, but I had other things to do that day.

MX Linux Derek been reading Distrowatch ?
Seriously I have been thinking of trying it myself in dual boot as Manjaro is becoming a bit commercialised and might end up like Ubuntu.
I now spend a bit of time removing apps that have links to MS .

Duncan, I’ve been using MX for a while now and it is nice to see it “topping the pops” on Distrowatch, alongside Mint and Manjaro.

Being Debian based and also related to antiX, MX seems to be free of overt commercialism. I like it because it often works better than Mint on older or less mainstream hardware and it isn’t “dumbed down” quite as much as Mint. That said I do also use Mint, e.g. if certain apps are better behaved there than on MX. If you want to be completely free from commercialism, you might want to look for a fully open and free GNU/Linux version.

Revd. Christopher Jones says:
18 October 2019

If you have the time, this is an opportunity for some fun. I assume the persona of an elderly person (I am only 76) and see how long I can string them along. Questions such as “Are you talking about the blue computer or the pink computer?” “Is that serious?” “will it blow up, should I call the fire brigade?” “Are you talking about the no fault accident last Friday or the previous Tuesday?” For this one they hung up on the first call and on a later call transferred me to a supervisor!!!!.
I feel if I am keeping them occupied for a few minutes I am protecting some one else who might be taken in.
I am still working on other timewasters such as “My name is ……….” “Are you sure?”
Other suggestions welcome, be creative.

I get two or three calls every day from scammers. Like the Revd Christopher Jones, I usually try to string the caller along for a few minutes with silly questions until he gets bored (or I get bored) and he terminates the call. Some callers are very persistent: I usually deal with these by setting off my wife’s rape alarm against the phone. A few months ago I received a further call from someone claiming to be the caller’s supervisor – he said he had to send the caller home with a bad headache because of my action and that what I had done was “completely illegal” and that I had no justification for wasting his employee’s time! During the subsequent conversation he assured me that the call was genuinely from TalkTalk and let slip that the call originated in Bangalore! Obviously, I used the rape alarm again. Interestingly, the caller ID number was real – it turned out to belong to a TV studio in Kabul!

Does anyone ever fall for these scammers?

Eileen Berg says:
18 October 2019

I have had many of these calls saying they are BT telling me my internet will be terminated, I just put the phone down. I wish something could be done about it, my husband has Altzeimers and might follow the instructions if he answered the phone.We really should have more protection against these scams.

Angela Page says:
18 October 2019

I get the BT scam “we are going to disconnect your Internet connection” calls 4 sometimes 5 times a week. Sometimes 2 or 3 in one day. Sometimes I 1471 the number after so I can write it down. I have found the person/people on the other end can get irritated quite quickly to whit I say, “I appear to be irritating you, well I can only hope you get as irritated as I am when I get calls from people like you” they usually put phone down then, although one chap did get very irate and irritated with me one day, kept demanding that I “just answer question please” and as he started getting louder and more and more demanding he also got squeakier and squeakier!!!!

I have had a number of scam calls claiming to be from Microsoft and also from BT. They claimed that my PC was causing problems with viruses and that they needed to remotely rectify the problem. They asked me to turn on my computer. I thanked them for their call, claimed to be “hopeless with technology “ but reassured them that my son was an IT tech and that I would ask him to deal with the problem on his return. I asked them for their phone number so he could call them. The one woman began to tell me, then realised her mistake and put the phone down. The other woman just disconnected the call.
Online I frequently have scam emails, which I always report. The most recent is the Amazon Prime one.

Do Action Fraud ever take any action? There is a lot of fraud but not much sign of action……

Had four phone calls this morning claiming to be from BY Openreach.

93 % of posters on TP think Action Fraud rates bad , the government website will only print very limited statistics ,in America its a totally different situation the US government listens to US citizens and takes decisive action and government websites are available to register your complaint and when a sufficient number is reached real action is taken.
This country has admitted it neither has the resources nor “manpower ” to trace the scams .

Presumably there are no frauds and scams in the USA then.

John you know I have already posted full details of the US government websites that directly help US citizens , they fill in a form that DOESN’T ask what colour of skin they have etc and unlike Action Fraud doesn’t have third party trackers aimed at making money from citizens entering personal details only has a USA.gov tracker .
You also know I have posted many incidences of US Federal forces tracking down scammers if enough Americans complain using US government departments like the CIA/FBI /NSA and yes John the CIA now have permission to investigate US citizens but the UK has had that available to the MI6 as well as MI5 and now a whole range of “secret services” which they don’t use on behalf of fraud cases like this but the US does on behalf of its citizens.
I have also posted the criminal cases once caught -severe sentencing no “get out of jail free ” cards or– its a business so we cant do much about it .

Duncan – My point is: Does it work? Are there no frauds or scams in the USA?

Maybe its the way I post John but why would there be government websites to report scams if they didn’t occur ?
Or a are you talking about the new trial initiative I spoke about ?–as Which ? has redacted my long post on it I don’t want to say much more about it until they make up their minds to allow it to post or not .

You keep proclaiming the US government’s measures for reducing the incidence of fraud in America and contrasting that with what you must think is weak and feeble action in the UK. I am merely wondering if things really are so wonderful in America and that fraud has been banished there.

I don’t think the UK government’s action is up to the mark either but I suspect things are no worse here than over there and I question whether the constant comparisons and references are helpful to UK consumers. The UK’s electors voted for a non-interventionist government and have to put up with the laws as they are until the chance comes round again to change things. Those who want to enjoy the American way of life are free to relocate there, as some of my friends did but now regret it.

I know nothing about a “new trial initiative” but if it’s not contrary to UK consumers’ interests and not offending the guidelines I hope your post will be released after the weekend. Perhaps the moderators have to explore the sources and verify them. I think Conversations run smoother if we stick to the UK consumer experience although first-hand comparisons with practice in other countries can be helpful.

I did post twice on it so obviously both posts have been moderated if you never saw the other one, it would be a very bad move if I tried to repeat it here but as a believer in an afterlife I put my hand on a bible and say to you not only is it the truth but–yes its in the public domain —in the USA.

Have to say reporting it on their web site was a real faff. They wanted to know my date of birth and skin colour for some reason. At the end there was a link to a survey. When I clicked on it I got:

“This survey is currently closed. Please contact the author of this survey for further assistance. “

P I checked it out –
1- you have to log in , if not register which looks fairly innocuous but a notice says that’s only a part of the survey they hide the real survey questions .
2- from their perspective they are gathering data about you which I don’t agree with as it constitutes a gross invasion of privacy .
3- in the USA you contact a real -direct government service which never asks for the colour of your skin etc.
4- due to trackers this looks like a pseudo “government service ” run by those using your details to finance anything they do on your behalf , try doing that in the USA and there would be uproar.
5- commercial trackers don’t constitute privacy.
6- in the USA there is only the US government tracking you not any commercial gain organisations.

I should be interested to see the actual text of a question that asks people who wish to report a scam to Action Fraud what their skin colour is.

Most organisations now use an approved set of classifications and ask people to indicate which one represents them. This is necessary to ensure that public service organisations do not discriminate for or against any particular section of the community and for monitoring purposes to see whether any specific groups are being targeted [e.g. by scammers in this example]. I don’t see it as a “gross invasion of privacy”; it has its roots in equality legislation.

Obviously such data must not be misused or kept for any longer than is necessary other than in anonymised [statistical] form.

And the reason they have third party trackers on a sensitive issue like this John ?
Not even the USA does that .
IMO its a money gatherer to offset costs .

I am at a loss to understand how Action Fraud makes any money out of knowing some basic classification details. If I walk into a police station to report something the colour of my skin is obvious so what is there to hide if I report on-line?

Selling personal data for an unauthorised purpose would be a contravention of the GDPR so it would be worth checking Action Fraud’s data protection policy to see how it actually handles such information.

I suppose like many people I switch off when being told how life is so wonderful in America because I know from direct personal experience that it isn’t. Every country has its own way of doing things but throughout the EU we now have data regulation agencies [the ICO in the UK] that are progressively dealing with the misuse of personal data and taking enforcement action with very large fines or severe sanctions in some cases.

I had a similar experience with Action Fraud back in February and their survey was ‘currently closed’ then, probably permanently as any survey would prove how awful they are.

I recorded the ‘hostile takeover share buying’ scam and thought it could be useful to Action Fraud. It was unbelievable hassle and back then I said I lost count of the number of times I had to enter my personal details.

You can read my experience and the reply from Action Fraud here:

Karen Bowden says:
20 October 2019

We have the BT scam call several times a day from different numbers. We always tell them we’re onto them and add the number to our blacklisted numbers by dialling 1572 after each call but we still get them. The caller usually has a strong Indian accent and gives themselves a typical English name.

S Austin says:
20 October 2019

Yes almost every week – sometimes twice a day just recently. BT Technical Dept / Outreach, Visa. Microsoft. They are a real nuisance and I wish they could be stopped.

Carole Woow says:
20 October 2019

Yes I have. They phone to say that they are from BT and there is a problem with my router. They want to find out whether you have a computer, ( strange if you don’t have one – but do have a router…) because they require access to it. I stalled the guy with questions for 30 mins. By the end he became very agitated – question everything! Never enjoyed playing dumb and waisting time so much! Don’t be fooled by these people, poor English, an unusual contact number, no knowledge of who they are talking to (the bill payer etc) and a pressing requirement for access to your computer.

Nos T Vamp says:
21 October 2019

I just had a call from BT Technical support, saying my internet is being terminated; press 1 for support press 2 to continue with termination. I hung up. There where a couple of clues this was a scam. One I do not have BT internet, two I do not have a BT line (or even one rented from BT). There has never been a BT line connected to my house. Just wondered how they got my number. I am signed up to the call preference thingy and my number is in no directories. I very seldom get unwanted calls so when I get one I wonder how.

Well at least 2 Indian Call Centres closed down after work from The City of London Police and Microsoft and finally the Indian Police. Each time I have mentioned the City of London Police on the phone to these callers, I have been left alone for more than 3 months. See my Previous messages.
I am still working with BT to try to block the calls, but for the Police to close the call centres and arrest the people involved is much better for all the people pestered around the world.
Lets see if we see a reduction in none Microsoft calls.

According to BT,s latest news statement Gradders from January all BT call centres will be in the UK , with BT Plus I was already on that .
In the USA they have been trialling a fully digital system that can spot VoIP scam calls with (at present) 85 % success its in conjunction with the US government and private enterprise.

This is indeed good news of police action jointly with the Indian authorities, the arrest of individuals and the closure of call centres. Good to see Microsoft on board, but not for truly altruistic reasons, of course. As Gradders remarks, a long time coming. Waiting for technological solutions has allowed these scams to proliferate whereas the direct, hands-on, collar-feeling approach has produced results.

The news item pointed out that the main targets of the Microsoft scam operations were America and the UK – one of the disadvantages of a common language. I understand that people in Germany and France are not much troubled by calls from India.

BT’s decision to repatriate call centres is also a good move, but not driven by the same crime prevention motive. I think the company was more concerned about their subscribers’ dislike and distrust of the people they were speaking to and about losing business to their competitors. Nevertheless, so long as BT choose the right locations for their UK-based replacement call centres, the decision should be welcomed as it means that it will be much more difficult for ‘BT Technical Support’ scammers to pretend to be calling on behalf of BT. They already have call centres where the local twang is distinctive and not easily imitated so there is hope they’ll get it right this time.

John, hi, I have a friend who works for Microsoft UK. I have asked if the Microsoft was UK or US or both. He did not know but will come back to me. Lets see.

The news story I read suggested that it was Microsoft’s UK operation that was working with the City of London police.

John, That was what I understood as well. I thought it better to see if somebody from MS actually knew for sure. I retired in 1997 so I have lost most of my contacts in the City of London Police.

Duncan. This was spoken about a while ago, like Barclays who have been looking at the same. As I use the Chairman’s Complaints Office I have lost touch with the Indian call Centres. The last one I spoke to told me that ….”Oh Manchester, that is a suburb of London is it not.” Also “Oh I have never heard of OpenReach who is that?” and the one I get sick of, they speak of speeds being MegaBytes not Megabits!! I do not know how I got the access to the Chairman’s office Help Desk, but it is good!!