/ 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.

Douglas says:
22 November 2013

Yes, I was called by someone who purported to be from BT’s technical support – or he might have said broadband support – over a year ago. He began quite cleverly by asking if my computer ever ran more slowly than it should (who’s doesn’t!) but, suspecting some scam, I said no. After some further attempts to get me to concede any problems, and with me threatening to hang up, he then told me my computer had a virus. Knowing that there was no way he could know that, even if it had – which I was pretty certain it hadn’t – I finally said what he was saying was rubbish and did hang up. I haven’t had a similar call since. Perhaps I should have reported this, but I wasn’t sure who to or whether it would do any good.

On another tack, I seem to get emails on an almost daily basis purporting to be from one financial institution or another, apparently (although I do not open them to check) trying to tempt me into revealing personal details. Googlemail almost always puts them straight into Spam, but I do find them very irritating and I feel annoyed thinking of those who must fall for this scam – probably not many, though one is too many, but doubtless enough to make it worth while their sending out the millions of these mails.

As with all these scams, one can promalgate warning after warning, and advise on appropriate safeguards to take against them, but I fear such warnings and advice seldom get through to those most in need of them and that even more needs to be done at the regulatory or policing end to try and stem the flow of these phone calls and emails.

Pete1863 says:
22 November 2013

I was contacted by someone from BT allegidly saying they were checking lines and internet connections, offering me a great deal to update my system and get the latest wifinity, for a fraction of the price, but the computeer had to be tested to see if it was able to receive the fibre optic signal. I thought this was funny as i am not even a BT customer. But my computer should still be tested for hidden viruses that can not be detected by Norton. After several questions that should be easy for a real person from BT or anyone who knew anything about computer security would be able to answer with no problem, the Gent was getting more tied up in knots. It was then he asked if i could afford for my comp to get loads of viruse, The hard sell pressure tactics. when asked where he was calling from he said,”London”. when asked what part he said central, near to Wimbledon, (really, the wombles must have moved it in the night). I said i would discuss it with my wife and get back to him, when asked for a number so i could contact them i was refused. I then give him what i thought, he then hung up.

Apart from ‘phone calls, I also wonder the reliability of ‘Popups’ which appear ( bottom right of screen) which purport to be from B T, and advising that my P C is not performing correctly and
in particular has slow broadband speed. There is an invitation to click and the problem will be
rectified/ Each time I have clicked against ‘Cancel’ which is followed by ‘Do you really want
to cancel etc etc. This is happening as a regular a daily occurrence. Needless to say I am not
taking the bait!!

In reply to John: You state bottom right of screen – is the pop-up emanating from your taskbar or system tray? If so, and the pop-up is appearing regularly and not exclusively when you have opened a specific website, it sounds very much like your PC is already infected with some kind of nasty. When did you last run a virus scan?

Mari F says:
15 October 2017

Install ‘Ghostery’ – that will stop all the pop-ups. It’s free.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Roger Robinson says:
22 November 2013

I’ve had similar e-mails purporting to be from Sky, my ISP. What caught my eye was that one managed to reach me despite having a typo in the address.
I was already alert, because someone who has my address on their e-mail program has clearly been “hacked”; and I was receiving apparently genuine e-mails from HMRC, as well as from Fedex, TNT, and others. I noticed that the attachments were “zip” files – a clear hint of danger for me. I tried forwarding them to the relevant “phishing report” addresses, but some bounced back. HMRC did respond to confirm the attempted hack.

Most days I receive emails purporting to be from BT Broadband or BT Service Centre inviting me to update my details before my account lapses. My ISP rarely if ever classes these as spam so they make it into the Outlook Inbox on my PC. Luckily, the spelling, grammar or layout usually looks quite amateurish so I just delete them without clicking on any link in the mail. Who is my ISP? It’s BT!

I think this scam is far bigger than BT want their customers to find out and that it is beyond their ability (or will) to control. Certainly they have provided no general warnings or advice about this.

Keith says:
22 November 2013

Like Jackie I also receive a daily dose of Scam BT emails – BT should have a simple system to receive forwarded scam-mail

That makes me wonder if there is an ‘insider’ somewhere they are too scared to blow the whistle for fear of retribution such as a cyber attack.

Crazy John says:
22 November 2013

I have had calls from someone claiming to be from “Internet Security” and informing me that my computer is infected with viruses and they can prove it. They proceed to ask me to hold the Windows key down and press another key. They lose interest when I tell them that the Windows key doesn’t do anything as I don’t use windows!
Even if you actually do use Windows this is a good ploy to stop them harrassing you.

I used to get similar calls regularly, but since installing call screening (trueCall), not one. It seems that all potential scammers have hung up during screening, leaving us undisturbed. An effective solution, especially for the most vulnerable. If wondering about a gift for a vulnerable friend or relative, how about buying and setting up a call screening device?

I am now getting 10 e-mails a week, with the BT logo and the signature of BT’s marketing manager, saying they are about to re-configure my e-mail account and that I needed to click on a button to get the details and to avoid being cut off.

Ignoring the instruction, I got though to a real person at BT (with great difficulty and by a circuitous route) who confirmed that this was a scam. However, they keep on coming, each from a different @btinternet.com address.
I have now had around 80 of these, nearly forty of them since my call to BT.

[Hi Rob, thanks for sharing your experience. We’ve removed the email address as we can’t confirm it’s the right one. Thanks, mods.]

This is retaliation from a rogue inside ‘BT’ who needs flushing out if someone has the courage of routing him out. Pure harassment.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Quentin says:
22 November 2013

Some months ago I had an email purporting to be from Virgin (my isp) with some query about bill payment. The link led me to a perfect replica of the Virgin log in. I did so — using my password. I was starting to fill in details when Firefox (bless their hearts!) recognised bank details. and warned me that it was an insecure site. I got off quickly, having sent no information

I realised afterwards than any log in would have done. And I remembered that I had in fact typed in an old (cancelled) password.

The irony here is that I am long in the tooth, using computers since before the internet was invented. I always prided myself on my skill in detecting scams. Believe me, my shame at realising what a nana I had been was a small price to pay for the sharp warning against complacency.

Bill Anderson says:
22 November 2013

I have had a couple of calls from males regarding this scam. I just hang up. I don’t have
Microsoft 🙂 They are despicable.

I was called several months ago, by someone saying that my computer was running slow and I had to switch on and let him take over the computer .I thought “SCAM” and said that I could’nt be assed ,then told him to FOXTROT OSCAR AND THREATENET TO PUT A SPELL ON HIM SO THAT HIS GONADS WOULD FALL OFF AND A DOG WOULD EAT THEM .Strange he rang off .

I absolutely love it, these calls are awful for anyone to receive, especially the vulnerable. I was terrified until the daughter of a friend of mine reassured me that they are liars and know your are frightened thereby using it. As that chap in Yes Prime Minister said, ‘Something needs to be done’

Marie Jermy says:
22 November 2013

Having falling foul to a spam email from who I thought were Amazon to verify my details to stay safe on line (ironic!), I’m always now very careful. Luckily nothing was taken from my bank account even though I gave my details. It was the password that gave the spam away. Normally when you type in your password you just get a line of asterisks but on this occasion I actually saw my password. I telephoned Amazon and reported it.
Recently I’ve had loads of emails purportedly from BT saying I have to click on a link to verify my account in order to stop it being closed down. I always delete them but one day I received 2 emails almost saying exactly the same thing. I did click on the link in one email and immediately got loads of failure emails from other @btinternet.com addresses. One told me to F-off and that they would report me! I immediately rang BT who said it was a spam but that the second email I received was genuine! From then on I’ve deleted any emails from BT whether they’re genuine or not. Sorry BT but if it’s urgent you can always write to me.
Last year, I also received loads of phone calls from the “Microsoft Support Team” about my computer and how they wanted access to fix it running slowly. I got so fed up with this because how the hell do they know that one lady when she rang up I told her I’d sold my computer. She got quite angry about it so I told her to F-off and what the hell did it have to do with her if I’d sold my computer. I’ve never had another phone call since.

They really take the biscuit, they don’t like being frustrated either and they were probably no more Microsoft than I am the Queen of Sheba, which of course I am not, because I doubt the instigator of Microsoft who does a lot of good work with the undeveloped world would want to soil his reputation by being involved with these s***s

It’s important to remember that these scammers use a ‘scattergun’ approach to finding their victims. They appear to know something about your circumstances when, for instance, they direct their efforts at BT customers. If you are a BT customer, you might think that they know that, but it’s not the case – they’re simply calling anyone on their phone list (which can be as basic as a phone book or marketing list) and relying on the odds that a large proportion of their targets will be BT customers. The same approach applies to Microsoft Windows users.

My response to any of these calls is to play along and waste as much of their time as possible. This is the only sanction available for most of them as they emanate from overseas and UK laws cannot be used against them. Ten minutes wasted talking to me is ten minutes less for them to scam someone else.

Keith says:
23 November 2013

I use the same tactic , when they claim I have a problem with my computer I get really thankful and ask how they knew I was in trouble . Anyway I then inform that my problem computer is a bbc micro and ask how they can help . Of course they have never heard of BBC micros and they get more confused when I tell them I do not have an internet connection for said bbc , by this time I have wasted 5mins of their time and they finish the call in a rather frustrated state . I have also wasted 5 mins of my time but had some form of revenge !

Some of these scammers are probably calling at random but I have been called supposedly by BT and they knew my BT account number (see my recent post). Information is leaking from BT somehow.

I think there should be an international response with heavy sanctions against countries who encourage their existence, first a warning they must carry out investigations with the aid of the police[hoping they aren’t corrupt as well] then if they fail, sanctions via the International community should be imposed that would isolate them from the rest of the world for a given space of time, soon dampen the ardour of encouragement.

My neighbour did this, wasted their time, adding hers as well

There is an insider somewhere within BT that needs routing out, take the matter up with your MP who could galvanize others to join in a campaign to get him/her exposed then thrown into prison as she or he is breaching data laws of privacy

This comment was removed at the request of the user

When I get a Microsoft virus telephone call, if I have the time, I say the computer is kept in a garden office and firstly I have to find the keys. Then I set off down the garden path, it depends what time I have, because there are time wasting activities on the way down the garden. I may fall over a flower pot, or slip and fall over in mud, I inform the caller about my progress and ask him(always men scammers) to bear with me as I progress down the garden path. I make out that I am really worried about this virus threat so they don’t smell a rat. Eventually I reach the garden office, drop the keys just to build the suspense and finally unlock the door to find an Apple computer!

john hibbert says:
26 November 2013

what a rotten type you are !! Keep up the good work.

Steve says:
23 November 2013

“Your computer is sending spurious emails”
“But my computer isn’t on”
“You need to turn it on and then we can sort it”
“OK it’s on now”
“Go to Outlook”
“Where’s that ?”
“In programme files”
“I haven’t got that ”
“You must have”
“Nope it isn’t there”
“What version of Windows are you using ?”
“The Linux version ”

When you realise that a scam call is starting usually by them asking for your name amid a background noise of several others doing the same thing try “Hello, West Yorkshire Police Incident Room…hello, Incident Room, can I help you ? ”

(other Incident Rooms are available)

I am going to try that one, great, the next one I get, I will say that I have a policeman here in the next room who is listening to the call and ask him to come over and have an interesting chat about possible prison sentences.

[Sorry, your comment has been edited to align with our community guidelines. Please avoid offensive language. https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/. Thanks, Alex.]

I had terrible trouble with my broadband from BT , and I kept phoning BT technical which is in south India , was told I would receive a phone call from BT the following day as they could not fix my broadband reception . I received a phone call from a person who said they were from a BT Dept., and after a few minutes dealing with this person I began to get suspicious and of course they wanted a few hundred Quid. Did certain individuals pass on information about my situation it or were these individuals also employed in these call centres.
I did contact BT and I am still awaiting a reply, and I dumped them as their customer service stinks

Read my post above – it has nothing to do with BT.

As pat HAD called BT then maybe the BT customer support person HAD sold their details to another company. Maybe they hadn’t! Who knows? But we all should know that reputable companies do not cold call their customers with strange requests.

Colin Changi Samson says:
24 November 2013

It clearly DOES look like BT’s customer details are being STOLEN from their Indian call centres & used by the scammers. If that is not the case, then there MUST be a common link between the customers who are being targeted. I have never knowingly received any such “Microsoft” or “BT” calls.
But then, unlike most people, I use a stand-alone UK based paid-for email service, not a “free” one (cost: about £25 per year). Perhaps some “free” email services make their money by selling on their customer details? All calls to my home are greeted by my answering machine; so perhaps the scammers just hang up when they fail to get through to a real person? I would suggest that everyone should just boycott BT; I have seen no evidence that they care one jot for the welfare of their customers.

Peter says:
23 January 2014

As someone earlier has said, it’s far more likely to be the ‘scattergun’ approach. If you phone a series of numbers in sequence, you only need 1% to be ripped off to more than cover the thousands of other calls. Same with PPI and other junk calls to mobile phones, I have a couple of PAYG numbers. Guess what, a short time after the first gets a junk text or call, the other one gets the same.

I’ve had a couple of calls regarding a Microsoft problem, which gets a strong ‘go away’ response (I have Windows, but also linux and Apple iMac systems). It would be an amusing idea, having the maker ring to offer support when you didn’t know you had a problem, if it wasn’t for the fact these scammers are catching out enough people to make it worth their while, and no doubt ripping off many elderly people who can get frightened into co-operating.

(My late Mum was using a computer even when she was in her late 70s, but scared she could “mess up the computer” when using the mouse – she just found it awkward… So I can appreciate someone might be told “it has a virus” and could be conned into paying the scammers.)

How are you so sure? Why are you defending BT? Are you in their pocket ?????

I had terrible trouble with my broadband from BT , and I kept phoning BT technical which is in south India , was told I would receive a phone call from BT the following day as they could not fix my broadband reception . I received a phone call from a person who said they were from a BT Dept., and after a few minutes dealing with this person I began to get suspicious and of course they wanted a few hundred Quid. Did certain individuals pass on information about my situation it or were these individuals also employed in these call centres.
I did contact BT and I am still awaiting a reply, and I dumped them as their customer service stinks

Peter says:
23 January 2014

If you look at a bit of recent history, you’ll know that Windows has been in use since the 90s (early on it was Windows 3.1 before Windows 95 and Windows 98) while the Apple Mac was around, but in most cases too costly to break into the home market (used mostly by Architects and Printing/ PR /Media back then, with specialist software for those areas).

“So what”, some might say, but the situation of Windows becoming widely used in business (and after the home micro boom) at home, meant it was the target of most of the “malware” (viruses, trojans, etc). In the UK, there are probably still millions of homes using BT line rental (never having switched, and under the mistaken belief they will get better Customer Service from BT, because it was the incumbent and historically “reliable” choice) and as a result, also have BT Broadband.

OK, households may have switched to get deals from Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, but if you ring almost any UK 01/02 number, you probably have a better than 50:50 chance of getting someone (a) on BT and (b) using Windows. They’re still very popular.

In 20 (?) years time, it may have changed, with scammers ringing to say “I work in Apple’s Software Troubleshooting department and your seems to have a trojan, which may be able to copy your online banking details”…

(simply an example – given many Apple users will have paid a high price for their Mac or phone, they are also likely to have online banking, so you hit the most popular products and services and just a few % who get caught out mean you take lots of money, no matter than 9 in 10 calls are failures)

I’m not saying it’s impossible for customer details to have been passed on, or even worse, for a big customer database to be “hacked” but the scammers don”t really need to go to that level of trouble… (and risk). Just dialling all the numbers (via software) in say Birmingham, or Leeds, and then moving on to other cities, towns, isn’t that hard.

If the people behind the scammers have large savings (funds from drugs and other “business” ventures like loan sharks), then spending a few thousands a month with the chance of bringing in tens or hundreds of thousands a month, they’ll do it, even if it means setting up a call centre abroad. When you buy millions of minutes in international calls the price drops significantly.

Barbara says:
23 November 2013

I had a call like this some time ago. He started off telling me there was a problem with my ‘windows set-up’ and that it would need to be fixed as soon as possible …………. light bulb moment!!! My computer wasn’t on at the time ……. but they must think we are all zipped up the back!! Luckily, my brother is in the industry and I’ve been well taught not to listen to these clowns!!! I’m also passworded at every turn!! I can see how they might catch someone unsuspecting though!

Geoff says:
23 November 2013

I had a call a few weeks ago from someone saying he worked for ‘Windows’ and had detected a fault and if I put a certain number into the computer he could prove it, etc, etc. I actually managed to keep him on the line for over 20 minutes, without even touching the computer – just went along with it and kept asking for his phone number or office address, so I could call back to check if it was genuine, but he wasn’t authorised to give it out!!! I asked to speak to his supervisor (who of course was too busy to speak to me). Although he had my name & phone No, the computer account is in my partners name and linked to a different phone line, so there was never any danger anyway!

“he had my name & phone No,” – are you listed in the phone book ? If yes, did he mention your Christian name?

Although, my mum gets calls , and the phone number is in my dad’s name. I’ve never managed to work out where they get her name from.

And yes, they both should be hidden in the electoral register.

Maybe Which? should start a campaign to make it illegal to transfer personal details regardless of tick boxes / opt in / opt outs etc.

Peter says:
23 January 2014

I once found my own details listed online, because the “directory enquiries” data is managed in one business (similar to Openreach, it’s a BT firm, but where Openreach deals with the engineering for the various telecom and ISP businesses, the BT Directory enquiries department {which historically had the fullest collection of names and numbers} manages the data and sells it to all the firms operating ‘118’ directory services, websites, etc.

I’ve kept my details unlisted from the phone books (but available via directory enquiries) and there had been a slip up in the database, which was how the details could be found online. But it’s clear lots of customer databases could hold a name and number (one reason I have about 15 numbers, so can track whether it was from one web site, or company, that my details were obtained).

I am a member of UNA[United Nations Association] which has grade 1 consultative status with UN General Assembly. We as a nation are also members of UNESCO and we also have membership of Interpol. A campaign with our government to call Time to those who are knowingly breaching the Data Protection Policy is well over due. It seems that BT who has for too long had the monopoly on communications, need to face up to the consequences of their actions, after all if Google & Facebook have to own up, so must BT if it is to have any credibility left to its reputation. If these bogus companies overseas are also implicated in drugs, then those who get jobs in BT, should be regularly scrutinized and vetted regarding suitability, if necessary, use a liar detector machine, that will sort the sheep for the goats

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Colin Changi Samson says:
23 November 2013

I AM SICK TO DEATH of all this telephone scamming/telephone marketing/unsolicited postal marketing & doorstep cold calling. All of it is a gross inconvenience and an invasion of peoples’ homes & private lives. British governments should stop being “gutless” and BAN all of the above.
SO WHAT if companies are less able to “rip us off” (make/take money from us) and the despicable marketing industry suffers! If people want a product or service, they are normally quite able to source it of their own accord and should only be pestered if they opt IN. British governments should work for the PEOPLE of The U.K., not for the greedy companies & corporations whose only aim is to take our money.

I realise that a ban is only the first step to eradication and that enforcement is difficult; but the end result will be worth it.

I had folks like these on the telephone yesterday. I managed to waste at least half an hour of their time (including having a supervisor call me back several times), as nothing worked. Whatever keys they asked me to press, nothing happened. Eventually the supervisor asked which operating system I was running. “Linux” I said. Long silence …. then the phone was hung up.

I’m actually surprised they have any success. Heavy asian accent, poor telephone line, start by asking for “Mr Allen”, and when not present asks for “The computer user”. Plus, when has BT or Microsoft or anybody else ever proactively supported anything? Even with a separate service contract you have to scream and shout to get any response.

— G

Peter on Merseyside says:
23 January 2014

“surprised they have any success” – they probably only need less than 2% to be conned…

Until his wife bought him a new laptop for his 80th birthday, one of my neighbours had a sluggish old Windows system. I can just imagine him being conned into thinking it had a virus making it slow, and possibly to have paid out.

I hope not, but just because we’re “aware”, and unlikely to be taken in…