/ Technology

Microsoft late to raise cold calling scam alarm

Hand shadow over computer keyboard

Microsoft’s finally warned customers of cold callers claiming to be from its tech support team. The aim is to stop others falling victim to unnecessary PC repairs, something we’ve been working on for over a year.

More than 15% of the people surveyed by Microsoft (7,000 computer users) said they’d received unsolicited calls from scammers claiming to offer technical support.

So how does the scam work?

The caller claims to have uncovered errors on your computer and may ask you to install remote access software, such as Logmein. The software is legitimate, but the scammers use it to remotely log into your computer and then ask for money to “repair” non-existent problems.

Scam dates back to early 2010

Of those who received a call, 22% fell for the scam according to Microsoft’s research. And the vast majority of these (79%) were hit in the wallet. This came as no surprise to me as we’ve been hearing from ripped off members since February 2010. John Black, who was one of the first to get in touch, had paid out £69 to have his computer ‘fixed’.

We ran a story alerting others to the scam and reported it to both Microsoft and the Police Central eCrime Unit (PCeU). Plus in January 2011, we ran a full-page article detailing how the scam was becoming more prevalent.

Since then, we’ve heard from dozens of readers who’ve received calls. Readers like Margaret Craven, who was told that she had corrupt files on her computer and would need to pay £189 to remove them – fortunately she hung up. Sadly, a colleague’s relative was targeted and did hand over his cash.

Playing on customer’s fears is nothing new

This particular cold calling scam may be relatively new, but the techniques are not. In essence fraudsters play on your fears – in this case, the fear of malware infecting your PC. Again, this doesn’t surprise me – I’ve lost count of the number of press releases I’ve received announcing the latest security threats, including many from Microsoft itself.

As a previous Which? Computing investigation revealed, many of these claims are exaggerated. In fact, the biggest threat today is not malware but the fear of malware. We’d advise anyone who receives one of these calls to hang up immediately. The simple fact is that these people have no way of knowing whether there’s anything wrong with your computer.

We’ll continue to keep an eye on this scam and put pressure on Microsoft and the authorities to stamp it out. It’s just a shame it took Microsoft so long (17 months) to come out and admit to it. If you’ve been a victim of one of these scams, let us know below.

Alexandra Dopping-Hepenstal says:
1 July 2014

Hi, I have just received a similar call from telephone number 0207 1939836. I Googled the number and found this WHICH conversation and also found that it is the number given on the Facebook page of ‘Smart Support Guys’, who claim to give technical support for PC’s, laptops and mobile devices. Someone looking for support might be tempted to contact them.

Caroline says:
21 October 2014

I’ve just had a phone call from someone who claimed to be from Windows Support. He insisted my pc had been hacked and wanted me to go into command prompt mode. He gave me a long registration number which he said was mine and wanted me to go into my pc so that I could check it against what he was telling me it was (to prove the call was genuine). So I asked him how he knew my pc was being hacked and he told me he was in Windows Command Centre. I explained to him that I had reputable internet security support so I would check. He got a little worked up then and told me that firms like Norton and McAfee only dealt with viruses and couldn’t prevent hackers. I told him I’d look into the matter and asked him what his phone number is so I could phone him back and he told me it is 0203 026 3958. He then told me if I ended the call I would be locked out of Windows and wouldn’t be able to access my PC. After I ended the call, I dialled 1471 and found that the number was withheld (so glad he gave it to me). Browsing the internet afterwards, I notice that 0203 026 3958 is, unsurprisingly, associated with technical support scams. Please be aware of this dodgy company.

Laurie Canham says:
4 December 2014

As I have a background in IT, I have an approach which I find stops them dead. When they tell me they have noticed a problem on my computer, I ask “Which one?” (I have several). When they say “the one running Windows”, I ask “the one running Windows 7 or the one running Windows XP? Or perhaps you mean the one running Android, or the one running Linux?” At this point, they usually just hang up. If not, I can continue the conversation (if I’m not busy) by asking them the IP address they are referring to, and which ISP they got the info from. Usually tells them I know what I’m talking about, and it shuts them up. Haven’t had many calls like this for a while…

ivor bolokov says:
18 February 2018

You beat to to it on the ip address.

Nicolatoby says:
10 February 2015

I just took another call from Global Technology ……. and asked so many questions that the chap started shouting at me that he had been on the phone for over 8 minutes and I hadn’t given him access yet. I asked what the registered address for them was and I was told London, so asked for their phone number and company registration number, they told me I could have that once I had given them access. He started shouting again that when my pc breaks not to blame them or Microsoft, haha, as if. Fortunately I am quite switched on and knew at the beginning it was a scam, a shame for people who don’t realise and are getting duped out of their hard earned money. Even bigger shame is that Microsoft still don’t seem to be doing anything.

I had a call today claiming to be from Microsoft. I said I was busy and asked for his number so I could call him back. He gave me 12194721116.
Is this a real number? If so, where is it?

If Microsoft called everyone who owned a P.C. they wouldn’t have time to do anything else! Microsoft will NEVER, EVER CALL YOU. Next time Simon, or Damian or whoever calls you from India, tell him he should be ashamed of himself, and he should go get a proper job! Then hang up, unless he has already. lol

ivor bolokov says:
18 February 2018

I regularly get called by these scammers. At first, they just tried we are from Microsoft trick, but lately they have asked whether I am such-and-such a person (disturbingly getting the name correct) as part of trying to allay my reluctance. Yesterday, I was also told my postcode, to my question “what is my ip address?”.

I would suggest to anyone to not confirm any details. If they ask or try to confirm your name, just deflect with your own question.

Personally, I do not use Microsoft, so as soon as they claim to be from Microsoft I know its a scam call.

The ip address question is a good one. All computers communicate with each other over the net via an ip address. So if they are in touch with your computer it would be from their computer, and they would be able to tell you the ip address. But alas, they always try to duck that question. I had one of them tell myself, to contact my isp if I did not know my ip address.

Speaking of replies. When I have called them out for being scammers, or asked whether they have anything better to do I was told to eff-off by the female scammer.

I guess the next time I will tell them I do not use Microsoft Windows, just to see what happens, although I relectent to state anything about my set-up.

I tell them I don’t have a computer.