/ Technology

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

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.

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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Kevin Jestice says:
10 February 2015

My scammer was most concerned that they had picked up a fault on my PC.
He then wanted to quote my computer Licence number to prove he had information on my PC.
As my PC is on a LAN, behind a firewall running AVG, he was being a bit optimistic.But I let him continue. I suggested that he get a real job instead of fraudulently trying to get money of people.
He was most insistent about my computer fault. Fortunately I know about these phone scams but sadly I hadn’t prepared a really good wind-up, as I would have loved to get him really mad.
I did mention Interpol were tracing his call but I couldn’t kid a kidder.
I did enjoy the laugh, its a shame they do manage to con so many people and cause a lot of upset.


I had a phone call from these people at 7.15am one day . My replies to their calls have got steadily more terse over the years, but this one took the biscuit, especially as my wife was looking forward to a lie-in.
I congratulated him on his good grasp of English, and then asked him what part of “£$%^ off you c*()_” he didn’t understand.
I am hoping this reply makes it a little more difficult to sell my phone number on.

Andy Macdonald says:
13 April 2015

Why haven’t the police caught these people yet? Total incompetance is my best stab.


Sadly I don;t think we can rely on the police these days. just look at the shambles of the Hatton Cross vault raid. Alarm went off, police decided not to attend.

And that in turns leads to few people bothering to report these things. I know I’ve stopped reporting them.

I still think making the Indian Ambassadors life a complete misery might help. Summon him to answer every single complaint raised about scams coming from call centres in his country. And don’t do more than 1 at a time, let him get back to work then summon him again and again and again. See how he likes being pestered.

BJ says:
22 June 2015

Got a call just now from India. the guy was asking about my PC and laptop. My answer was I had neither. The guy continued to tell me that I was telling a lie and he even threatened to block my IP address. I told him to be my guest and hang up!!1

Pete says:
6 August 2015

The phone no. Is a wird one 001001xxxxxx
1st call ( lady, speaking berely understandable, broken english tells me that my computer is infected with a virus. ‘ ok, what,s my email address ?, “wha?”, ” my mac code ?”
Caller hung up.
Next day- second call.
Man this time- ” your computer- have malware ,” . ” oh yes ? You the same scammers that called yesterday? I have run a full antivirus check, checked my fire wall. I do not intend giving you remote access to my PC Please ‘go away’ ( lot stronger language )”
No phone calls from them since.


I’ve had several of these calls. Each time I challenge them to prove they are who they say they are. They say that the computer is sending out error messages so I ask them what version of windows I use, any real error message would say but they can’t. Each time the calls end with “I’ll block your computer” when they become annoyed with my lack of cooperation. I can still use my computer, so its an empty threat.

Peter says:
2 December 2016

Hi, Had one of these calls today from 0019415676503.
Caller was a woman with a very strong asian accent claiming to be from Microsoft. She said she was calling as my computer had a fault. When I said she was talking nonsense as my computer had no fault she was quite insistent “You listen to me …” etc. I told her to go away and try to scam someone else and hung up! I’ll be ready the next time, though and do a bit of playacting!