/ 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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Comments

There is an phone scam some one ring you up and says they are SKY and you need to renew your subsription . They are not SKY they are sinening you up to an SKY box Insurance which you Don`T need anyway to call SKY out to fix your Box costs less than the Box insurance. most of the time it`S the LLMB on the dish that`s hat it damaged by wether and needs replaceing. the last time this hapend they did it for free but some time the fee is £50 – £60 this may be more

Dave Emmett says:
11 November 2011

We had a ‘microsoft’ call this morning and we politely refused the request to log on to our computer. Afterwards we did ring 1471 and received the following number – 02030266482. On ringing this number we were put in a queue telling us they were a company called PC Reserve, or something sounding like that. We did not pursue it further.

I had the same problem. Got a call from a guy claiming to be from microsoft support.
He told me with an indian accent that there’s a virus on my pc and that he can help me.
So I checked the number on google and found this http://www.tellows.co.uk/num/02030266482

Mike in Glos says:
11 November 2011

A very useful tool for your house phone( if available from your telephone provider) is” caller ID”. I am with BT and so any number that comes up when the phone rings shows on the display. I have a dedicated answer machine too, so I just let the call go to the machine and of course they never leave a message. I get quite a few calls identified as ” Out of area” which means outside the UK I also ignore these . I suspect lots of such calls are indeed scams but they never manage to get me !!!
My phones all have display facility and were not expensive to buy and well worth the investment. The phones also log the last 30 calls, so I always know who called and when even if they don’t leave a message.

I tell “computer engineers” that I am an expert and logging where they are calling from and intend to inflict misery on their computer systems.
Sometimes I thank them for calling and tell them I am very keen to buy from them when they have bought a rusty old car with 4 different sized wheels from me. I ask them for their home phone number so I can phone them at home and annoy them
They seem to hang up on me!

Kate in London says:
11 November 2011

I did get called by “Microsoft” a couple of weeks ago purportedly to help me. To start with I almost fell for it, as I had had some problems with my software but when the caller became a little more pushy my antennae picked up and I asked again and again how she had got hold of my phone number to which no answer came – eventually she hung up… and then I smiled.

I’ve recently had a succession of calls from a number which came up as 0092042 – about one every 30 minutes. This appears to be a number in Pakistan. I tried ignoring them, but they continued. Eventually I answered, but refused to confirm my details. I then got some convoluted spiel which I couldn’t really understand, but they claimed to be in London. I told them to stop pestering me, and if they called again I wouldn’t answer the phone. They haven’t called since. I was surprised how persistent they were.

I’ve also been called by “Microsoft technical support” – somebody with an Indian accent. I told them that I knew they were a scam and hung up. Again they didn’t call back.

I guess that my advice is to answer the phone and tell them to get lost. One even said “Am I speaking to Mrs x?” That was after I had said “hello” with an obviously male voice!

John W says:
11 November 2011

My wife & I get calls from ‘Microsoft Support Team’ on average about once every week. I’ve tried various approaches from hanging up immediately to calling them fraudsters, to amusing myself by asking them technical questions (I work in IT).
Normally, I’ve found them very reluctant to give any concrete details about who they really are, but just today, when pushed, he said I could check out their website which he said was syncnode.co (not .com nor .co.uk) and ring him back. Apart from the poor grammar and amateurish case studies on their website, it might be enough to fool some people. What surprised me most was that they quote phone numbers in the UK, USA and Australia.
With this info, I’m surprised that they can’t be traced and stopped?

Chris Gordon says:
11 November 2011

I haven’t had these calls but have had similar attempts via skype. Since I don’t have a PC I know they are attempts to steal my computer details. I do get a lot of calls from India saying they are updating my details for companies. I tell them to take my number off their system but of course it makes no difference. Any and all ways of making these callers stop or at least making them waste their time are useful. I get up to 4 calls a day from unwanted callers but fortunately they mainly call on VOIP number which I never answer. One or 2 have managed to get my ex-directory landline. I wonder who sells this number.

nigel says:
12 November 2011

I get 8 or 9 nusance salls a day, I think they’re trying to sell worthless shares that are not listed on our Stock Exchange. I now never pick up the phone until I hear a voice .There’s never any number on the 1471 for me to return the call ,nor any number on the caller I.D. screen. This has been going on for 7 or 8 years now, I’m a tad fed up with them.

Deborah Whittle says:
12 November 2011

We had a man call from a company called PC Wizard, said they were part of Microsoft, and that they were tracking partials that had been lost on the internet and that they thought our computer had been infected by them, could I log on to my computer and type some stuff in to see if my computer had been infected, I told him that I have very good anti-virus software on the computer and he said that this was not a virus, so the software would not protect me from this. I took his phone number and name and told him that I would phone him back if he was genuine, once I had checked him out, at this point he got VERY cross and screamed liar, liar at me (He had an Indian accent) and said that if he was from a genuine company he would not speak to a customer like that and hung up. I then check the number out and found that he makes lots of these call and sometime calls at 2/3 in the morning, so I called my telephone provider and asked them to bar the number which they did for no charge. We had a man call from a company called PC Wizard, said they were part of Microsoft, and that they were tracking partials that had been lost on the internet and that they thought our computer had been infected by them, could I log on to my computer and type some stuff in to see if my computer had been infected, I told him that I have very good anti-virus software on the computer and he said that this was not a virus, so the software would not protect me from this. I took his phone number and name and told him that I would phone him back if he was genuine, once I had checked him out, at this point he got VERY cross and screamed liar, liar at me (He had an Indian accent) and said that if he was from a genuine company he would not speak to a customer like that and hung up. I then check the number out and found that he makes lots of these call and sometime call at 2/3 in the morning, so I called my telephone provider and asked them to bar the number which they did for no charge.

AndyH says:
12 November 2011

A group of us are currently in competition to see who can keep the scammers on the phone the longest. The record stands at 58 minutes and we are keen to crack the hour. What seems strange is they call back even though their time has been wasted. Clearly not too smart.

Chrisamccreery says:
12 November 2011

“Nigel”. You should definitely register with the tpf (telephone preference service). Since we have, it dramatically reduced the nuisance calls we got. It’s free and easy… look online for how to register.

On the subject of TPS – can they actually do anything about calls from non-UK numbers or from the scammers? I think thety can influence legit companies, but am not convinced they can really police the range of calls. I recently complained about the frequent “survey” calls I received and the TPS reply was that as it didn’t appear to be a sales pitch or a scam they couldn’t do anything about it.

David Ellis says:
17 November 2011

I contacted TPS a few months ago having experienced several of these scam calls.
They told me that they could do nothing about calls that originated outside UK.

There is available a simple electronic device that sends sounds of very loud bursts of
machine-gun fire, exploding shells, uncontrollable cries of baby ecetera ecetera
not least including an ear-shattering very high frequency pitch down the telephone line.

Registered of course wlth TPS, but to catch out the remaining rogue elements too
thick-skinned as to continue to make nuisance calls.

I have hardly any unwanted calls lately, am pleased to say.

What happens if it turns out to be your mother-in-law?

Depends on whether m-i-l is deemed a nuisance…jury still out.

Maureen Parr says:
12 November 2011

I have had dozens of these calls. I waste as much of their time as possible asking them which anti-virus software they would recommend and which they use themselves and chattering away until I get tired of this game. Then I say ‘You should be ashamed of yourself; go and get a proper job’ and put the phone down.

These low pond-life idiots are deserving of no more than a moment’s attention
…… consign them to purgatory or hell! How dare they intrude upon your inner
sanctum!

[Don’t just get mad, get even (everything), apologies to Ilana…..]

Mrsv Angry says:
12 November 2011

Don’t wish to sound harsh but I wish these scammers would go and die, ended up with this scam on my pc at work, it was down for days while our IT people had to wipe my PC and try and reload everything, the whole companies email addresses were blocked, thankfully it didn’t hit the main server, it costs hundreds of pounds to sort this out, why do people get a kick out of doing this?

I had a ‘Microsoft’ call yesterday afternoon from someone with an Indian accent. Said that Microsoft were calling users with a Windows 7 Operating System as they had identified problems slowing down the system. He said my phone no. had been past to him by the Microsoft Global Team – I asked him if he had my address too and when he said ‘yes’ – I asked him to write to me with the details of the problem. Fortunately I suspected a scam and there’s no way I’d have given any personal details! I like the idea on an earlier comment and if I get any further calls I’ll just say that I don’t have a computer.