/ 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

And anyone saying the TPS is wonderful I had a sales call from SSE on Monday so I reported them to the TPS. Got this reply back

“Despite our best efforts, TPS has not been able to ascertain valid contact and/or address details to raise this particular complaint.”

Totally useless organisation. I gave them the company name, the number they called on from ( for once it wasn;t witheld and the time of the call to the nearest second, yet they’ve can do nothing.

Hello, me again, Just had another call 🙁 Is there a Guiness world record I could apply for ?

This time I just answered his 1st question with “Oh, are you one of these scammer calls who’s going to tell me there’s something wrong with my computer?” His reply was “err No”, he then hung up.

Just had a call from Worldwide Web Services about ‘a virus on my computer’.

Is this the Microsoft scam, I ask. Yes, he says!

I don’t use Microsoft, I point out. You don’t use Microsoft? he says, sounding surprised.

No, I am worried that my computer gets a virus. Good evening.

KR4M says:
5 March 2012

Ive just had a phone call from the Indian Scam company.. from some chap… Who said he was called Steve.. Saying my computers full of virus. I mentioned, your the IT scam, I read about you.. He then said he wasnt.. lol then I said.. Oh yes you are.. He hung up.. So number to trace the call.

Shaun says:
7 March 2012

I received a call today from somebody “claiming” to be from Microsoft support. I usually just hang up, but on this paticular occasion I told them I wasn’t interested in anything they were trying to spout to me. The person said “if you’re not interested then we’ll terminate your lisence agreement”, to which he received a verbal lashing that I dare not repeat on this and then the disconnection of the call. I regularly receive these calls and I’m getting fed up with them. They must think we’re all stupid? I know some people fall for the scam and Microsoft should be alerting all it’s customers to the dangers of these cold callers! Something more should be done by whoever governs these companies.

I’ve emailed and tweet’d BBC Watchdog over the last couple of weeks ( and surrey police) asking them to run articles on these scammers. Maybe if more people did the same and there was some proper national news coverage of this it would help stop the less well informed from falling for this and thereby reduce the number of calls for all concerned. Just a thought.

Lawrence says:
7 March 2012

several calls from several numbers. everyone claimed to work on behalf of microsoft. my PC is infected I was told. lucky me they called to fix. I’d love to call them names now… these would be rather rude. but I leave the rest to your fantasy. these are the numbers which call me on a regular basis.

http://www.tellows.co.uk/num/02030266482
http://www.tellows.co.uk/num/02033718215
http://www.tellows.co.uk/num/01234765093

I already filed a complaint with ofcom and the ICO…. I suggest you do the same. the more complaints arrive the faster these numbers will be shut down.

jules says:
8 March 2012

had a call tonight about 5pm from 04949055110.

told them id just bought the computer and was setting it up as we spoke. he kept saying i had a virus on microsoft. told him id take the computer back to comet but he still insisted it wasnt a scam and it had a virus. hung up eventually……..

Claire Ellis says:
12 March 2012

I received one of these calls for the first time on Friday evening. As soon as I heard the Indian voice purporting to be from Microsoft I questioned the probablity of them knowing that there was a problem with my computer. I eventually found out the name of the caller – Peter – Peter Thompson. I told him that he sounded like a Peter Thompson, but he didn’t seem to get me! After going round in circles & making it clear that I wasn’t going to turn on my compuer, I agreed that he should call back the next day at 1pm. He did tell me however that I had been very angry at the start of the call & that I was sounding much calmer! I did point out that it was concern I’d expressed & not anger…..
My children had great fun hatching a plot for the following day’s call & what they were going to say.
Needlass to say the call came at 1pm & my husband had great fun taking it in turns to talk to “Peter”. I eventually put the phone down on him. When he called back I just left the phone off the hook while I did other things. He called back again but this time I didn’t answer. The caller id showed up as 1571??? I could not work that one out. He was very persistent, so vunerable & the elderly should be very careful. Warn everyone you know…..

Chaz Lawrence says:
15 March 2012

Just had a call from an Asian gentleman calling himself Jack. Could hardly speak English. Said there was a problem with my microsoft software. Told him to go and take a dip in the Ganges it might help his accent

H. Merritt says:
23 March 2012

After a lull, I am now getting these twice a day. They are well past the “entertainment” phase and are more annoying than ever. I’ve tried all sorts of things: asking for Microsoft Staff Identity numbers (they can make these up as they go along), saying that I use only Apple computers, asking them for their home telephone numbers (they never answer that one). The ONE thing that has had a possible effect, though, is to ask if post-Colonial anger at former oppressors should extend to robbing the poor, old and vulnerable, with the effect that this would have on one’s Karma; it gave the speaker “Jack” more than a little pause before he launched into his spiel again.

c.m says:
12 April 2012

hi just tought id add to this had a call today 12-04-12. googled after and found this forum. many similar cases as above , indian and said malware/virus etc. kept trying to get me to turn my p.c on when i said it was inconvienient he said only he can fix it , i said how did you have my nuber its ex directry but cannot remember how he said he had it but it did sound convincing at time. he kept saying turn on your pc “man” but never once did he refere to me by name. i told him i have a virus checker and i will run it and if that did not fix it i would take pc to work for our IT department. after 10minutes i eventualy said sorry gota go . got his number its from ?? but starts with 0025

HeavyarmsTB says:
19 April 2012

Had One of these F***ing calls again. They try me on a monthly basis, unfortately I am a certified IT Engineer, so I know what crap they are pedalling. They tried to tell me that they were calling regarding errors from a laptop that has nevered been used in 8 months, also they were calling myselfs BT Help on behalf of Microsoft. Even though my ISP is virgin.

The problem is that when I hung up on one of these a**holes, he constantly kept ringing back. Listen Microsoft are aware, and reassure that in no way any information containing details comes from them due to their strict privacy policy. Microsoft and your ISP would never call you regarding any matters with your computer. So My advise isas follows: –

1: – Ask for An Microsoft Staff ID number as quoted by someone in this thread.

2: – Tell Them to F*** Off/Pi** Off and hang up. If they do call back immediately hang up.

A useful tip is that so often there is a delay between you answering the call and the scammer talking. In the mean time there is usually “burbling” in the background. Take this opportunity to ring off-if it’s not a scammer it’s almost certainly another cold-caller. Who wants any of them?.

D.S. says:
20 April 2012

I don’t know how these guys get around the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) that blocks most of the other spam / scam calls I used to get. These guys phone at least once a month, virus on your computer, your computer is reporting serious errors, blah, blah, blah. I know the routine now – just hang up! My friend linked me this for more info http://www.computerrepairtips.net/phone-call-from-microsoft-about-virus-is-a-scam/

stu says:
22 April 2012

Had a few of these calls, had a few others apparently double glazing, credit card companies and all the other crap they try to sell you, in fact 380 calls in the last twelve months. forget TPS, it doesnt work. the only thing that does is a truecall unit, expensive some say but believe me its worth it, t i dont have to these parasites, truecall answers and they get a polite message saying clear off and dont call again..

Truecall on the face of it sounds a great idea, but it’s not cheap (£70+), and if you’re a Virgin phone customer it only works really well if you pay for caller ID. About £3 a month I think. Otherwise it can’t distinguish between number withheld and the rest. See Amazon site for user comments..

Lucy Cook says:
22 April 2012

Another person caught by the scammers – we’ve also turned off remote access to this computer! Hope it keeps them at arms length!!

I’ve had 3 calls in the last 4 days, sigh. The 1st 2 were dealt with by saying I’m a certified Microsoft engineer. The last one , just now, I said Oh good I knew you’d be ringing as my computer is telling me you computer has a virus and keeps telling you my computer is infected. He was a little taken aback by that and told me I couldn’t know as I don’t have a password or user id. to which I replied that’s OK I know it you’re computer as your ISP has told me. He then hang up. I too have looked at the Truecall device but am not convinced it can tell one withheld number from another. If only some organisation would review these devices, sigh.

Cheryl West says:
25 April 2012

We have received two calls from an Indian talking technician calling on behalf of Microsoft support team, who claimed that we were being contacted re-corrupted files being entered onto our hard drive, and was we aware of it, and he was there to assist us on how to resolve the issue, i smelt a rate as it seemed strange and asked him to talk to my husband, which my husband did when he called back, my husband listened to him and then he said to him this is a load of rubbish who are you and how did you get this number, the phone went dead, dialled 1471 the number was 01234 765093, the number was engaged when dialled back constantly, My husband said “if you get this call just HANG UP, Microsoft would not call you re technical faults and certainly on a non premium number like 01234 it would cost them a fortune in business revenue and not plausible, and especially on hardware issues like a hard drive, as they are a software manufacturer.

ANN M says:
27 April 2012

I had a call from a guy called Michael with a very strong accent saying he was from Microsoft and they had reported of problems with my computer. Decided to waste his time by going into panic mode telling him he must hep me etc. Also told him I couldn’t understand what he was saying which, because of his accent, was true. Eventually told him to get lost and ended the call. However about 10 minutes later he rang me again probably by mistake as he didn’t mention his previous call. This time I told him I didn’t have as computer. He hasn’t phoned back!!

emma says:
9 May 2012

Hi, I have recently just had a call and I was stupid enough to go along with it for a really long time. I didn’t give bank details or anything, but I was directed to agent001.com where they were controlling the use of the computer. They started running some sort of scanning virus programme and flicking between windows. But then someone else caught sight of what I was doing and made me hang up immediately. I realise now how stupid it was and can’t believe I fell for it. I got to the point where the man on the other end of my phone was controlling the mouse and keyboard, but as soon as I hung up I also shut down the computer and turned it off at the wall, as well as the internet. I am now worried whether it would still be possible for them to access any information on the computer. Do you know whether the desktop is still in danger of being used by these people?

YES!

You’ll need to uninstall whatever software they got you to run when you went to that agent001 site. And I would suggest doing that while your computer is NOT connected to the internet. Leave that cable on the unplugged. Your computer will boot up fine without the internet just ignore the no connection popup.

As to what else they’re installed, that should also be uninstalled.