/ 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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Did you know that Microsoft (amongst many others) are so worried about infringement of free speech on the Net that they are not prepared to warn their users about these scams?
Isn’t this going to be counter-productive when govts,. in response to popular pressure, decide to legislate to protect all those in danger from such scams? Far better to take action now. It’s simple enough.

I think Microsoft dont hang around if they think someone is ripping them off. They dont give a moneys when it is a little consumer.

What I find with the current batch of scammers is that they continue to talk over you when you ask questions; I presume they dont speak English as a first language and are reading from a card. I speak a bit of hindi and so ssay that I need to speak to our technical person called Mr Ban**** or mu**erch** – These are very rude names that irriate them and tend to get them to disconnect rather than hold on to the line so we cannot ring out.

Sally says:
11 May 2012

11th May 2012 – Just had a microsoft scam call – asking for me by name and saying as a valued mircosoft customer they were calling to tell me I had viruses and junk files. Kept trying to get me to turn on computer (I didn’t). Found this site after the call – So glad my hunch that call was rubbish was right!

mpadz says:
12 May 2012

The SCAM is back…….. donot fall for the Microsoft technical support call….. the call from India….

I have recently tried contacting Action Fraud via their twiiter feed @actionfrauduk. ( they say they reply to tweets, but I’m still waiting). I have even sent them a link to this convo. Maybe if more people started asking them how to report this scam they’ll wake up. I live in hope.

I suggest you forget the twittering and give them a ring on 0300 123 2040.

Paul says:
12 May 2012

Recieved this call initially on tuesday around midday. Without even giving or confirming any details he started by directing me to turn on “THE computer”. I proceeded to try and prod information out of him by asking him for any details to authenticate the call. He couldn’t even provide the publicly available information such as names or address. He persistently avoided answering any of my questions before going back to the original direction to turn on my computer while claiming he is from Microsoft. After repeatedly making it clear that he needs to be more specific as there is more than one computer in the household, I started to ask him about how exactly he has access to the information on the household computers which, again he couldn’t give a valid answer, he just vaguely referred to it being sent to a server. Eventually, he stopped talking completely and cleared the line.

Friday (yesterday), he called again. I answered and he began with the same direction. I stopped him and told him to confirm a customer reference number or any details to authenticate the call. He stopped talking and cleared. An hour later, he calls AGAIN but silent. Today at 11:23 he calls again while not talking, just silent. This started as a scam but I’m beginning to think he has fixated on the first call and resorted to full on harrassment.

Josh says:
14 May 2012

I’ve just had an Indian gentleman ring me 15 times, claiming to be with Microsoft. Every time I asked him a question like ‘How do you have my number?’ and ‘How do you know I have a Microsoft computer?’ he hung up.

LucilleWalter says:
16 May 2012

Just had another call saying my computer is infected they don’t give up they even know my name they called a friend of mine and had to laugh when she said to him I haven’t got a computer lol and she doesn’t

Loz says:
16 May 2012

Just had my first microsoft scam call. Unfortunately a family member let on that we had a computer. I took over the call. The guy was very insistant and saying that Microsoft were getting warning msgs from my computer. ‘Ma’am, just turn on your computer and I will talk you through it’ and ‘You could lose everything’. Told me they got my number from a survey they had done. Didn’t answer my questions so I hung up on him and he called straight back. Eventually, he asked if I wanted to speak to his supervisor (more like the mate sitting next to him) who said they had a website I could look at to verify who they were but unfortunately (this is good!) due to company policy they could not give the website address but if I turned on the computer he would show me! Told him I didn’t have time he said he will call back later. I have found all you comments very helpful. Thanks. No further calls as yet.

Loz, Sorry to hear you’ve joined the “club”. In my experience you could expect to get 3 or 4 calls over the course of the next week then silence for about a month, then sadly repeat ….

ANN M says:
17 May 2012

They certainly seem to be getting worse. I haven’t had a call since I told them I didn’t have a computer but probably only a matter of time.

Jane says:
22 May 2012

I have had these calls for ages you would think they would get the message that you aren’t going to fall for the scam but they go on trying.
Yesterday they tried a new approach telling me that their server had detected that criminals had copied my husbands computer ID and were using copies of his computer for illegal purposes & if I did not give them immediate access to his laptop to clear up the problem I would have the police around knocking my door down. I refused and nothing untoward has happened.

ANN M says:
22 May 2012

It was only a matter of time. An other call today. Told him I hadn’t a computer and he apologised for bothering me but I’m sure they will again. If people didn’t fall for this scam it would stop. They are claiming to be from Microsoft so surely Microsoft should make all users of their system aware of the scam.

As wavechange mentioned further up the posts. If you get a call about your Microsoft Windows computer.

Rring Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. It’ll take a couple of minutes and they’ll give you a reference number. Sadly mine was 120500353253 and the guy did admit when pushed that yes that is the number of instances of scams etc that they’ve had reported to them since they set up 🙁

The more people that report it hopefully the more fed up Action Fraud will get and pull their fngers out. Simply googling this scam you can see its been going on for years, so clearly those in charge of tackling the problem aren’t doing as much as we the unfortunate targets think they should/could be doing.

And I don’t think this will have any effect either 🙁 But if we don’t try …

julie says:
24 May 2012

my parents have just had another call from these cold callers ,,now their are threating to send a letter saying with in seven days we will be struck off the microsoft list and never be allowed to use it again,,o i just laughed ….now after about 16months of threats and phone calls as you can see our computer is still going strong

Paul Grice says:
25 May 2012

Has anybody had any experience with Guruaid who are part of a US group? Don’t think they cold call people but they do online support

Have they tried to scam you?

Katy says:
30 May 2012

had three of these in the last 7 days. the first one, I told him he was a liar, and put the phone down. The next I let ramble, and then said what windows version was causing the problem – he said Vista, at which point I said ‘that’s odd, I’m not using Vista’ and he hung up….the third, today, I asked which computer was causing the problem – how many? she said – five I said. She asked if they were all on the same internet line, and I said no. This seemed to flummox her for a while and she went back to the script. I asked her why she was calling, and not Microsoft, which sent her into a downward spiral, and she eventually hung up. I could have a lot of fun messing with these people if I had the time.

Laban Tall says:
4 June 2012

I had to ring the BT helpline a month or two back (call centre in Bombay) – and today I was cold-called from India about a virus “going round your area”.

Morgan says:
7 June 2012

I got one of these today here in the state of New Mexico. The moment they said “Microsoft Technical Support” I told them this was a known scam and hung up. They called right back saying it wasn’t a scam and I told them that it was all over the internet and hung up. They tried a third time at which point I told them that I didn’t even have a MS program on my computer, hadn’t even registered a MS product in about a decade, and that their continued phone calls were considered harassment, a violation of FCC rules, and I would call the cops if they continued.

Microsoft’s own website expressly states “If you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft Tech Support, hang up. We do not make these kinds of calls.” (http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/msname.aspx)

These guys are insanely aggressive but now you know that Microsoft ITSELF has stated it will NOT make these type of calls you have a way to fight back against these scammers.

Good to see that Microsoft has put up that page, Morgan, but surely it should be better publicised than it is. It should be a default page, flashing up every time you boot up. OAP’s and other vulnerable groups would be saved from these scammers, and the practice would die out fairly quickly.

Ian says:
11 June 2012

Just had one olf these calls today. Well, to be honest they have rung every day for the last 7 days. I always ignore them. I have an ansaphone so if its important they leave a message. They never have done.

Today I decided to answer the call.

Hello Microsoft helpdesk here. We have reports that your computer is throwing up all sorts of errors. If you turn your PC on, we will be able to show you and fix them for you.

Really? I said, what sort of problems.

He couldn’t answer that question, just kept telling me turn my PC on. My PC is always on!!!

I asked him to verify who he was and what company he was from. Just told me he was from Microsoft.

I decided to play with him for a while, well an hour actually!!!! I told him i had turned my pc on. He told me to go to a web page. I told him the web page is coming up with an error. All this time I was making a cup of tea and doing jobs around the house. I wasn’t even at my PC!!!

He tried all sorts of things. I asked him again to confirm that he was from Microsoft and asked him how he had my phone number. Some sort of paperwork he had from Microsoft.

He asked my to go web site again, yep, i done that I said, still not working though. Hmm he said, there must be a problem

Yes I said, you are trying to scam me by your stupidity in thinking that I will allow you access to my PC. He strenuously denied it being a scam. I asked again to prove he was from Microsoft, he couldn’t and so told me to **** Off and hung up on me.

Made my afternoon a little more entertaining. I’m waiting for him to call again so I can play for longer.

Becks says:
13 June 2012

I have literally just told someone to beggar off because I know it’s a scam and hung up on him! He claimed to be from Windows. Wouldn’t someone legit identify their company by its proper name, Microsoft, rather than one of their divisions? Secondly, I get shed loads of dodgy calls for someone else as i think my number is recycled. Also, how would Microsoft get my number when I’ve never officially registered my copy of Windows 7 and my phone line receives 2 different numbers for calls?

What a load of tosh, they think we’re all mugs!