/ Technology

Update: the true cost of the ‘Microsoft support’ scam call

Cartoon of man with phone

Have you been called by bogus Microsoft support scammers? We’ve heard from readers who’ve been conned into paying hundreds after falling victim. We’ve spoken to Microsoft to find out the scale of the scam.

The phone rings and there’s a voice on the line telling you they’re aware you’re having computer problems, but not to worry – they’re with Microsoft, and they’re here to help. It’s a complete lie, and the opening gambit of an all-too-successful scam.

The person on the end of the line has no idea how your PC has been behaving lately. And they’re certainly nothing to do with Microsoft. They’re just after your cash.

These ‘tech support’ scammers will typically ask for remote access to your PC. They may then infect it with malware that could lift credit card details from your computer. Or they could simply charge you through the nose for PC ‘support’ that you never even needed.

Conned out of hundreds

Which? member Walter was conned out of £130 by a company claiming to work with Microsoft. Not only was he convinced to buy a £59 subscription, Walter was forced to pay a further £70 to have his computer fixed by a professional after the cold callers made his computer almost unusable. Action Fraud confirmed Walter was a victim of a scam and after Which? intervened on his behalf, his bank refunded the full £130.

Walter still gets cold calls from time to time, but now he doesn’t hold back:

‘The last time they called, I gave them a piece of my mind. It gave me the chance to inform them about the damage they had done to my computer and the cost of fixing it, which I must say made me feel a bit better.’

Scale of the ‘tech support’ scam

The scale of this scam call, which has been doing the rounds for nearly three years, is staggering. According to figures from Microsoft, one in five people surveyed in the UK had received one of these scam calls since 2010. Of those who have received a call:

  • Over a third said the caller tried to sell them something.
  • Over a fifth were asked to permit the caller remote access rights to their computer.
  • Over a fifth were asked to download some software.
  • And 18% were asked outright for credit card information.

According to Microsoft, half of the victims were aged 55 years or over, and the average amount lost has been a painful £745. Stuart Aston, Microsoft’s chief security advisor, told us:

‘It’s a dreadful crime. It targets vulnerable, often elderly people, and it can cost them a large amount of money. It’s a huge loss for the individual victim, but added up, thousands of successful scams like this can reap a small fortune for the criminals behind them.’

And Aston’s no stranger to the calls himself: ‘Somebody even called me once on my work phone here at Microsoft, claiming they were from the Windows support team.’

What’s Microsoft doing about the scam?

Microsoft’s working alongside international police agencies to tackle the scammers directly, but progress has been difficult. Many of the call centres are based overseas, and they change their names and tactics frequently.

At Which?, we’re campaigning to cut down nuisance calls and texts. However, this scam is more than a nuisance – it’s a criminal issue. Microsoft should continue raising awareness and working with police in order to stamp this scam out once and for all. And if you think you’ve been a victim of one of these tech support scam calls, run a virus scan, alert your bank and contact Action Fraud to report the scam.

Update: 30 June 2017

Four people have been arrested in England on suspicion of fraud. The arrests came after a two year investigation into scam calls from fraudsters pretending to be Microsoft IT support staff.

A collaboration between City of London Police and Microsoft saw the arrest of a man and a woman from Woking in Surrey, and a man and a woman were arrested in South Shields, Tyneside.

While the inquiry found that many calls came from India, the four arrested in the England have been accused of involvement in the scam.

Last year there were 34,504 computer software service fraud reports made to Action Fraud, with attributed losses of £20,698,859.

Computer software service fraud accounts for 12% of all reports to Action Fraud, making it the third most reported fraud type.

wev says:
9 June 2013

“I had been attempting to transfer funds to a mob in India called PC HELP CARE”

Why would you want to pay an Indian company to fix your pc and give it breakdown cover? You don’t get any help from Trading Standards and the Citizens Advice Bureau if something goes wrong, and if you don’t use your credit card to pay, you can’t get your money back if it turns out to be a scam.

For $600, you can get years of warranty cover from places like PC World, Currys and John Lewis.

PC World did poorly in a Which? survey on computer repairs: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/high-street-pc-repairs-poor/

Currys is part of the same group, which does not have a good reputation for customer service. You might be best to try Which? Local or try fixing problems yourself.

wev says:
12 June 2013

If anyone wants to fix it themselves, they should read hexus.net, hardocp.com and post to the forums there for advice.

Shawn Stopper says:
20 December 2013

I have been contacted by a man. He said I owe him $149.00 for 10 years tech support 2 printers and a scanner support! I was thinking that it was BS!! Please tell me that it is! Thank you, Shawn Stopper
[Comment edited for revealing personal details. Thanks, Mods.]

Ruth Scott says:
14 June 2013

I was chatting to a very spirited 90-year old lady, who, like the rest of us is sick of the Microsoft scam calls. She told the caller she was glad he had called as her computer was indeed playing up. (This was not true.) He got very excited and asked her for her password. She then proceeded to spell out slowly and in a mock doddery voice a very rude word starting with F and ending with the word “off.” He slammed the phone down. It hasn’t stopped the calls but it made her day!

Ruby says:
15 June 2013

I received another one of these calls this morning just before 10am, this time I hung up,
but when I called 1472 I discovered he had failed to hide his phone number.
With the hope that you can use it I am giving you the number that called me.
I am sick and tire arguing with the people who call my number telling me Microsoft has informed them that I have a problem with my computer.

Report the number to Ofcom as well

Alison Greer says:
8 July 2013

I was nearly sucked into one of these Microsoft Support Team scams at around 7.00 on Sat. evening. My reflections are thus:-
Microsoft will never call you ‘out of the blue’ (they don’t care enough).
Even if you try to check their identity by phoning the number they’ve given you, beware of not getting a ringing tone. It means they’ve not ended the call and you’re not dialling the number you think you are…
Never allow anyone to remotely access your computer until you’re absolutely sure they are legitimate. I did and found neither of my banks ran a 24 hour emergency line that enabled me to freeze my online banking accounts.
I was lucky but one tip I’ve learnt since:- if you can’t contact your bank over the weekend and are worried – access it online, put in three false passwords and your account will automatically freeze until you contact the bank directly by phone or via your local branch. Had I known this beforehand, it would have saved me a lot of anxiety…

Angelap says:
30 July 2013

I suffered the microsoft scam , but realized what was happening when the Indian caller deleted my password when they had access to my computer. I allowed them access as I have done so in the past when talking to Microsoft help site. These are usually Indian people and I was momentarily fooled. I stopped them before they could do too much damage, but could not work my computer and had to pay a specialist to fix it for me, I also had to change my passwords and inform my bank. I phoned the police but they said they could do nothing!
The absolute cheek of the caller kept phoning me to continue the scam, I was very angry and accused them of infecting my computer as they said no it was someone else not them!!!

marcotheboy says:
24 August 2013

I had another one of these calls.
This time I was prepared with my Arnold Schwarzenegger soundboard.
I had a bit of fun with him before he hung up after about 3 minutes.

Here is the ‘conversation’ on YouTube:

or just search in YouTube for 02030259569

marcotheboy says:
26 August 2013

I had another one of these calls.
An Indian chap called “Steve Johnson” called me to “fix” my computer.

Here’s how I dealt with him:
Go to YouTube and search for 02030259569

Oh dear i’ve had one of these calls and did allow them access to my PC remotely – as i had just sent a report to ms re: faults on my PC and then was called an hour later so presumed it was legit! However i didn’t fill out any forms or give them access to passwords etc… do i need to be worried and change any details or look for anything suspicious do you think??


I got snookered for $240 and now don’t know if my computer is secure. Should have just gone down to staples and bought a $350. lap top and a virus protection. This all started when I bought a Toshiba that offered a 90 day Norton free trial. I contacted Norton and explained that I already have a Norton annual subscription that is automatically debited to my account each year and that I wanted to apply the program to the new computer and they agreed to do so. 90 days later, without my knowledge, Norton was discontinued although the subscription was fully paid. Next thing I knew, computer was all screwed up with viruses and malware. Apparently cannot win. Edd

Received a call from click4protect who told me that my Kapersky virus protection was not compatable with windows 7. offered to show me all the virus’ and malware that has infected my computer and stated that it was not safe or secure to use my computer. Then, offered to clean my computer and give me a lifetime of protection for a one time fee of $240. What now?

You believe them?


What action should I take now to fix situation? Any suggestions? Edd

Ok, so you let them take control of your pc?

I am still receiving calls from these b******s offering the same deal,,,I reckon I get at least one a week. I am starting to have fun with them.
One Indian called and said his name was Mark Wilson. I asked him where he was ringing from? He said Melbourne. I asked him how he got into work today with the TRANSPORT STRIKE (there was no strike)…I rode in on my bike…”In all that rain and hail, you must have got drenched”
Where is your office? “Down by the River”…What’s the name of the River? “Victoria”….(everyone knows the Yarra flows through Melbourne…because it is upside down…:lol:.
I told him to get a fair dinkum job and to P**s Orf…He hung up on me…..

JEAN says:
4 October 2013

I know how you feel…in am in the UK so told the bloke to pee up his back and play with the steam…….then I had a woman……………..I have a very powerful gadget that i now keep by the phone……it almost takes your eardrums out ,,,,,they don’t come back to often for that one……………………………..its getting less……….for someone in their 80’s it ain’t funny………………………………..

[This comment has been edited for breaking our guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Parra and Jean – I can understand your frustration, but please try to mind your language! 🙂

don Horton says:
12 August 2014

I too have bgeen the victim of click4 protect.they told me I had been hacked and brought up pornographic pictures on my screen which they said had been put there by Hackers and to remove them and prevent it happening again I must buy there software. I told them to get lost & hung up only to find my computer had been vandalised. I reportedit to the Police but they were’nt interested.later I found they had down loaded a load of icons titled “Hacked”.surely if money is being sent to these people the police must be able to trace it.

I have reeived a scam call 5 minutes ago but played along with it for a short time.
they did not withold their number which was 005924286651.
The guy from india said he was rocco anderson from windows technical support department and that i have a serious virus on my computer and i need to switch it on. It was already on so i played along which cost him nearly ten mins.
I was directed into the dos screen and told to enter ‘assoc’ at which point I’d had enough. I pointed out that he was a scammer and then I was rude, foul and talked to him in his own language and accent.
He took it not wery well and told me he would file a law complaint and infect my computer.
My next reply cannot be printed so imagination time!
He cut off.

5 minutes later i had another call, witheld number, from somebody else.
Did not go down very well.

I can find anywhere to report these numbers to microsoft so if anybody here knows of how to report them please let me know.

Microsoft don’t seem too bothered about these calls. You’re best bet is to report then to Action Fraud as they’re basically committing fraud, just don’t hold your breath, they seem powerless to do anything about it

Microsoft can’t actually do anything as they have nothing to do with the people committing the fraud. The only answer is to put the phone down because Microsoft don’t contact people this way

Shane Curiel says:
13 September 2014

I think I’ve just been scammed by these guys. I paid £270 three times over, via three different methods. First it was via the bank when they installed MS software for protection on my computer. They rang about 10 days later saying I needed network protection on top of that, which would simply require renewing the contract and refunding my first payment.

The second payment was via Ukash, so as to avoid details being compromised on the network. The next day, they called again to finish the work and said the Ukash system had failed and I’d be refunded again.

After walking two miles to and from a Western Union payment point, I paid a further £270 to India.

I was starting to doubt the legitimacy of this thing and when they then said it would be another £300 deposit to confirm it was me, I stopped using them. I don’t know what to do now. They did install anti-malware software and such.

Shane Curiel says:
13 September 2014

For good measure, the number was 0280714, the man who received the money was Arjun Sharma. When I ring the number, it is not recognised.

I suggest installing and running Malwarebytes to check what they’ve installed on your computer as what they have installed may be spyware or malware. Malwarebytes offers a free version and is very reliable, when I first installed it it picked up and cleared a load of malware off my computer. Bought anti-malware programs don’t cost £100, my bought version of Malwarebytes was around £30.

Also change all your passwords.

Well I sympathise with you. It sounds like you have paid out £540 to these scammers. It is very unlikely you will ever see a penny again. You could have bought yourself a nice new computer for this money.

The sugestion to download and scan with Malwarebytes is a good one. Download FREE version then install and run a full scan which may take some time. It will no doubt pick up some infections which you can then get it to delete. You can download Malwarebytes from this address which you will probably have to copy and paste into the address bar of your browser (I don’t think Which Conversation supports embedded links)


What a strange world it is, just as I have been typing this I was called by an asian gentleman who said he was from Windows and they had a duty to tell me that my pc is heavily infected. We had a short but interesting conversation about his scamming. He abruptly rang off when I told him I am an IT manager!!!

Scam Baiter says:
13 September 2014

There is a simple formula that is 100% correct for ALL cold calls (Computer Service calls, Road Traffic Accident calls, Survey calls, etc):

Indian Accent = SCAMMER

No, I’m not racist. That is a fact.

I cannot believe people still fall for these.

Scam Baiter ; “Indian Accent = SCAMMER”, that;’s not strictly speaking true.,

The problem is too many UK based companies have outsourced their call centres to India etc,

iirc companies lie BT, Virgin Media, Ideal World all use them or have used them.

I had a call yesterday and the very english speaking lady assured me she was calling from the London Advisory Board, the fact I knew she wasn’t , they have a warning on their website about people calling claiming to be them. She was still assuring me even after giving me a none london number to call back on.

My simple formula is 100% of calls are potentially scammers, so unless you recognise the voice of the caller ( e.g your mum,dad, wife husband, partner, son daughter etc) make them jump through hoops to prove who they say they are. If they’re genuine they should be grateful that they’re made to do that as it proves your careful who you give your details too.

“I cannot believe people still fall for these.” Sadly I have to agree with you on that 🙁

It was reported on the BBC yesterday that over £650k had been scammed from people by rogues claiming to be from their bank.

claire says:
23 September 2014

I am getting fed up of all these calls i have had 3 in 2 days. Does anyone know how to block these calls without blocking all withheld numbers?

Dave Waghorne says:
13 January 2015

Ive had countless calls from the supposed “Windows Technical Support” and ive just hung up. Over the last 2 days i have had a total of 11 calls which i call a total nuisance but despite telling them that i was not interested they persist in calling. Surely there must be a way of blocking these presisent nuisance calls!

I have been scamed by buying virus sortwear from windows microsoft after contacting microsoft support through my computer to solve a problem with my computer. They then were supporting me fix the problem as online administrators and said I needed to buy a new anti virus package that the one I had expired. they then showed me damage by a virus that had infected my computer that I did not know I had.. I agreed to buy the package and they as administrators got me to type a website into my computer and a package came up like one you would buy then I filled out the details to buy the product and typed in debit card details and payment of £40 and they installed the package as administrators and they told me to leave computer as they would be working on the computer and they would ring me when it was complete, I did this. They then rang me back and told me all would be fixed in 24hours but that night I noticed emails from Western union trading Company 6 of them and I read them and I thought I must check my Bank account and check if this money when through and discovered yes 3 times to the value of £574.90. After this I contacted Western Union UK and did not get much joy and told to contact my bank which i did and in turn they have contacted fraud department who I am dealing with at this moment. This administrator has been contacting me by phone and telling me the money is going to be refunded back to my account within 24Hrs I am still waiting. What are microsoft going to do about this?. Is their online support fraudsters dont ever buy computer softwear on line buy from local stores.

tand says:
16 June 2015

re loading windows 7, getting windows updates then this message . message from web page. windows has blocked access to the internet, not work diagnostic. please phone toll free 0800-143-3693 they will gave you a code number to enter and what happens then is they have access to your PC. IF you wish they will cost you £119 DONT this could be a hack to get your information. personnel details.