Help! Was That Really Microsoft Support?

Scammer phoning

The Microsoft Support scam is several years old but still going strong - and still successfully defrauding thousands of people each year.

The aim of this scam is to fool people into thinking something is wrong with their computer, and to persuade them to pay for it to be "fixed".


How does the support scam work?

CAPTURED ON CAMERA

Over the years some people have managed to record entire phone calls with these fraudsters & upload them to the internet. See this clip (YouTube) if you want to watch the scam in action!

The Technical Support Scam has been active since the start of the decade. The basic premise is that a fraudster cold-calls the victim, pretending to be from a well-known organisation (often Microsoft), and claims that their systems have detected security issues with the victim's computer.

The caller will talk the user through a few basic checkups, revealing many (often perfectly normal!) error messages to scare them into believing that their computer really does have a problem. The fraudster normally requests remote control of their computer as part of this.

Normal computer errors

All computers have errors like these hidden in the operating system - they're perfectly normal - but fraudsters often use these to scare people into thinking there's something seriously wrong.

Over the course of the call - often lasting up to an hour - the computer owner will be shown more and more "evidence" of issues with their computer. Ultimately the caller then offers to fix the issues for a fee, often with various other personal details (such as date of birth) requested in order to process the payment.

You won't be surprised to hear that the caller isn't from Microsoft, nor are the issues they "find" actually security issues at all.


I've had a call, now what?

Depending on how far into the call it was before you hung up depends on the steps you now need to take. If they didn't remotely log into your computer or take any payment details then you've nothing to fear. Any error messages they may have you find on your PC will have been absolutely normal and can be ignored.

I let them log onto my computer....

Remote login to a computer

It can be scary knowing that a criminal had remote control of your computer but, in the vast majority of cases, they won't have done any damage to it. The main objective of these scammers is to get your financial details, not to do any permanent damage to your computer.

As a precaution though its still a good idea to run a full virus scan. Take a look at our page for how to run a virus scan, and do a "Full Scan".

If you're wondering too about all the issues that the caller found on your computer then don't worry - all computers have many scary looking error messages as part of their normal operation. Even if they showed you log messages with red error symbols, these are perfectly normal.

I gave them my credit card details....

Credit card icon

If the fraudster managed to take your credit card details, firstly don't feel embarassed. They're professionals at this and are expert at knowing exactly what to say to convince you of their story - they know much more about computers than the average home user & exploit that to great effect.

You must though immediately report this to your credit card company to cancel the card. In all likelihood you'll be too late to stop any payment going out but, at the very least, they can put a stop on any more money being lost. Your card company will also advise you of their fraud procedures and if anything can be reclaimed.

You should report this to your local police force as a victim of crime too, and also take a look at our links for reporting cyber fraud in your country.


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