A few of our customers have reported that scam artists are using the phone to try to break into their computers. They call, claiming to be computer techs associated with well-known companies like Microsoft, and are intent on confusing you with a barrage of technical terms. They may ask you to go to your computer and perform a series of complex tasks. Sometimes, they will target legitimate computer files and claim that they are viruses or other malware on your computer to trick you into giving them remote access or paying for software you don't need. Their tactics are designed to scare you into believing they can help fix your "problem."
Once they've gained your trust, they may:
ask you to give them remote access to your computer and then make changes to your settings that could leave your computer vulnerable
try to enroll you in a worthless computer maintenance or warranty program
ask for credit card information so they can bill you for phony services - or services you could get elsewhere for free
trick you into installing malware that could steal sensitive data, like user names and passwords
direct you to websites and ask you to enter your credit card number and other personal information
These scammers take advantage of your reasonable concerns about viruses and other threats. They know that computer users have heard time and again that it's important to install security software. But the purpose behind their elaborate scheme isn't to protect your computer; it's to make money.
Keep these other tips in mind:
Don't give control of your computer to a third party who calls you out of the blue.
Do not rely on caller ID alone to authenticate a caller. Criminals spoof caller ID numbers. They may appear to be calling from a legitimate company or a local number, when they're not even in the same country as you.
Online search results might not be the best way to find technical support or get a company's contact information. Scammers sometimes place online ads to convince you to call them. They pay to boost their ranking in search results so their websites and phone numbers appear above those of legitimate companies. If you want tech support, look for a company's contact information on their software package or on your receipt.
Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone who calls and claims to be from tech support.
If a caller pressures you to buy a computer security product or says there is a subscription fee associated with the call, hang up. If you're concerned about your computer, call your security software company directly and ask for help.
Never give your password on the phone. No legitimate organization calls you and asks for your password.
Put your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry, and then report illegal sales calls.
A caller who creates a sense of urgency or uses high-pressure tactics is probably a scam artist
If you get a call from someone who claims to be a tech support person, hang up and call us at a phone number you know to be genuine (Click here for a list of valid contact phone numbers). Let us know of the call you received.
Additionally, whenever you receive a phone call or see a pop-up window on your PC and feel uncertain whether it is from someone at Microsoft, don't take the risk. Reach out directly to one of their technical support experts dedicated to helping you at the Microsoft Answer Desk. Or you can simply call them at 1-800-426-9400.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) - The FTC has information on its web site about this "Tech Support Scam," in which it provides information about what consumers can do if they encounter this type of caller. Click here for the FTC website.
Separately, because Microsoft has a stake in combating the problem, we urge you to report the problem. On the Microsoft site there is a link to a reporting form.
Click here for the reporting form.