“Hello, we are calling from Windows and your computer looks like it is infected. Our Microsoft Certified Technician can fix it for you.”
Sound familiar? It’s a tech support scam. Here’s the thing about scams. They never go away. In fact, to this day, tech support scams comprise a million-dollar industry. And while we hope you’ve never heard that one before, unfortunately it’s very popular.
Why do scams persist? Scammers operate out of call-center-like boiler rooms and use phone directories to contact your home directory. They pretend to represent Microsoft or Windows or Apple in order to convince their victims of fake errors, gain remote access to their personal equipment, and collect money for it.
If you ever receive an unsolicited phone call from a tech support agent out of the blue – your best course of action is to hang up. Don’t just take it from us. The real guys are aware of popular tech support scams, too. According to Microsoft, “There are some cases where Microsoft will work with your Internet service provider and call you to fix a malware-infected computer—such as during the recent cleanup effort begun in our botnet takedown actions. These calls will be made by someone with whom you can verify you already are a customer. You will never receive a legitimate call from Microsoft or our partners to charge you for computer fixes.” That being said—ignore the call. And if you pick up, do not ever divulge any personal information over the phone.
Here’s what happens when you do relinquish control of your computer. Let’s say the professional scammers has successfully convinced you to run a legitimate application on your PC to fix whatever error, they’re claiming — once logged into your computer, the remote technician will then fabricate errors or even viruses on your computer.
They use default Windows tools and turn them against you. For instance, you may receive a notification from Windows Event Viewer stating, “These errors are viruses or serious damage to the backend of your PC. If not taken care of immediately, you will lose your computer.”
Another popular notification is from the System Configuration Utility: “There are many programs that are stopped, indicating some serious damage to the backend of your computer and poor performance.”
Or, the Task Manager indicating CPU spikes. Just know – if you’ve received these errors, after you’ve received a call, it’s a tech support scam.
Furthermore, if you do fear or suspect that you have been taken advantage of, know that all is not lost.
Scan your computer for malware. Change all your passwords. Run a system restore. Check for missing files. If you’ve already paid the scammer, contact your financial institution or credit card company to reverse the charges, and be sure to keep an eye for future unwanted charges.
If you provided personal information such as date of birth, Social Security Number, full address, or full you may want to consult the FTC’s website and report identity theft.
You can also raise awareness by letting your friends, family, and other acquaintances know what happened to you. In fact, if you do have information to share about a recent tech support scam or scam attempt, please let us know, too, and we will update this page with any relevant new details.