For our customers, one of the most frequent problems is the phishing phone call:
Your phone rings. You answer it and find the person at the other end telling you they are calling to inform you that your computer has been compromised or is infected with malware or a virus. Perhaps they will ask you if you think your machine has been running more slowly. They will claim to be from ‘Windows Helpdesk’ or ‘Microsoft tech support’ and will tell you that you must give them access to your PC so they can check and fix the problem for you, sometimes for a fee.
They want you to be on their side so they may also ask you to open up various windows or input commands which can make it seem like there is a problem with your machine when in reality there’s nothing wrong.
Someone is ringing me what do I do?
Don’t be fooled by these fraudulent calls. We can confirm that these are not genuine calls from Microsoft and we’d like to reassure all users of our software that we will never cold call you to charge you for computer security or software fixes.
If you do get one of these calls, the best defence is simple. Knowledge. You know it’s a scam so just put the phone down. Let your friends and family who are less tech savvy know these kinds of calls are always scams. The more people who know, the less effective these kinds of calls will be and if everyone knew then they’d have to just stop calling.
Until then, we’ve put together some of the key questions and outlined important information that you need to know about phone scams, along with some advice and tips to avoid falling victim.
What do I do if I receive a scam phone call?
If you receive a scam phone call:
- Hang up
- Treat all unsolicited phone calls with skepticism and suspicion. Do not provide any personal information.
- It’s better to avoid being conned rather than try to repair the damage afterwards.
What organisations do the scammers claim to be from?
Cybercriminals often claim to be from any of the following or similar sounding names:
- Windows Helpdesk
- Windows Service Center
- Microsoft Tech Support
- Microsoft Support
- Windows Technical Department Support Group
- Microsoft Research and Development Team (Microsoft R & D Team)
What can the scammers do if they gain access to my PC?
If cybercriminals gain access to your computer, they may do the following:
- Trick you into installing malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. They might also then charge you to remove this software.
- Take control of your computer remotely and adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable.
- Request credit card information so they can bill you for phony services.
- Direct you to fraudulent websites and ask you to enter credit card and other personal or financial information there.
What do I do if I have already given access to my computer?
If you think that you might have downloaded malware from a phone tech support scam website or allowed a cybercriminal to access your computer, take these steps:
- Change your computer’s password, change the password on your main email account, and change the password for any financial accounts, especially your bank and credit card.
- Scan your computer with the Microsoft Safety Scanner to find out if you have malware installed on your computer.
- Install Microsoft Security Essentials. (Microsoft Security Essentials is a free programme. If someone calls you to install this product and then charge you for it, this is also a scam.)
- Call your bank or building society to check that everything is in order.
How did the scammers get my phone number?
- Cybercriminals often use publicly available phone directories so they might know your name and other personal information when they call you. They might even guess what operating system you’re using.
- Although law enforcement can trace phone numbers, perpetrators often use pay phones, disposable mobile phones, or stolen mobile phone numbers.
Will Microsoft ever call me?
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 are already a customer. You will never receive a legitimate call from Microsoft or our partners to charge you for computer fixes.
How can I report a phone scam?
You can report a phone scam to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk
Keeping your computer up to date with Microsoft Update is a good way to ensure that you have all the latest security updates from Microsoft on your PC free of charge.
For more information on how to protect yourself from cybercrime, visit the Microsoft Internet Safety and Security Centre.