Ripoff Alert #12 – Microsoft Tech Support Edition

The Ripoff Alert is a new series appearing once each week on Fridays. It alerts you to the latest scams and ripoffs trying to get between you and your money, and gives you information you need to stay safe.

Microsoft Tech Support Scam

How do you know if your computer really is vulnerable?

Fraudsters are looking up publicly available names and phone numbers and calling people, claiming to be from Microsoft Tech Support or Windows Helpdesk. They try to convince you that unless you give them access to your laptop or PC, your computer is at risk of crashing or getting a virus.

Their tactics vary. Some try to gain remote access to your machine, while others ask you to install malicious software that will capture your usernames and passwords. After they’ve “fixed” the issue, they send you a bill for hundreds of dollars. There have been a few unsuspecting victims who have lost over $1,000 in this scam.

Others will try to get your credit card information out of you over the phone and charge you for phony services. Still others send you to a fake website and ask you to enter your credit card information there.

You might think the caller is legitimate because he’s able to correctly guess which operating system you are using. In reality, this isn’t too hard because there are only a few mainstream operating systems out there.

All of this isn’t Microsoft’s fault. Microsoft says on their website they will never call you and ask for money to fix a computer problem. They say it in bold type: Do not trust unsolicited calls.

Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself. Never give a third party control of your computer unless you can confirm they’re from a legitimate tech support organization you have reached out to. Again, don’t trust an unsolicited caller who claims he will solve your computer problems.

Also, don’t buy any software or services from anyone who claims to be from a helpdesk, tech support or service center.

If you suspect your PC is infected by a virus or malware, download and run free software from Avast and MalwareBytes. Spybot Search & Destroy is also an excellent tool. For the best protection, make sure to keep these up to date.

4 thoughts on “Ripoff Alert #12 – Microsoft Tech Support Edition

  1. “Do not trust unsolicited calls.” – Amen brother! I’ve gone as far before as to hang up on a legitimate call just to call the real number back and confirm it was a real representative I’m talking to. Malwarebytes has worked out great for me!

    • You bring up a great idea. There are so many scammers who call and try to get personal info out of you. Some sound very legitimate. The only way to know if you’re really speaking with the company is to call them yourself using the number on your statement or bill.

  2. ^^Yeah be really careful when someone you don’t know calls you. I never pick up calls from numbers I don’t know. If they really need me, they’ll leave a message!

    I know you didn’t write about computer viruses but I did get a virus because one of these things popped up on my screen. It was a long time ago though and it messed up my computer. I had to buy something to get rid of it and it took days. I never click anything that looks weird anymore.

    • I feel the same way. Unless I recognize the number, I let it go straight to voicemail.

      As for your computer issue. I’ve seen pop-ups that say “Your computer is at risk – click here for a free virus scan!” or something similar. They even look like they might have come from my anti-virus program. By clicking “ok”, you might open yourself up to any number of attempts to hack into your computer. The best thing to do is to control+alt+delete and try to close the program. If that fails, restart your computer and that should do it.

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