Microsoft Tech Support Scams have become a growing epidemic affecting over 13,000 victims a month. Scammers use different tactics to trick victims into paying for unnecessary technical support service. They will claim they’ve been notified of so-called problems that need to be fixed on a victims device, platform, or software.
Victims are contacted by scammers through phone calls where they pretend to be a Microsoft or Windows Technical Representative. To make it even more believable, they’ll spoof the number they’re calling from to look like a legitimate call from the Microsoft Support Team.
Scammers will also lure in victims by displaying fake error messages on frequently visited websites and essentially lock victims out of their browser. The scammers then displays a support number for the victim to request technical assistance to fix the issue.
Offering fake solutions for the “problems,” scammers ask for payment in the form of a one-time fee or subscription to a purported support service at an average value of $250- $450. In other scams, victims were asked to install applications that gives the scammer remote access to the victim’s device and private information.
With the growing number of victims, Microsoft is now helping fight against tech support fraud by providing victims with a solution. Microsoft “SmartScreen” is a security feature in Windows using machine learning algorithms that can identify tech-support scams, however, it can’t detect actual calls, but it can see when a victim is giving their computer access to a criminal and paying online for bogus services.
Keep these tips in mind to avoid becoming the next victim:
- Be wary of any unsolicited phone call or pop-up message on your device. If you receive an unsolicited email message or phone call that purports to be from Microsoft or another company asking that you to send personal information or click links, ignore, or hang up the phone immediately.
- Microsoft will never proactively reach out to you to provide unsolicited PC or technical support. Any communication they have with users are initiated by the customer.
- Do not call the number in a pop-up window on your device. Companies’ error and warning messages never include a phone number.
- Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer.
- If skeptical, take the person’s information down and immediately report it to your local authorities.
- Download software only from official vendor websites. Be wary of downloading software from third-party sites, as some of them might have been modified without the author’s knowledge to bundle support scam malware and other threats.
- If you’ve been a victim or have received this type of call, report it directly to the FTC.