If you get a phone call purporting to be from Microsoft – or Google, or Apple, or Yahoo, or any other big tech company – just hang up. It’s a fake. 100% guaranteed fake. If you get a telephone call from someone telling you that your computer has been compromised – it is a fake call, with fraudulent intent. It is as simple as that. Fake. Fraud. No exceptions.
Rule number 1 for determining if it is fake: a big-tech company like Microsoft will not call you. Period. None of them will call you. Cybercriminals have been using this scam for years – making fraudulent phone calls proposing to service your computer. For scammers, phone calls are cheap and easy. Ironically, for big-tech companies, it is very expensive to provide legitimate trained phone support. For that reason alone, you can know they will never spontaneously call you.
The way this scam works is: a fake operator calls you, out of the blue, and claims to be from a well-known company, like Norton, McAfee, Apple, Google, or most commonly, from Microsoft. They will tell you something like they’ve received a report from your computer that it has been compromised by a virus attack. They may say that your antivirus is out of date and that they are going to give you a “free” system checkup or some other scary sounding but entirely fake issue with your computer.
Do not trust these unsolicited calls. No matter how convincing and no matter what the reason that they give, these calls are fakes. None of these companies will spontaneously call and offer to service your computer. Ever. If you stay on the phone with the bad guys, they will offer to help fix the problems that they say that your computer has. But, to do that they will ask you to install a program that will give them remote access to your computer.
Once they get into your PC or Mac remotely and have control of your computer, then they can do all sorts of bad things, like remotely adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable to further intrusion, or install malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords.
At some point in the process they will show you that they seem to have discovered hundreds or even thousands of problems in your computer. These are also fake. But, they say, to “fix” these problems, now they need to charge you. They will request your credit card information to bill you for the phony services, or they may direct you to a website to collect your credit card and other personal or financial information.
Don’t do it. Just remember that none of the legitimate computer or security software companies will ever make unsolicited, “cold,” phone calls to charge you for computer security or software fixes.
If someone claiming to be from any tech support company does call you, don’t answer questions. Never provide or even “verify” any credit card or personal information to someone who cold calls you from any tech support. Don’t purchase any software or services. Basically, if there is a fee or subscription associated with the "service," just hang up. And never, ever 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 you think that you might have downloaded malware from a phone tech support scam website or may have allowed a cybercriminal to access your computer, or make a charge on your credit card, take these steps:
1. Change your computer's password,
2. change the password on your main email account, and
3. change the password for all financial or shopping accounts – any that have your bank or credit card information.
4. Manually update your anti-malware program and then scan your computer with your anti-malware set to “Full scan.”
5. If your credit card has been charged, call your credit card company and explain the situation. They may be able to stop the charge.
The key to remember is that you will never receive an unsolicited legitimate call asking you to pay for service from any big tech company. There’s another version of this scam too. In this case, the fake operators have placed ads on search sites that are designed to appear to list the toll-free support numbers for those companies. This is so that if you were looking for the number for Norton or McAfee, or Dell or HP you it is likely that you’ll get a number for a fraudulent service joint. Look at the URL. Always make sure that you are looking at the company’s own, genuine website for that contact information.