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  1. #1
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    Watch out for "Microsoft Tech Support" scams




    TOP STORY

    Watch out for 'Microsoft Tech Support' scams


    By Woody Leonhard

    "I'm from Microsoft and I'm here to help." At least, that's what reader MP thought he heard when he answered the phone. It wasn't.

    Con artists all over the world are bilking big bucks out of unsuspecting Microsoft customers including savvy Windows users.

    The full text of this column is posted at WindowsSecrets.com/2011/02/03/02 (opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

  2. The Following User Says Thank You to Tracey Capen For This Useful Post:

    Rayzor (2011-02-03)

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    Congratulations on publishing the Microsoft Scam.. In Australia I have been collecting information on this scam and according to our authorities they cannot do a thing about it because it is a very clever cold calling using "social engineering techniques" and by accepting the $ charge it is not illegal.

    Last year, 2 days after I re-registered my "do-not-call" home phone numbers onto our National System I was contacted on all 3 home numbers within 2 hours by these "Indians" with lovely Western Names.. They were persisent, and one way of avoiding them is to tell them you are on Linux or a Mac. They can also get very abusive and threatening.

    The web site below in the UK is collecting a great deal of information and them and it makes interesting reading.

    http://www.digitaltoast.co.uk/suppor...temrecure-scam

    Regards

  4. #3
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Woody, you are wrong about this alleged "con". Although charging money, and not having tools available to retrieve Windows Activation keys may mark this particular incident as a scam, I have had direct experience with a Microsoft Support Issue on my Windows XP Pro laptop. It was the incident earlier in 2010 where a bad MS Update broke my Network Connections.

    My initial contact was through live chat, which was with someone in India who works for an Independent Contractor under license with Microsoft. He did a bit of checking with Microsoft tools, and tried to set up Remote Assist with Net Meeting. Unfortunately, he had me try to install what later turned out to be the Server versions, and this caused further Networking issues. But the point is, in follow up contacts, I was asked when a good time of day was to be called on the phone for a walk-through. No money was ever requested, and no one asked for any information from me -- they knew the Support Number and my License Key.

    I was called as expected, and had to reschedule because my computer was not yet booted up. The second call was not particularly helpful, but the issue was investigated over the phone.

    In a follow-up e-mail, the technician gave his name and his Company e-mail address, and this was an Independent Contractor in India, not Microsoft or one of its branch offices. A second, higher-level technician also contacted me via e-mail, and this time he was reporting directly from Microsoft in India. Still, he also was not very helpful, even suggesting an undocumented BIOS Flash for my laptop. WinBook Tech Support was horrified by the thought that this was even suggested. (I also contacted WinBook Tech Support initially by live chat, and was called back by phone.)

    Sorry, Woody, but this is in fact exactly the way Microsoft handles at least some types of support issues. I was never phished, never asked for personal information, and never charged one dime. Unfortunately, Microsoft also never resolved the issue.

    The errors in Networking for Microsoft Windows showed up again when I more recently tried to upgrade Secunia PSI from Version 1.52 to Version 2.00. This update could not contact its home servers. As it turned out, the issue was that a Windows Service for WorkStation had been changed to a Server version, and the Windows Registry had a pointer which had been changed from WorkStation to Server. It took all of four e-mail exchanges with Secunia's engineers to resolve the issue completely. So much for Microsoft Technical Support!

    The pattern in your Reader's alleged "con" differed from Microsoft protocols only when the fellow from India did not already know the Support ID Number, and the Product License Key. Also, generally, Microsoft's India affiliates do not charge money for support issues related to Microsoft Updates. Other issues may incur a standard per-incident support fee of $99.00 for Windows XP, due to the age of that Operating System. Nothing in this story differs from Microsoft Standard Operating Procedures, in my experience.

    Now, if someone had asked for anything beyond a credit card number for charging the fee, I would have hung up immediately. I am not convinced that this is what happened here.
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2011-02-05 at 02:30.
    -- Bob Primak --

  5. #4
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    I live in the UK and this is what happend to my elderly sister. My elderly sister phoned me the other day. Someone had phoned her to say there was a problem with her computer and that it viruses and other nasties on it and that they could put it right. So she put the phone down. Next day, another call, which started with "now don't put the phone down I am phoning on behalf of Microsoft and I can solve your computer problem". So she listened, she was asked to press the Windows key +R and type www.logmein123.com which brought up a web page, which required a six figure access code, she was told to just press the Technician button. This displayed a screen full of information, mainly figures, and was told that the information on the third line proved her computer was infected. He then said he could fix this for 60 and then 30 per month, I think she would have had to download a program at that point. She then said that as she didn't control her own finances, her daughter did (quick thinking on her part) she couldn't do that. However, she did manage to get the name of the company - Calsoft - and a phone number - 01865600898 before she put the phone down, after 45 minutes of fending him off. I tested this out on one of my computers and could only get part of the webpage up she had mentioned. However, when I phoned the number, after a delay it was answered by what sounded like an indian gentleman. He started to give me a load of chat about how the licence for the security program on her computer had expired and that it needed renewing. I asked where he was speaking from and told him he was talking a load of rubbish and which point he slammed down the phone. I am pleased to say, he didn't phone back a third time, as he said he was going to. Regards Vic

  6. #5
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    Reference Woody Leonard’s article in Windows S Issue 275 • 2011-02-03

    January 26 I received a phone cal out of the blue with almost the identical pattern. The main difference was that the call was out of the blue saying he was from Microsoft which had detected a macro virus on my computer and would run a test. It went about the same as the article. To start the test he had me put the last 6 numbers of my windows registration code in a window he brought up. It said they could not identify my computer in red print and to standby while he talked to his boss. He gave me another number to put in and it indicated I had a macro virus and they would remove it for $175. They took my name and address and (phone number which they had already gotten from somewhere). He eventually came to asking for my credit card and I stopped short and went into another room and called a Windows tech fellow I knew about and we talked about 5 minutes. I came back to the machine and the fellow and gotten off the phone. Whether the 6 numbers he had me type in his window inserted a program on my machine I do not know.

    I went to Vtechsquad on Google and paid them $249 to clean my machine immediately afterwards. They ran a program called Malwarebytes’ anti malware. They found 4 main items which broke down in to about 10 separate items which were removed. Vtechsquad left the program on my machine and told me that I would be covered for a year. If I had any future problems I was to contact them.

    I am 89 years old and I am very conservative in what I do on the web. I do not roam around. I use my computer mostly to take care of my personal business and use Quicken. I use ACDSee for personal photo work only.

    I hope this is some help to you folks and others on the web.

    Sent: Friday, February 04, 2011 1:35 PM
    To: 'Editor - WindowsSecrets.com'
    Subject: RE: Watch out for 'Microsoft Tech Support' scams

    Greetings and Thank You,

    I might add that just before taking my address information they also switched me to someone in India. All the people I talked to in the process had foreign accents.

    I ran a complete scan with my pay version of AVG at 11 PM on 2/2. On 2/3 I had Norton do a free scan and all they found apparently was 111 threatening cookies. Norton would only let me see about 8 or10 of them. Following that I removed the Norton program and restarted my AVG and ran a complete root kit scan. All come out clean. I do not think I will attempt to restore Windows 7 to a previous date.

    I will try to put this on lounge.

    f5bphoto

  7. #6
    3 Star Lounger Woody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobprimak View Post
    Woody, you are wrong about this alleged "con". Although charging money, and not having tools available to retrieve Windows Activation keys may mark this particular incident as a scam, I have had direct experience with a Microsoft Support Issue on my Windows XP Pro laptop.
    @Bob -

    Ah, but they didn't cold call you! The way contact gets initiated makes all the difference. If you started with live chat, on an MS-sponsored line, you've established the caller's bonafides and should feel confident. But if your wife gets a call out of the blue, you ought to feel fear and trepidation. (Note that he didn't leave his phone number with MS.)
    Woody

    For Dummies book author, Senior Contributing Editor for InfoWorld, and long-suffering Windows victim. Check out the latest at AskWoody.com.

  8. #7
    3 Star Lounger Woody's Avatar
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    @Viking -

    Job well done! What's really changed the landscape is very, very cheap overseas phone calls....
    Woody

    For Dummies book author, Senior Contributing Editor for InfoWorld, and long-suffering Windows victim. Check out the latest at AskWoody.com.

  9. #8
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    I came up to the apartment from the dining room and the telephone rang and I answered it. That has to be a cold call as I understand it. What do you call an MS sponsored line. I have Comcast phone service. The phone is listed in my wifes name. I have not had any live chats on my computer to any one but relatives in Skype. I am old but I want to learn. You have me thoroughly confused.

    f5bphoto

  10. #9
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by f5bphoto View Post
    Reference Woody Leonard’s article in Windows S Issue 275 • 2011-02-03


    I went to Vtechsquad on Google and paid them $249 to clean my machine immediately afterwards. They ran a program called Malwarebytes’ anti malware. They found 4 main items which broke down in to about 10 separate items which were removed. Vtechsquad left the program on my machine and told me that I would be covered for a year. If I had any future problems I was to contact them.
    MalwareBytes is a free program that has been discussed numerous times in these forums. If you paid $249 for this app, you should demand your money back. I could see having to pay a small fee for professional services, but $249 is a little high.
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  11. #10
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    Windows Support Exception - PC Security

    Microsoft gets you fast support for security patch problems. In my case, I had two patches that I could not get to install, even after downloading the EXE files to local storage. But, for the Security Patch Help case, you must first call the PC Security telephone number. In my case, since it was convenient, I was immediate provided contact with a support technician. Coincidentally, this technician was located outside the US - his location was in India. Worth noting, the technician provided good support; I successfully re-used the method some months later for a similar patch episode.

    Rick

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    I agree. I will give it a try. Thanks.

    I am mostly self taught with 15 years experience with computers.

    I don't have time to spend on forums so have depended on
    Fred Langa before Window's Secrets which I scan pretty close. Most of my work is with ACDSee and Quicken and using MS Word and occasionally Power Point. This is the first time this has happened in this manner. I did get a virus once which I detected immediatly and shut it down and took the computer down to my trusted repair shop who removed it promptly.

    f5bphoto (an f5b is a photo model of a P-38 which I flew in WW II)

  13. #12
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    For the last decade or so whenever I've called MS Support in Australia my call has eventually landed on an Indian 'phone, after navigating their IVR maze. On all occasions they've been courteous, knowledgeable and helpful. On more than one occasion they've called me back and/or emailed me further information and they have never asked for money. I've had similar experiences with Cisco.

    However over the past several months I've had a flood of unsolicited calls from what I am certain are Filipinos & Filipinas claiming to represent Microsoft, they tell me that they want to fix my non-existent Windows problems - I just hang up. But then they started to have another person call again 30 mins later. I've asked the regulator if they can trace the calls with the view to specifically blocking them. My ISP's primary support comes from the Philippines, I suspect a disgruntled employee has walked off with their customer database.

    Meanwhile I bought a loud whistle, since I used it a couple of times on these calls from the Philippines they've stopped

    NW2222

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    Thank you for your info. I will be smarter next time and make sure I get the real Microsoft folks.

    f5bphoto

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    Ted,

    I tried to get a discount from Vtechsqad on the removal of the malwar. They insisted that their Malwarebytes program was not the same as the free copy of Malwarbytes. They also said it was good for 3 years however the copy that I prented out with the credit card bill said 1 year. The call also appeared to be from within India.

    f5bphoto

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    I have just come across this thread and feel all the better for it, knowing that I'm not alone in the experience of being cold called on my home phone by a very polite but persistent lady from "Microsoft Technical Support".

    She informed me that the computers in her office network were receiving multiple infected files and that they (the staff at "Microsoft Technical Support".) had found that the source of the said infected files had been traced to my computer.

    I impolitely started to laugh and asked her whether she was truly serious.
    She remained calm and suggested that I should go to my computer and she would direct me to a website where she would help me through the steps to get rid of the nasties on my system.

    I told her that I was a hands on technical Windows user since Win 95, there is not a file, nook or cranny on my system that I don't know about and that I often "cleaned up" other peoples PC systems.
    I proposed thet she was talking nonsense and that it sounded like a scam.
    She started to lose her cool and become a bit too mouthy so I hung up.

    She rang again the next day, more intense, more urgency and more belligerence.
    She was asked not to ring again.

    She did ring again three days later, I was not home and my wife was asked to go through the online procedure.
    My dear wife explained to the caller that the art of computering was of such little interest to her that she wouldn't even know how to power up the system.
    The caller said that it would not be a problem and offered to help step my wife through the process, and oh by the way could my wife please have a credit card handy!!
    My wife politely declined the offer under aggressive vocal pressure.

    Again the next day the caller rang me again and within minutes was resorting to intimated personal insults and insinuations as to my tech abilities when I refused to co-operate.

    Maybe it was just a coincidence that several days before the lady caller from "Microsoft Technical Support" rang I had posted a query on what I thought was a Windows forum.

    From now on it's only forums of the WS Lounge or MVPs.

    Like Colinm39, I too am in Australia and have also registered my home phone number onto our National "do-not-call" System.
    But they still do call in irritatingly regular frequency cycles.

    Thanks,
    Terentius.

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