Watch out for ‘Microsoft Tech Support’ scams

Woody leonhard 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.

In this new epidemic, the scammers are sophisticated, glib, and oh-so-convincing. Know the warning signs. You may be next.

Inside one con that almost succeeded

Here’s how MP describes his experience:

  • “I was having a problem with Windows XP and posted an inquiry on one of the [presumed to be] Microsoft support sites. My wife received a call from someone wanting to talk to me about my computer. She gave a time when I would be home. I was expecting a call from my ISP. The call came at the arranged time, but it was not the ISP. The caller said he was working on behalf of Microsoft and directed me to a very convincing website for confirmation of his company and his credentials. The caller knew my name and telephone number.

    “We talked about the problems I’ve been having with Windows XP. He said it sounded like a virus. He guided me into Windows XP’s Event Viewer and showed me a number of red and yellow flags for applications and systems, which he said were indicative of a malware attack.

    “He offered to get a technician to sort the problem for free and directed me to a website, where I had to enter some contact information and my Windows activation code, from the sticker on my PC. He talked me through the process — we were on the phone for almost an hour at that point — and it all went smoothly until I had to enter some sort of warranty code that I didn’t have. He told me to hang on while he checked with his boss.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2011-02-03:

Woody Leonhard

About Woody Leonhard

Woody Leonhard is a Windows Secrets senior editor and a senior contributing editor at InfoWorld. His latest book, the comprehensive 1,080-page Windows 8 All-In-One For Dummies, delves into all the Win8 nooks and crannies. His many writings tell it like it is — whether Microsoft likes it or not.