The Ever Changing Microsoft Support Scam

I read this news article with interest and thought I’d share what I have learnt about this over the past few years.

Our next door neighbours are still having problems with those pesky cold callers and to make matters worse they’ve decided to change their tactics a little, something they have had to do before.Its been called many things and still has many names but for the purpose of this article let us just call it the “Microsoft Support” scam.

  • How does it work?

Your phone rings; you answer it and find that Microsoft is on the other end. “Hello sir or madam, we’re from Microsoft and we think you may have a problem with your computer and it might be about to crash”.


“Yes. Tell me is your computer running slow?”

“Maybe a little”

“OK, we can sort this out but to be sure lets just check out a few things”

So the person from Microsoft gets you to click on a few things until you end up at something called the Event Viewer. What it does isn’t important now but what it shows is key to this con. Depending on your version of Windows, within the Event Viewer will appear words such as ‘Audit Failure’, ‘Critical’, ‘Error’ and ‘Warning’, followed by a load of numbers. The Microsoft ‘Engineer’ will then proceed to tell you that your computer is riddled with viruses and/or junk mail and needs to be ‘cleaned out’ at once. They will emphasise the numbers and  all those words which we usually associate with bad things, until we agree to their ‘generous offer’ of help.  If we don’t, they simply move on and try it all over again.

If you agree, the ‘Engineer’ will ask you to visit a website where you can download some anti-virus and security software to repair your damaged computer. At a cost. Just enter your credit or debit card details on this site and download some overpriced software which you don’t really need.

  • How Has It Changed?

The above scenario is one of the original ‘support’ scams experienced in the UK, although I should point out at this time that the scam is widely reported in both the USA and Australia. But, as with every scam, variations occur to ensure that the public don’t come too wise to their true motives. On some occasions the ‘Engineer’ has pointed the victim towards some free ‘security’ software which will allow them access to all of your personal data. Other times they may ask for your IP address (The virtual postcode for your computer) so they takeover control of your PC and can install the software themselves.  Ultimately they will try to panic you as much as possible so that you’d be willing to do anything at all to solve it.

But this news article points to a different approach, a change of ownership almost. Microsoft has now become Virgin Media. Or is that Sky? Or BT? Could it be TalkTalk? Are we more likely to believe someone who purports to be from BT over Microsoft? Would we be swayed when they claim that our computer is having a negative effect on their other customers? Who are they going to pretend to be next?

  • What Can We Do?

If you believe this has happened to you, don’t panic! Call your Bank and credit card companies, explain the situation, cancel the transaction (if possible) and, if necessary, cancel the card then call the Police to get a crime number. If you want to get some more advice you can always contact the Citizens Advice Bureau or call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. I’d honestly suggest doing all of the above.


If they’ve installed software on your computer, remove it and consider a full system restore – just to be sure, although if you are feeling adventurous you could always follow this advice from Microsoft Answers or get in touch with us. The important thing is to take steps to improve the security of your PC regardless, keeping anti-virus software and spyware removal tools up to date. and always making sure that you run Windows Update whenever you see it pop up. Out of date software cannot save against up to date threats.

Remember that companies will never contact you about you computer, and if they ever do it’s only to sell you something else – never to help you fix it. Microsoft themselves have come out and said that they will only ever contact a customer if they have already logged a problem with them. If in doubt, ask to ring them back but always make sure you get the telephone number from the company website or, if it’s your broadband provider, off your most recent bill. Few companies would you begrudge you that privilege.

  • Has It Been a Problem?

Unfortunately it has been. Microsoft have been very active in trying to end this scam, even severing ties with partner companies who may have been involved.  In June last year, Microsoft released the results of a survey that found 22% of people who had received the call had been deceived into installing software or handing over credit card details with a whopping 79% of people deceived losing out financially. The cost to each victim was usually around £500. The results of the survey, along with some good advice, can be found here on the Action Fraud website




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