Beware the “Microsoft Windows Virus” Scam!

I received a Skype phone call this morning that made me laugh. The caller had a very thick accent and announced that he was calling from Microsoft Support. He claimed that Microsoft had detected a virus in the Windows Registry of my computer and that he was calling to help delete the virus.

I found that amusing because I use a Macintosh! Macs don’t have a “registry” of any sort and almost never get viruses.

Actually, I do own a Windows laptop that I use occasionally when writing about Windows genealogy software. However, I haven’t turned it on in weeks. Besides, I don’t think Microsoft would pay its employees to call Apple’s customers and offer to help them fix their computers!

I decided to have some fun and to “string him along” for a bit, asking various silly questions about the so-called “virus.” I asked if there is a fee or subscription associated with the “service.” I asked how he knew there was a problem in my computer. I also asked for his name. However, his accent was so thick that I had a lot of difficulty understanding him. It was a difficult conversation. I soon grew tired of the game and hung up.

This is a scam that has been around for several years but seems to be more popular these days than ever. Neither Microsoft nor any other reputable company will ever make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or software fixes. Instead, Microsoft and its partners always wait for you to call them.

The caller does not work for Microsoft or for any other reputable company, despite what he claims. All he wants to do is to gain access to your computer and possibly to your checking account and credit card accounts. The safest thing to do is to hang up. If you still think there is a possibility of a problem in your computer, take it to a local expert of your own choosing and ask for a second opinion. Never trust any stranger who calls you on the telephone and reports a “problem.”

The caller will undoubtedly attempt to do one of the following:

  • Trick you into installing malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. He later will charge you to remove this software.
  • Take control of your computer remotely and adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable.
  • Request credit card information so he can bill you for phony services. (Never, ever give a credit card number to a stranger who calls you for any reason!)
  • Direct you to fraudulent websites and ask you to enter credit card and other personal or financial information there.

For more information, look at the information on the reputable Snopes.com web site at http://www.snopes.com/fraud/telephone/microsoft.asp.

If you receive a similar call from anyone, with or without an accent, who claims to be offering help to fix your computer, do what I did: hang up.

16 Comments

I live in a condo in Vancouver, BC, Canada and my neighbour and I get these all the time. Often they call us back to back and we do have a lot of fun with them acting the worried seniors we are and stringing them along – record was for 30 minutes! She has only an Ipad while I do have a windows machine, but I always end by saying that mine is an Apple too! We’ve had these calls for a couple of years now at least and possibly more. Also know someone who had them FIX their machine so they got ripped off with the Visa card and a computer that wouldn’t even start up again. Cost him money to have it sorted out as it was a really new machine, but it has never worked well since – so BEWARE!!
Good call to mention it, Dick.

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Same type of thing happened last week. Phone call from “the Philippines” (call id only said “out of area” no number shown) and you could hardly understand the person. You could tell he was in a call center. Said there was a virus on my computer and to go to it while he provided instructions on how to fix it. I hung up but he continued calling many times. I finally called the phone company and was given a code to put in when he called back (*77) to stop the calls. It seemed to work.

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We get them calling our landlines here in Australia all the time.

Last time I asked the caller what my IP address was since he must know that to identify my computer as causing “problems in the network”. I had to ask more than once then he started 192.168… and I just laughed and said that is a local range of IP addresses and asked for my real network address – he then hung up!

I do know someone who got caught and gave them her credit card details much to her dismay later – they can be very convincing to the unaware.

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Got this call last week. Caller id showed a number with 4 digits. Thanks to your article I now know it was a Skype call. Bogus alert went off and I announced we take no unsolicited computer or windows calls. But am interested in the *77 and if all phone systems use it?

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I personally know someone who was defrauded in this way.
Also, read the following story of another Canadian who was robbed of $175,000 by these criminals: http://globalnews.ca/news/1329402/con-artists-posing-as-microsoft-techs-take-175k-from-edmonton-senior/

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Here in England too, lots of instances of this scam over the years. My brother has a wonderful solution – he tells them that he is a police officer about to go on duty – they hang up straight away!

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I have gotten at least 3 of these calls in the last year. As a computer pro who probably knows more about PCs then they do, I also strung them on for awhile. They had me (through a round about process) bring up the standard Windows event register display. It shows various minor events that occurred (such a closing an application display window by clicking on the X is the upper right corner. They claimed that these events were all serious errors that required an extensive cleaning/repair process that they could do remotely for only $60. They got frustrated and hung up as I (instead of giving them a credit card number) questioned them about the meaning of each event displayed in the registry.

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Like Graeme we’re also in Australia and get these calls several times a week. My husband strings them along and annoys them with questions until they usually hang up on him. They are real pests. I’m going to give the *77 a try here but it’s probably a different number if anything.

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I am getting about three of these calls a week, and our local news just ran a spot on them, telling people in the US who receive these calls to call the Federal Trade Commission with the phone number of the callers.

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My neighbour phoned asking me to look up an address as ‘The nice man from MS New Delhi is mending my computer’. I shot across the courtyard and despite her protests, pulled the mains lead out of the socket.
She had paid £100 by Cr Card but somehow managed to get her money back.
People are so gullible, giving money to strangers,

Only this week an articulate young lady related on the BBC how a ‘policeman’ had phoned and persuaded her to take part in a complex plan to catch a villain. She dialled 999, purportedly to check with the police that the caller was genuine but she was really speaking to the ‘policeman’s’ colleague.
As instructed she went to her bank, withdrew £3000 !!! and put it in a brown envelope and gave it to a man who arrived by motorbike. She said the money would be delivered back to her house shortly. A cab arrived to take her home as planned, but when she got there found she had to pay the £25 fare . Too late, it dawned on her that she had been scammed.

A cunning scam I nearly fell for was an email, purportedly from Paypal saying that if I’d not very recently made a payment I was to phone them. An overseas premium rate number was quoted..

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Well, I had enough with the 3rd call of the day from the scammers! A very poor English speaker said he was from “Windows” so I asked him which of the three local window people he was from and kept asking about did they use double pane glass or try and repair or what he was selling. I hardly let him get a word in edgewise but he got mad and yelled that he was from the computer windows company and my computer was really in trouble and it must be fixed. I said how nice it was of the WIndows Company to do that free for me and when could he come and do it? This really confused him so he tried to explain that he wasn’t in my country and it wasn’t free. I then suggested that in my country what he was doing was illegal and my phone was being monitored. He replied that would never happen. I then went on about how he should get out of this illegal and unethical job and find something to do that was better paid and something he could be proud of doing. I ended by saying that I’d been on the phone long enough for them to trace the call and he hung up in a hurry. My fun for the day!! They do annoy me so much I just couldn’t resist playing with him.

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This is a very clever hoax. The Windows system logs always have a few harmless warnings and inconsequential errors, which show up as yellow and red icons. Every PC has this. To someone who has never looked at the logs, they do indeed seem alarming. The scammers exploit this fact and are able to persuade some people that it is a serious problem.

What I have seen is a two-man operation. The first caller screens you; if he can get your interest, he passes you to a second “expert” who will give you a URL to go to. I love stringing them along until I get the URL, then I do a search (which inevitably brings up alerts) and confront the caller. Hours of fun.

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I live in Oregon had this same kind of call a few months ago. I also how did he know I was having trouble with my computer. He came up with some fancy thing and I told him I wanted his name as I was going to call Microsoft to make sure he was legit. He hung up on me. People have to be so careful anymore.

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I’ve had several of these calls in the past few months, always “out of area” on the called ID. I always tell them I don’t have a computer. That doesn’t always shut them up but if it doesn’t, I just hang up. My husband, who doesn’t even touch the computer, answered one of them and got quite concerned even though he hung up on them. He asked me to check my computer but I told him to ignore the calls or tell them we don’t own a computer.

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I received a call like this on Wednesday evening and last night (Thursday). When I asked the person on the other line why anyone in their right mind would give a perfect stranger access to their computer, he asked me if he could perform a sexual act on me – but he said it in very vulgar, specific terms. Even though he had a heavy accent, he had no problem being lewd. He was on speaker phone; my young granddaughters were present. Needless to say, when my husband got on the phone he hung up but the damage was done. We couldn’t get any information on the phone number he called from so we could report it, either. FRUSTRATING!!

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Oh, I just LOVE these phone calls. I’m in Australia as well and get them all the time. I vary from being a very anxious old lady who’s computer is now broken and then I proceed to have a heart attack and ask for their number in case I go unconscious and need an ambulance; or having just witnessed a murder outside my house – the police have just arrived and want all their details as I was talking to them when it happened; or (with various voices) pretending that the police are tracing the call and asking them to be sure to not let anyone leave their premises because the police will be there in approximately 5 minutes to question them. Never had a caller yet NOT hang up on me!!!

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