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Windows tech support scams are a menace to computer users across the globe.
Targeting victims with bogus claims of virus and software problems, scammers typically gain user’s personal details, financial information or card payments while pretending to remotely log on to their machines to remedy the problem.
In 2017 Microsoft apparently received 153,000 reports of such scams from users across 183 different countries, although just 15% of people fell for the scammer’s tricks.
As fraudsters constantly evolve and develop their methods, also increasing the numbers of people that they target, below we provide advice to help you spot and avoid the menace of Windows tech support scams.
Spotting Windows tech support scams
Tech support scams come in various forms.
You might be targeted through a phone call out of the blue alerting you to a problem with your computer. A mysterious pop-up on your computer screen might appear telling you to call a certain number to fix a problem with your software.
In both cases, this is a scam designed to trick you into believing there is a problem with your computer so that you panic and hand over personal information or make a payment to a fake representative from Microsoft, or an equally well-known tech company.
The scammers might make do with your payment or, depending how much information they get out of you, use your personal information to steal your identity or drain your bank account.
There are, however, some obvious signs that you can watch for regarding this type of scam, whether you’re using a Windows or Mac computer, an iPhone or an Android device.
Telephone numbers and tech support scams
Genuine error messages on your computer, alerting you to problems with software or hardware will never contain a telephone number.
Whether the message is from Microsoft, Apple, Google, or a similar firm they will usually direct you to the relevant support section on their website and will certainly never provide a number to call.
If you do call the number provided, then it is likely a direct line to the scammers.
If you are keen to speak to a representative from one of these firms after receiving this type of contact then look up the website yourself and use the number on there to ensure that the details are genuine.
Unsolicited calls from tech companies
Similarly, these technology companies will never telephone you out of the blue alerting you to technical problems or asking for information.
If you receive a phone call from somebody claiming to be from Microsoft, Apple, Google, Adobe or any other firm in the industry then simply hang up the call straight away.
Like with most telephone scams, alarm bells should ring if you receive an unsolicited call and the person on the other end is putting you under pressure to provide personal information or hand over money.
Pop-ups tech support scams
Watch out for phishing scams, which use links in emails and pop-ups to drive you to fake websites and then encourage you to enter your personal details including financial information.
Tech firms won’t send emails asking for financial information or offering to fix your computer and so never open any attachments or follow any links, simply delete the email or report it as spam.
Other Microsoft scams
Microsoft will not request credit card information to validate copies of Windows so if you are asked for this online or over the phone then it is likely to be a scam.
It does, however, validate requests to download software from its website via its ‘Genuine Advantage Program’, but never asks for any personally identifying information, including credit card details.
The Microsoft lottery
The ‘Microsoft Lottery’ does not exist and so do not believe any correspondence telling you that you are a winner.
What to do if you have lost money through a Windows tech support scam
If you have lost money through a tech scam, then you are not alone.
Anyone who has lost money to a scam like this should report it to Action Fraud.