Protect yourself from tech support scams
Tech support scams are an industry-wide issue where scammers use scare tactics to trick you into paying for unnecessary technical support services that supposedly fix contrived device, platform, or software problems.
How tech support scams work
Scammers may call you directly on your phone and pretend to be representatives of a software company. They might even spoof the caller ID so that it displays a legitimate support phone number from a trusted company. They can then ask you to install applications that give them remote access to your device. Using remote access, these experienced scammers can misrepresent normal system output as signs of problems.
Scammers might also initiate contact by displaying fake error messages on websites you visit, displaying support numbers and enticing you to call. They can also put your browser on full screen and display pop-up messages that won’t go away, essentially locking your browser. These fake error messages aim to trick you into calling an indicated technical support hotline.
Microsoft error and warning messages never include phone numbers.
When you engage with the scammers, they can offer fake solutions for your “problems” and ask for payment in the form of a one-time fee or subscription to a purported support service.
What to do if a tech support scammer already has your info Uninstall applications that scammers have asked you to install. For more info on how to uninstall applications, see Repair or remove programs in Windows.
If you have given scammers access, consider resetting your device. To learn how, see Recovery options in Windows.
If you need help with this PC-Help is available to help customers in Tarrant and Dallas Counties.
Performing serious recovery methods like resetting your device can be a bit time-consuming, but this may be your best option in some situations—for example, if fake error codes and messages pop up continually, all but preventing you from using your device. If you aren’t sure how to do this without losing your data and you don’t have your important data backed up contact a professional like PC-Help.
Run a full scan with Windows Security to remove any malware.
Apply all security updates as soon as they are available. To see available updates, select the Start button, then select Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update.
Change your passwords.
Call your credit card provider to contest the charges if you have already paid.
Monitor logon activity. Use Windows Defender Firewall to block traffic to services that you would not normally access.
Reporting tech support scams
Help Microsoft stop scammers, whether they claim to be from Microsoft or from another tech company, by reporting tech support scams:
To report an unsafe website directly to Microsoft, fill out a Report an unsafe site form. You can also report unsafe websites in Microsoft Edge by selecting Settings and More > Help and Feedback > Send feedback when you encounter something suspicious.
For urgent situations, use one of the following options:
How to protect against tech support scams
First, be sure to follow these tips on how to keep your computer secure.
It is also important to keep the following in mind:
Microsoft does not send unsolicited email messages or make unsolicited phone calls to request personal or financial information, or to provide technical support to fix your computer.
Any communication with Microsoft has to be initiated by you.
If a notification appears with a phone number, don’t call the number. Error and warning messages from Microsoft never include a phone number.
Download software only from official Microsoft partner websites or the Microsoft Store. Be wary of downloading software from third-party sites, as some of them might have been modified without the author’s knowledge to bundle support scam malware and other threats.
Use an up to date browser like chrome, firefox or microsoft edge when browsing the internet. They blocks known support scam sites. Make sure you have up to date anti-virus & anti-malware software on your computer.
Microsoft technical support will never ask that you pay for support in the form of Bitcoin or gift cards.
Popular scam types
There are several forms of tech support scams, all of which aim to trick you into believing that your computer needs to be fixed and you need to pay for technical support services.
In this type of scam, scammers call you and claim to be from the tech support team of Microsoft or other vendors. They then offer to help solve your computer problems.
Scammers often use publicly available phone directories, so they might know your name and other personal information when they call you. They might even guess what operating system you’re using.
Once they’ve gained your trust, they might ask for your user name and password or direct you to a legitimate website to install software that will let them access your computer to fix it. If you install the software and provide credentials, your computer and your personal information are vulnerable.
Although law enforcement can trace phone numbers, perpetrators often use pay phones, disposable mobile phones, or stolen mobile phone numbers. Treat all unsolicited phone calls with skepticism. Do not provide any personal information.
If you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft Support, hang up. Microsoft does not make these kinds of calls.
Tech support scam websites make you believe that you have a problem with your PC. You may be redirected to these websites automatically by malicious ads found in dubious sites, such as download locations for fake installers and pirated media.
These websites can use any of the following tactics to convince you that there’s a problem with your PC that needs fixing:
A fake blue-screen error
A fake Windows activation dialog box
Various fake system errors
Supposed malware infection or malicious activity
They can also use the following techniques to make their claim more believable:
Put the image or your browser on full screen, making the error appear as though it’s coming from Windows instead of the webpage
Disable Task Manager
Continuously display pop-up windows
Play audio messages
All these techniques are meant to persuade you to call the specified tech support number. In contrast, the real error messages in Windows 10 never ask you to call a tech support number.
Other forms of support scams
Some tech support scams may also come in the form of malware. When run, this malware may display fake error notifications about your computer or software, similar to tech support scam websites. However, because they are programs that are installed on your computer, scammers will likely use them to perform other malicious actions, such as to steal data or install other malware.
Scammers may also use other ways to reach you, such as email or chat. These email or chat messages may resemble phishing emails; however, instead of pointing to phishing sites designed to steal credentials, the links lead to tech support scam websites.