Please remind your friends and family you will never receive a legitimate call from Microsoft or our partners to charge you for computer fixes.

As technical students, you know there are many ways scammers can attack your PC: malicious software, rogue security alerts, phishing attacks and more. There is a scam that started a couple of years back, that has been more successful than anyone cares to admit, which is why it is still happening: the phone scam.

I was visiting my in-laws recently and overheard them on the phone sounding a bit confused answering questions about their PC. I was instantly suspicious and offered to take the call. I asked who was speaking, they said they worked for Microsoft, so of course I answered “really, so do I, so what is your alias, and which department do you work in” at that point the caller tried to convince me that he worked for a firm that was contracted by Microsoft.

The callers pretend to be from Microsoft and try to sell the victim something, direct them to a specific website, ask for remote access, to install software, a credit card number, or run a bogus security scan that shows an infection. The Trustworthy Computing Team conducted a survey of 7,000 people, and found that more than 1,000 people had received calls.  Of those 1,000 people, 22 percent of people fell for the scam (234 people total), and 184 of those lost money - on average, more than $800.

You can check out some tips for avoiding phone scams here, but I just want to remind you will never receive a legitimate call from Microsoft or our partners to charge you for computer fixes. If someone does call you claiming to be from Microsoft:

  • Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer.
  • Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support if you did not initiate the call to Microsoft first.
  • Ask upfront if you are required to purchase software or pay a fee or subscription associated with the "service." If there is, hang up.
  • Take the caller's information down and immediately report it to your local authorities. If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, check out these tips that can help you protect your money and identity.

It’s a jungle out there! Please remember to question any unsolicited email or call. If the email came from somebody in your contact list but it feels suspicious, here is a great article on recognizing phishing emails. Lastly, always keep your PC protected with antivirus software like Microsoft Security Essentials, which is free or software from one of our partners.

A lot of this information comes from the Windows Security Blog. But after fielding one of these calls myself, I wanted to make sure I was helping spread the word, in this case education is the first line of defense!