Help Protect Your Friends And Family From Phone Scams

A few weeks ago, I was surprised to get a call from Microsoft offering to help “fix my window”.  This was surprising because:

  1. My window wasn’t broken and having worked at Microsoft for a while, I’m pretty sure we don’t do home repairs.

  2. Microsoft doesn’t call people out of the blue to offer technical support (I knew what he was really talking about).

When I replied that I didn’t realize that Microsoft had anything to do with the windows on my house and there wasn’t anything wrong with them, the caller quickly set me straight.  This was about my computer and he was going to help me, all I had to do was give him some information and then install a program on my PC.

While I was mildly amused by the exchange, I ended the call there without handing out any of my information or installing any programs. I knew this was a scam and that it’s been making the rounds since the late summer of last year.  The company changes, but the theme is always the same. All of you reading this know it’s a scam too. 

We’re fortunate to work in technology and know that this doesn’t pass the sniff test and something stinks about it.  Our friends and family aren’t quite as lucky.  I’m sure I’m not the only one that can attest to someone I know falling for this scam.  And when they do, they’re embarrassed, they don’t want to talk about it, but they do want help to fix it.  After all, if you work in IT, you’ve become the default tech support for your friends and family.

The best way to help those friends and family members that rely on you for tech support is to arm them with information.  Not only are you helping them, you’re helping yourself, if they avoid the scam, you avoid having to clean it up.

There’s a great infographic that some of the folks here at Microsoft Canada have put together  about how to avoid phone scams that you can use to educate yourself, so you can educate others.  I’ve included it below.

Do you have any other helpful tips for others to avoid these types of scams?



Comments (35)

  1. says:

    They have changed their scheme a bit. Now instead of just Microsoft they are also claiming to be from Bell Videotron, and probably others.

    If you think they may be scammers, there is an easy way to know for sure: If you have called them before, they always ask for verification such as your address, birthday, account information, etc. So if you are unsure, ask them what your information is [ignore your address because they can probably get it].

    See also this blog:…/watch-out-for-phishing-scams-by-phone

  2. Thanks, I appreicate the comment and the additional information.  You're right, they have been changing this up a bit and have been claiming to be from some other technology companies as well.  It's good to hear your friend didn't fall for it.

  3. Heidi Peterson says:

    i've received these calls too and if you're careful you'll catch the scam right away. Too bad too many people fall for anything connected to an official-sounding or well-known 'household' corporation. Technical suppport is never an outbound communique. Good work keeping this reminder in the forefront!

  4. Thanks Heidi.  I agree, too many people fall for it because it sounds legit.  We'll do our best to spread the word, appreciate you reading (and hopefully passing along).

  5. Ruth Morton says:

    We just got a call at our house today, for the 3rd time! Very annoying to be bothered by scammers especially on a holiday. My husband had a bit of fun with them, pretending we only had Macs at our house (not true!) and kept them on the phone for a bit so they wouldn't have as much time to scam other people who might not know that they're bogus.

    Very annoying and very distressing that folks are getting fooled by these people. Please spread the word!

  6. Too funny Ruth!  It seems like they do call at the most annoying times.  I think the more we can spread the word, the less they'll profit off schemes like this, and hopefully the calls will stop.

  7. Edward_b says:

    Of course the big question is that what CAN be done to stop these scammers. Is the federal government [RCMP] doing anything?

    Can Microsoft do something aside from notices such as above [since not everyone will see it]. Since they are generally using Microsoft's name, shouldn't Microsoft take the lead?

    Maybe place ads in leading news papers?

  8. Ken Jones says:

    I am a Block Watch Captain in my spare time.

    Could I have permission to forward this info to our Block Watch coordinator for inclusion in our next newsletter

  9. Jennifer Langlois says:

    I had them call me and they said my warrenty on my soft ware had expired and they wanted me to buy a life time warrenty for $500 . it was a Washington phone # its all a scam ..

  10. Ruth Morton says:

    Ken Jones – yes please include the infographic in your newsletter! That's what it was created for, so that you can pass the message along. Thanks for doing that.

  11. Ruth Morton says:

    Edward_b: You're right – not everyone will see this blog. But the infographic was created to give people something they can easily share to help get the word out. Put it up on your own blog, share it with your Facebook friends!

    There is also alot more detailed information about this and other scams and security risks on the site I don't know if we (Microsoft) have plans to take out newspaper ads but I suppose that's certainly an option that the PR department may look into if the situation worsens. I do know that we are working diligently with law enforcment to stop these scammers. If you get a call and have information to share, please call the RCMP's Anti-Fraud Centre at the number listed in the infographic.

  12. Ruth Morton says:

    But Jennifer Langlois – it was only $500! How could you refuse such a deal? 😉

  13. Mark says:

    Great article and a very tech-savvy co-worker received a similar call from "windows".  After advising the caller that "windows" isn't a company, he had a bit of fun with them by playing along before advising that he doesn't have a computer.  The person swore at him before hanging-up.  

  14. Thanks Mark.  Your story is another great example of why these scammers will only get so far.  Of course, the more we can do to spread the word with others who may not know, the better!

  15. Edward_b says:

    After hanging up on them or "playing" with them a bit, you would figure by now that MAYBE they are smart enough not to call a number. Maybe they need to create their own Do Not Call Registry database. 😉

    Come to think of it, maybe they have. I haven't receive a call from them in a while. I'm lonely. 🙂

  16. Edward_b, I need to figure out what you're doing, becuase they still call me, at least I can get off the phone with them pretty quickly:)

  17. Ken Macdonald says:

    Had a few of these calls, and know a couple of people who have admited to being scammed.  On the first call I asked for their call back information and they gave me someone else's info!  On the most recent call I told them they were full of it and the guy got quite pushy – fortunately with a phone call you are always in control – click!

    I will share the infographic with my less technical friends.

  18. Hi Ken,

    Thanks for sharing your story and also for passing this along to others it may help!

  19. Jude Silveira says:

    The best way to see if this is a scam or not is just to say that you work for the company. I have personally received two calls "from Microsoft" asking to fix my computer. It was funny because I know that Microsoft does not call customers directly out of the blue.

    When I mentioned to the tech that I worked for Microsoft (even thought I do not) he immediately ended the call.

  20. Edward_b says:

    @Chris : WEll, the scammers have stopped. But now I and others are getting credit cards scammers as well. You receive an automated call with a woman’s voice with a messagle like “This is your second and final call regarding getting better interest rates on your credit cards…” Of course, you never got it the first time. The number usually is 250-352-9679. If you Big the message, you will see others within the last few weeks got it as well. In one case someone played around with the guy on the phone. The guy says that your credit cards aren't good. You ask what are they like but the guy responsed with vague information.

    Not hard to figure out that a good chunk of the population has a Visa and MasterCard and some with both. Just like most Canadians will have either Bell, Shaw, Telus or Videotron [depending on region] for Internet access and about 90% of computer users have a Windows computer with maybe half of those with Windows XP and most of the rest with Windows 7.

  21. Lyn Stuart says:

    They called me a few months ago & I fell for it…..when I noticed they took my Visa info, I immediately got upset & cried & explained I was a senior at home w/a terminal illness & begged them to not touch my account, I needed it for medical reasons. I put it on a bit thick then hung-up on them. I immediately called my bank when I noticed they had taken out over $200 & advised the bank of their call (Windows Support), they told me to change my password & would keep an eye on my account for me. Then about a week later they credited my account except for $25 & I was so relieved, guess my caller had a heart. Thing is, they keep calling & I get upset & tell them to take my number off their phone list. They call w/the info of 'unknown name private number so be very careful. I am in Canada as well. will share this info on my FaceBook right now & thank you so much. If they call again, I will tell them their call is recorded & police are aware of their calls… they will hang-up on me first, LOL.  

  22. Jeff Mack says:

    Received a call like this on the 9th (I'm in Calgary), and its simply hilarious just listening on how they are trying to scam you.  The guy "transferred" me to internal tech support (he hit 2 and 8 on his phone to make it seem legit), and then altered his indian voice to something a little deeper.  Bahahaha.

  23. Alec Burgess says:

    I've had one such call and decided to "play along".

    He directed me to Windows Explorer and had me navigate to:

    C:WINDOWSinf then told me that all those *.inf files were evidence of infection. When he tried to get me to pay for support (after about 20 minutes of wasting his time) he eventually realized this call was going nowhere.

    No such calls since (but hundreds of offers to clean my air ducts)

  24. Hi Lyn,

    Thank you for sharing your story with us.  I hope it helps some other readers.  I'm glad to hear there was a silver lining.  I really appreciate that you'll share this with your friends and family to help spread the word.

    I tend to hang up and not engage, but if you let them know you're on to the scam, that may help end the calls.

  25. @Jeff, I agree, it's pretty amazing the lengths they'll go to so they sound legit.

  26. Hi Alec,

    Thanks for sharing your experience.  Just like with the others that have shared, hopefully it helps someone else avoid the scam.  I'm glad to hear the calls have ended for you.  Unfortunately, I don't think I can help you with those calls about your air ducts:)

  27. Hi Jude,

    Thanks for sharing your experience.  It really does seem like the moment they think you're on to the scam, they bail on the call and hopefully don't call back again (or at least as often).

  28. Hi Edward_b, thanks for sharing the info on this newer credit card scam.  I guess when one dries up, they move to the next.  Hopefully others find this useful so they don't fall victim.

  29. Edmonton says:

    Tell them that you or a family member works for the company that they are claiming to represent…they hang up very quickly….

  30. Edmonton says:

    Tell them that there must be a mistake….you don't own a computer…that works as well!

    Same thing for whatever service that they claim to represent…"I don't use that particular service provider, if you would like I can write your company a letter to confirm that detail…what's the address of your head office?"

  31. Hi Edmonton,

    Thanks for the suggestions and sharing them with others.

  32. Mister Ink Cartridge says:

    I was going to "print" the infographic, but I realized that it would take a lot of BLACK INK to print.  Is there a version of the infographic that fits onto one 8.5-by-11.0 page, and is "printer-ink-friendly" ????

  33. Hi Mr Ink Cartridge:)

    You're right, this would take a reasonable amount of black ink to print and it is quite large (not 8.5 x 11).  

    When we created it, we had really focused on the online experience and hadn't even thought about printing it.  Clearly a good learning for me.

    You could try fitting the file to an 8.5 x 11 sizing when printing, or resizing it prior to that, though it would end up being pretty small.  You could also try cutting it about half way (cropping/copying) so that it's two pages instead of one.  When it comes to printing, you can adjust the darkness/greyscale of the printer, even a slight adjustment should save some ink.

    Thanks for your feedback about this.

  34. Dianna Guertin says:

    twice they have jammed our pc so that we couldn’t even shut down but I managed to get thru eventually and they phone ….yesterday they just phoned claiming to be from microsoft and that I needed to open my pc and follow his instructions I told him my pc was fine and not turned on and hung up….he had an asian/indian accent and was hard to understand. I do not think microsoft personally calls us but I don’t know how much damage they can cause just by holding us on the phone either. Now I will just follow microsofts list of ways to counteract problems

    1. Pierre Roman says:

      @Dianna Guertin, you are right. Microsoft will NEVER call you at home to offer support. We will NEVER email you a patch or hotfix.