The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been receiving reports from the public about calls from scammers impersonating Microsoft, following the corporation’s announcement on Jan. 14, 2020, that they are no longer providing technical assistance, software updates, or bug fixes for Windows 7. According to recent BBB Scam Tracker reports, the fraudsters are trying to lure Windows users into paying to update their “expiring Windows license” – whether they need to or not.
“Tech support scams are largely successful because the fraudsters are able to convince consumers that something is wrong with their device, and further persuade them to either spend money to fix it or give a stranger remote access to their system”, explained Karla Laird, Manager for Community and Public Relations at BBB serving Mainland B.C. “One of the challenges that comes with having a global client network is that there will still be millions of consumers who are unaware of the service changes for the business, despite efforts to make public announcements. These communication gaps can provide opportunities for fraudsters to impersonate businesses and distort the information in a way that makes their scam seem believable to consumers”.
How the Scam Works
You receive a call from someone who claims to be a Microsoft employee. They explain that you need to upgrade your operating system if you want your computer to keep working. The caller may say that you need to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10, or simply that your Windows license is expiring. They may convince you to pay annual fees or request remote access to your computer under the guise of installing software. If you pay the fees, you could lose hundreds of dollars. Furthermore, giving a scammer access to your computer could result in your secure personal information, such as banking details and login credentials being compromised. This puts you at risk for identity theft.
How to Protect Yourself from Tech Scams
Do not trust unsolicited callers. Reputable techs support companies do not call consumers without their permission.
Double check unusual claims. If someone calls you claiming you have a problem you had no idea existed, do not take their word for it. Hang up and do some research before you accept any help. In the BBB Scam Tracker reports, some victims shared that they were already using Windows 10 (the latest version of the operating system) when they got a call claiming they needed to upgrade.
Never allow a stranger remote access to your computer. If you have a genuine tech problem, get help from a reputable company or individual.
Get tech information straight from the source. If your computer runs Windows for example, find out about updates, new operating systems, and tech support directly from Microsoft. Double check that you are on the official website or calling the real support line before you share personal information or pay any money.
Microsoft is one of the many large corporations whose name is used regularly by thieves hoping to gain the trust of skeptical consumers. In 2017, they reported receiving 12,000 complaints worldwide every month about tech support scams.
BBB spoke with Microsoft, and they confirmed that the company never reaches out to offer support by phone or pop-up on your computer screen. All support requests are initiated by customers. Microsoft also informed that they will not reimburse victims for money or gift cards given to scammers, however they are happy to check their devices to ensure any viruses or malware have been removed.
Consumers can report tech support scams to Microsoft here (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/concern/scam), and get information about upgrading from Windows 7 here (https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4057281/windows-7-support-ended-on-january-14-2020) . For more information, see the BBB.org/TechSupportScam tips.
If you are a victim of a scam, whether or not you have lost money, report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others stay informed and avoid similar scams.