Don't get faked out

Before Fake News there was Fake Tech Support. And it’s still here. Don’t get faked out.

Microsoft does not phone you to tell you about viruses on your computer.

They just don’t.

Please don’t fall for this one. They’re not Microsoft. This is the Fake Microsoft Technician Scam.

Don’t touch that dial

Some scams are more convincing than others. One that tends to scare the heck out of people is a popup on the computer saying that the computer has been compromised.

The page shows you a toll-free number to call to get help from a technician. Sometimes it even shouts at you.

This is ALWAYS a scam.

These phone numbers point to call centres that are the same as the Fake Microsoft Technician Scam.

Sadly, these popups are not limited to Windows computers. I’ve seen it on Macs and iPads as well. Bad people hijack a browser and display this terrifying message.

Do not ever call that number. And if you get a little panicked and you do, don’t grant these people remote access to your device.

When you do that, you are giving these guys permission to steal your money.

Don’t google a repair number

Scammers buy ads in online search engines like Bing and Google. When searching for help, you can be directed to legitimate-looking sites promising to speed up, clean up or fix your computer.

They have legit-looking logos. They have toll-free numbers to call. Read more about this here.

These sites can look like a legitimate company. And it’s not just for help with Windows. I’ve seen fake ads for printer software, antivirus programs, and even cable companies.

If you grant them remote access, they will show you a scary-looking page of “errors” from your computer’s Event Log. The idea is always the same: Gain access to your computer and scrape data in the background while they sell you something and get your credit card information.

Find the number of your cable or phone company on the bill. Get the number for printer support from the printer manual. If you must search online for a support number, make sure the site you’re going to is really the support site you want, and not fake technicians.

Uh, oh. This warning might have come too late

If you have been scammed, report the scammer.

If it’s someone purporting to be from Microsoft, you can report the problem here. If it’s fake technical support for another company, report the problem to the real company and to law enforcement. 

Also, if you have granted remote access to scammers, get help from a legitimate computer repair technician. When I receive a call like this, I make sure to remove any malicious software the scammers have installed, any malware that may have been there before, and I try to secure the computer so that it’s difficult for that to happen again.

Once you are sure any malicious software has been removed, you should:

  • Change the password for your computer. If you are signing in with a Microsoft Account, change that password. Write it down!
  • If you don’t have a password for your computer, set one. Write it down!
  • Change your email password. Write it down!
  • Discuss the matter with your bank, credit card companies, and any financial institutions. Be guided by their recommendations regarding cancelling cards or changing account numbers.

Next time someone tries to fool you, remember: The first and most powerful line of defence is…YOU. 

Be careful and be skeptical.


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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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