A Common Computer Fraud
I just received a scam phone call, and I want to warn you so you don't fall for it. The scammer pretends to be from Microsoft or some other legitimate company to trick you.
Even if you wouldn't be fooled, please warn friends and relatives (especially elderly ones) who might not be aware of scams like this. Victims of this fraud could suffer anything from identity theft to having their computer hijacked and used to send spam or viruses without their knowledge.
[Update 5/2012: or the scammer could bilk you out of $150 or more, see the experience of commenter LGNTexas in the guestbook at the end of this page.]
"Your Computer Has a Virus"
Here's my transcript of this scam phone call. In my case, they didn't pretend to be Microsoft, but that's the more common version of the fraud.
[Heavily-accented Indian volce]: Hello? Hello?
Me: Who's calling, please?
Him: IT Solutions. We are calling to warn you that your computer has been infected with a virus.
Me: My computer has a virus, eh?
Him: Yes, your computer has a virus.
Me: Where did you say you were calling from?
Him: IT Solutions.
Me: No, I mean, where is your company located?
Him [after I asked several times]: The United States.
Me: Where in the United States?
Him: New York. [My caller ID showed "Bellevue, WA."]
Me: And what's your company's phone number?
Him [Says number far too fast to understand].
Me: Whoa, too fast. Please say your phone number slowly so I can understand it.
Him (after dodging the question a few more times): 717-310-3925. [My caller ID showed 425-998-1533.]
Me: You say my computer has a virus. So, what kind of computer do I have?
Him: I'm sorry?
Me: If you know my computer has a virus, then you should know what kind of computer I'm using. What kind of computer do I have?
Him: Windows NT or Windows 7. [My computer is a Mac, so there are no Windows computers in my home.]
Me: Nope. This is a scam, and I'm reporting it to the police. Goodbye!
How This Scam Steals Your Information
Actually, I didn't call the police. I called the Washington State Attorney General's office, since the call appeared to be from Washington. The operator said that the number my caller ID showed was probably fake, too. These scammers are usually off-shore and have ways to reroute the number.
She also said she had just gotten off the phone with another victim of a "your computer is infected with a virus" scam call in which the fraudster claimed to be calling from Microsoft. In that case, the victim let the phony company install malicious software on her computer.
Malicious software lets a stranger do the following over your internet connection:
- Access all information and documents stored on your computer
- Track your typing so that they can log all your passwords, credit card numbers, or anything else you type
- Monitor your purchases, your email, your web browsing
- Control your computer without your knowledge, using it to send viruses out to everyone on your email contacts list
- Lock you out of your computer and damage or erase its contents
Usually they'd rather not erase your hard drive, since it's more useful to turn your computer into a "zombie," operating or accessing it remotely without your knowledge. Huge networks of "zombie" computers are pressed into service by scam companies for all kinds of purposes! The "zombie" computer's real user cannot tell their computer is serving another master, except perhaps by the fact that the computer seems to have slowed down slightly.
Looking online, I saw more reports of people being scammed by telemarketers claiming to be calling from Microsoft with, "Your computer has been infected with a virus." I'm sure the real IT Solutions isn't connected with this scam: my telemarketer just borrowed a respectable company's name to sound more convincing.
[Update: I initially suggested just hanging up on these con artists, but a commenter below has a good suggestion: tell them that are recording the conversation for your records. In at least one case, this stopped the calls for good.]
If you've been a victim of this scam, look up your state attorney general's website and search for a "fraud report" or "consumer complaints" area. Here's some useful links below (I reported this call to both of them):
Where to Report Phone Fraud
- National Do Not Call Registry
The U.S. National Do Not Call Registry allows you to register your phone number. U.S. telemarketers are legally required to check this list; if they call numbers on it, they're liable for prosecution. Enforcement isn't great, but every bit helps.
- FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection - Consumer Information
The Federal Trade Commission doesn't resolve individual consumer complaints, but if there's enough reports of the same fraud, they may be able to go after the scam and shut it down.
What If They Put a Virus on My Computer?
- How to Remove Malware From Your Windows PC | PCWorld
I am NOT a Windows user, so unfortunately I don't know how to clear out viruses and spyware on a PC. This article from PCWorld looks like an excellent guide; I hope it helps!
- Got a Computer Virus? Here's What to Do (and Not Do)
Here's another good guide, and the "What NOT to do" tips are worth checking. If it were my PC, I'd take it to a repair shop I trusted (assuming there is such a shop) to let an expert check it over.
Jamie jay1 on July 30, 2018:
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Daniel on April 19, 2018:
msn get up off your dead back sides and let your subscribers know about these schemes???That would be smart???
Barbara on August 10, 2017:
I get these calls from so called Microsoft Technicians almost every day. They tell me my computer has an abscess several viruses. I asked them to leave me alone and they get angry. They were just begging to get inside my computer. I know it's been hacked because they were able to give me the registration number to my computer. I've tried everything to get them to leave me alone but they won't take no for an answer. My number is also blocked but the calls keep coming. The odd thing is that I asked him his name and he gave me an American name but had a thick accent. I asked him why and he said he is South African, he was adopted when he was a baby. I went to add a call and tried his number and of course it was not a good number and it was blocked. I asked his real number and he hung up. He waited a few minutes and called me back but I'm not answering anymore. These people are Criminals and they want to steal all they can from your stored, private files on your computer.
Craig from Texas USA on July 07, 2016:
Someone called me with a similar scam a few days ago. It was a Robo Call and they said they were from Microsoft and that my Windows license had expired and it was an "emergency" and all my email and everything would stop working.
Of course I hung up, but I found it disturbing. I bet some people are fooled by this.
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maria on June 04, 2015:
I got a call from 0118507859004 saying she was from Microsoft and my computer was sending messages about viruses I cursed her out and hung up
Johnny Telephone on March 10, 2015:
Too much time on your hands.
Geri Spurlock on January 14, 2015:
This E. Indian sounding guy says "you have paid $199.00 to Microsoft to repair your Computer. It has issues that cannot be repaired at this time and therefore we are refunding your money". From there he wanted my online banking info "because the money will be put directly into your checking account" Fortuneately, I was unconfortable with giving that info and hung up. This "REFUND" is all about getting your bank info.
billa on September 29, 2014:
i got curious a bout a call i received about this.. and wanted to see if others had it happen to them... my experience went like this..
after getting pop up warnings , supposedly Microsoft telling me my computer was infected..
evidently there is a computerized version of the scam and has been for a while.. a few days later i then got the phone call..
a woman supposedly form Microsoft, speaking extremely good English for a foreigner..
insisting that i had a virus.. naturally i asked what kind of virus and what's the name..
her response, sir if you turn on your computer.... what your registration number sir??
mm seeing i registered that info and your positive its form my computer you should all ready have that information on you computer siting in front of you.. dead silents for a good 20 second's
then a man got on the line and started to go back in to the you have virus.. and around we went again,,
firing off the same round of questions at them.. and them trying to talk over me..they were very persistent..
it was very unsettling and the tone hostile in the end when they became frustrated..after a bout 10 minutes of wasting..their time
i finally fired off the last nail.. i have 3 computers witch one is it?.. what's the serial number your supposed keep that on record correct???
hello?? .. hello???
they hung up..
Commonsensethink on September 18, 2014:
I am a British national living in Germany. This morning we received this same call from an international telephone number beginning 0051 (Peru!) from a woman who sounded Chinese! As I have spent the best part of 30 years working as an IT specialist, I dismissed the call immediately (I check for viruses with different tools a minimum of 3 times a week, I don't need advice from strangers on this subject). My only concern is that we have an ex-directory telephone number, and I would be interested to know where they got the number!
Snakesmum on September 14, 2014:
We have that scam here in Australian, but recently they seem to have moved on to another scenario. They claim to be from the IT dept. of Telstra, an ISP company, and tell us there is a virus on our PC which is causing problems to the Telstra servers so they will be shutting down our service in XX hours. (it varies)
Depending on my mood, I go along with it, play with them, or tell them it's a scam and hang up.
digger64 on August 26, 2014:
They are still out there and reproducing. Fred Curl just called me from 8552649273. Same Old Stuff
Jeff on July 24, 2014:
Just played along with one of these, who claimed to be from Microsoft calling because my computer reported to them that it's infected with errors. When I asked how they got my number, he said it's registered with my computer. Pretty sure I didn't register my number with this computer, but honestly can't remember for sure...beside the point...I knew it was a scam from the beginning. A couple sentences in, he asks me for my computer's serial number & tried to get me to open the command prompt & enter a command. I played along for a little while because I thought it was fun & I really wanted to know the answers to my questions. Makes me mad that people would do this.
Nancy on July 08, 2014:
I read many post in the net about phone scam. Better to be careful.
Vernon on June 30, 2014:
There's another variation coming up, just got the call from "PC Speedy"...
RWP on June 26, 2014:
I got a similar call. Had some time, so I thought I'd play. Kept them on the line for about 15 minutes. They tried to get me to go to a site, but I kept "mishearing them" - p's, bs, t's , and d's sound a lot alike, after all. Once I'd had them on enough, I informed them that I work in telecommunications, and that because of previous scams, I'd traced the packets on their call (made up some other technobabble, which I'm pretty good at), and informed the authorities. If they'd be so good to stay on the line, I'd be able to hear the knock on the door in a few minutes when the authorities got to their place.
Silence, followed by sputtering, followed by threats of dire things to be done to my family. Followed by me laughing and hanging up.
Maryann on May 10, 2014:
We just received this call, same stupid line - your computer is infected, etc. I played along for a little just to see how far they were going and then said, do you really think I'm that stupid! This really pisses me off!
kimmy on April 28, 2014:
I get these calls regularly, I just tell them I don't have a computer and they hang up on me lol
Daniel Bostick on April 21, 2014:
I have a CompTIA A+ certification and I just got a call from the same guy 3 times in 5 minutes. It was pretty funny how he kept insisting that my computer was infected with Junk Files...not viruses but Junk Files. I kept asking what he was talking about because I couldn't believe that said something that stupid. And I agree with dave61430 about CNET, I tend to use bleepingcomputer over CNET.
RP on April 02, 2014:
I received the call just today from a lady claiming to be a Windows rep. When I asked why Microsoft was calling she immediately replied she was not Microsoft but Windows which was a separate manufacturer. That was the trigger to immediately end the call and tell them not to call back. Microsoft support never calls unless you have contacted them at which time you will get a case number and they will only call back at your request. I wish these people would get a taste of their medicine and even spend some major jail time.
Kevin on April 02, 2014:
My Father just fell for the scam and then called me to check it out as he said he will be calling back tomorrow and he wanted to talk with his son first, after my Father already let the HARD to Understand India Sounding Tech Fake access his computer.
I told him it was too late. He is in computer, he left it on 5 hrs since the call he thought legit cause he printed out a virus statement from his Anti Virus on his printer....for validation.
I am not sure if they can get to his accounts, but he said he did check his bank account after the call and all was okay. I told him to GET OFF THE COMPUTER, SHUT IT DOWN, SEE A TECH Tomorrow, Check his banks alert them, and check other computer devices connected to same network and check CARBONITE since he uses that for AUTO BACK UP.
I am so mad these criminals prey on my elderly parents.
DLK on March 26, 2014:
I just got a call a little while ago - actually several. The connection was bad on the first call so it was hard to make out what the guy was saying except that my computer had some sort of dangerous virus. I thought he was probably going to ask for personal information so he could fix the problem and I told him I was not interested. The guy wouldn't take "no" for an answer. I finally told him I was not interested and hung up. He called back insisting that it was very important that I fix the problem. Long story short, he called back a couple more times (a total of 4 I believe) telling me how important it was and why did I not wish to repair my computer? I told him I was not going to do anything based on a call someone made to me, that I could not identify - and if I needed to repair it I would get protection software or take it to the store where I bought it. All the while he was talking over me and refusing to listen, and being entirely TOO insistent, if you ask me. Finally I hung up and told everyone not to answer the phone for a while if it rang again.
Camille Gan on March 22, 2014:
Just got a call a few minutes ago from some lady claiming from microsoft with a heavy accent. Lots of background noise. She said that "oh our computer has been sending out signals that there are a lot of junk files". Fell for it at first but then she told me to go on this page with some "remote pc software". Yeah, like MS would do that.
They hung up after 2 minutes when I only replied with "I don't know" to all of their questions.
HateScammers on March 21, 2014:
The indian guy called me, the first time i hung up, the second time i didn't even answer. And i went on google and searched this up and wow, *surprise* i find out it's a scammer. Good thing the bastard didn't get too far. They're scammers don't even pick up the phone if u see the caller id has a fake number.
SnugglesMum on March 16, 2014:
The first time I was called I had no idea, so asked a friend & was told it was a scam. Told them (when they called back) that I had reported them to the Cyber Crimes Unit in Australia. They then phoned me approx. every 20 minutes for 2 hours telling me how they were going to come to my house (they knew my address) and belt me up & rape me & even went so far as to tell me how many of his cousins were going to be with him. They were not Indian, but some other foreign speaking nationality. Australian police and other authorities couldn't give a shit - although I did tell the police they may change their views when I phoned them to say I had dead bodies in my house as I had used my hubby's (legal) shotgun. They were not amused & told me I didn't have the right attitude (there's a correct one????). I am also on the 'Do Not Call Register' - another thing the authorities don't give a shit about pursuing. Last time they phoned I told them I didn't appreciate being threatened like the first time.. dumb woman hung up on me. Next time I won't have a computer, as it's against my religion & ask them for personal details so I can send them information that will save their immortal souls.
Tom on March 10, 2014:
I got the same phone call this morning, the guy had a very thick indian accent and told me that my computed was infected with a very dangerous corrupt piece of software that my antivirus would not block . Of course I knew immediately this was a scam because :
1) Microsoft or whatever company he claimed to represent would never address its customers in English in my country (France)
2) All my computers are running Linux
Just out of curiosity I played ball for a little while to see how far he would go, and I found his alarmist speech to be completely laughable.
ddrcdt83 on March 06, 2014:
I just had a call today, caller ID # 1 000 000 000, I have caller ID for a reason, I don't answer numbers I don't recognize, someone claiming to be with Microsoft Windows Tech Support, informed me that my registered computer (my computer is so not registered with Microsoft, its a Mac) has been sending error reports to their Tech division and if I didn't follow his directions and do something quickly my computer was likely to crash. Yeah ok... I played along for a while feeling quite certain this was a scam, asking lots of questions, pretending not to know how to do what he wanted. When he directed me to a web address, inextsupport.com so he could access my computer remotely, I googled it instead and found warnings upon warnings about this scam. So glad I listened to my gut about this, it just seemed sketchy from the start. I kept him on the line for a while pretending not to be able to get to the website, while I filed a report with the FTC and shared a warning about the scam with all my facebook friends, then informed him of what I had just done and that I would be filing a report with the police and not to call me again before I hung up. Scum!! UGH!!
Bob on March 05, 2014:
I was just called today and this heavy accent lady was telling me there was a virus. She said that it was infected and to press the start button, I was like: My computer isn't even on. She kept saying the whole thing over and over. I asked her for the address and the phone she was calling and they were completely wrong and she told me that she was talking to some guy named(I forgot the name) I told her that this was all wrong. After about a minute of fighting I just hung up. The first thing she said was that she was from Microsoft then later I asked again and she said she worked for a company called Mr. Tech. Do NOT fall for these scams.
Katie Armstrong from Lincoln, Nebraska on February 28, 2014:
When I got this call, I told the guy all the computers in my house run Linux. It took him five minutes to convince him that, if I'm running Linux, I have no need for his fake Microsoft tech support, because I wouldn't have any viruses--let alone viruses that my non-existent Windows error report system would be alerting him about.
Sadly, I've never gotten a call back. I had to give all of my brilliant ideas for pranking the fake Microsoft guys to my friends and family, but I don't think any of them have been called yet, either.
jack on February 25, 2014:
I just got the call ..from the unintelligible East Indian.
Told him my computer wasn't on..and I wasn't interested.I hung up!
Got suspicious when he told me he was from 'Microsoft' They don't
carry out such base activities. Lucky for him I left unsaid what I was really thinking.....
Tre on February 24, 2014:
I live with my grandmother and she received a call like this today, except the phone number came up ad 000-000-0000 (the first give away). She's in her 70's and the laptop belongs to her deceased daughter, I just use it every once in a while. You know how the elderly are (they believe anything) so the last thing I was going to do was let a dumbass scammer ruin my computer privileges.
He had a thick Indian accent and kept trying to convince me that he was from Microsoft technical support in Nevada. After getting frustrated with his failed attempts of getting us to believe him, I decided to ask for his name, number, and company address and I would call a legitimate Microsoft number to verify what he was telling me. If it came back legit, I would've gladly called back and completed the process. He didn't give me the info I asked for, and kept trying to convince me of some deadly internet virus that even my anti-virus couldn't stop and millions of computers were leaking info because of it (yea right). If this was really true, it would be all over the news, google, etc. Long story short, he got pissed off at me and told me "if I didn't want to follow his directions to protect my computer, then I can go to hell." Lol, not professional at all! Please people, DO NOT BELIEVE THIS CRAP! IF THEY CAN'T PROVIDE THEIR NAME, CALL BACK #, AND COMPANY ADDRESS SO YOU CAN MAKE A VERIFICATION WITH MICROSOFT'S REAL CUSTOMER SUPPORT REPRESENTATIVES DO NOT FALL FOR IT!