PC Support Phone Scams — three month study

PC World recently posted an article “What I learned playing prey to Windows scammers” by a senior writer at InfoWorld. That article summarizes what was learned over a 3-month period from phone contact with companies claiming to be “Windows Technical Services” or “Windows Security Services” or “Windows Service Center” or another similar name.

“I am calling you from Windows.”

So goes the opening line of the well-known phone scam, where a person calls purporting to be a help desk technician reaching out to resolve your computer problems. These Windows scammers feed off people’s concerns about data breaches and identity theft to trick them into installing malware onto their machines. The scam has been netting victims for years, despite the fact that none of what the callers say makes sense.

Read the full article for discussion of these points:

  • The scam’s success hinges on being helpful
  • It doesn’t matter who the victim is
  • They will stick to the script, no matter what
  • Each team operates differently
  • Ask a lot of questions
  • Do not engage the scammer
  • What if you fell for the scam?
  • They know which buttons to push

I’ve written about these scams in other posts. Don’t be surprised that a stranger on the phone may know some personal information about you. (But there also can be some funny disconnects when they talk about a problem with your Windows PC and you’re on an Apple Mac computer.) They’ll claim that something is wrong with your PC. They want you to panic and let them take remote control of your computer.

Do you get spam / scam email messages that ask you to re-enter information for your bank account or lose access to that account? Well, phony “Windows Services” may say that they’ll cancel your Windows license if you don’t comply.

Don’t try to be clever with these well-trained and experienced scammers. I’ve had people tell me that while on the phone for over an hour, they felt something wasn’t right; but nevertheless they stayed on the phone. Scammers want to gain your trust — a hard lesson in social engineering.

It’s not about your intelligence. These scams rely on you being distracted, in-a-rush, or distressed; or you making assumptions about coincidences.

A recent variation of the scam depends on victims making the initial phone call. While browsing online, the victim comes across a browser pop-up stating the computer is infected and to call technical support at the listed number for instructions on how to fix it. The message is frequently served up via a malicious advertisement. Don’t call the number. Instead, close the browser and move on.