They’ve been around for a while now, whether they’re calling you to say that they’ve been monitoring viruses emanating from your computer, or they’ve carefully positioned a popup on a hacked website stating that your computer is infected and you have to call the number immediately, or they’re utilizing SEO tactics to get their phone number associated with browser searches for Microsoft Technical Support, their goal hasn’t changed, they want your credit card number.

This is how the scenario went for one of our new clients when he called the “Microsoft” number:

Once connected with the “Microsoft Certified Technician”, she asked some simple questions to gain his trust and then was directed to allow the “technician” to remotely connect to his computer to identify the underlying issue. Having access to his computer, the “technician” brought up the Windows Action Center to show him which security services are not enabled and that “they must have been disabled by a hacker”. Granted, these services could probably have been enabled but most people do not have up-to-date systems, it’s not the end of the world. She then opened a command window and displayed the computer’s local and foreign IP addresses – nothing unusual here but the technician woefully exclaimed that “hackers are piggybacking on the internet connection and have access to the system”. Finally, she brought up the Windows Event Viewer which logs every event related to the system’s performance and stability– inevitably there will be hundreds if not thousands of entries here that are normal for most users and are no reason for concern – but she framed these logs as evidence that hackers are gaining access to the computer files. At last, she says “but not to worry, I can easily correct the issues and secure the system, for a small annual subscription of only $299. What’s the credit card number?”

He abruptly ended the call and disconnected his system for the internet. While, the “technician” may well have done nothing malicious, we did have another new client whose computer was reset to factory default by the “help desk technician” deleting all of her files.

The truth is most of what these “technicians” claim is false or, at least, irrelevant and their only goal is to get your credit card number. Don’t fall for their scams. If you do have a problem, look a real technician in the face, don’t fall for a voice on the telephone – either take your computer to their local office or call them to come to you – and let a real, local technician help you with the problem. Someone thousands of miles away in a call center can’t effectively repair your physical system, they won’t be there for any follow up, and your local dollars will do so much more in your local community than half way around the world.

By the way, talking to a real person at Microsoft and getting technical support with an issue is almost impossible.