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If you live in North America or the United Kingdom, there’s a very good chance that you already know all about the Windows Tech Support scam. Briefly, this is a telephone cold-calling scam that attempts to trick you into downloading malware Anatomy of a Scam: The "Windows Tech Support" Con Examined Anatomy of a Scam: The "Windows Tech Support" Con Examined They're constantly on the prowl: cold calling scammers claiming to be from "Windows Tech Support". We were targeted by one of these con artists and here's what happened. Read More onto your PC, under the guise of someone “helping” you to remove a virus.

We’ve look at this scam in the past, and as attempts to raise awareness of it continue, it now seems a good time to address ways in which you can discourage these callers before they get started. After all, it can be difficult to simply hang up on a caller, especially if they seem polite, or claim to be offering help. It challenges our social preconceptions, which is how they manage to perpetuate the scam.

So how can you politely (or otherwise) discourage a Windows Tech Support scammer?

1. Tell Them You “Have No Internet”

For this scam to work, the mark — you — must have internet access. It is via this that the scammer is able to convince you to download the all-important remote-access software, which they can then use to take control of your PC and wreak havoc.

Image Credit: Halfpoint via Shutterstock.com

You don’t want them to do this; you don’t want them installing ransomware, Trojans and keyloggers and other malware, so it is important to make it clear to them that you don’t have an internet connection. Perhaps you’ve just been cut-off for not paying the bill, perhaps your router is broken.

Whatever the story, they need to know that your computer is not online.

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They might contest this. Fine, you don’t need them to know the truth. They will probably claim that your computer has been reporting a virus infection to them (this is part of the scam). Let them. It hasn’t. Your computer does not report anything to anyone but Microsoft, and it only reports virus-related data when you use Windows Defender.

So, tell the scammer on the end of the line that you have no internet access. Their subterfuge is undone; their call pointless.

2. Inform the Scammer You’re Using Mac/Linux

If there’s something these scammers hate it’s their targets using macOS or Linux PCs, rather than Windows. Using a Chromebook, or even Android as a desktop? You’re fine. The Windows Tech Support Scam is so-called because it only targets Windows PCs.

Looking for a quick and easy way to get these guys off the phone? Tell then you have an Apple MacBook or similar. Tell them you’re running Ubuntu or Linux Mint… tell them anything they don’t want to hear. They’ll hang up (perhaps being rude in doing so, but this is par for the course) and you can be about your daily business.

Of course, you might not tell them straightaway.

3. Tell Them About God

They’ve called to sell you an idea. Why not get your own back by doing the same to them?

Perhaps begin by saying you were on your way to church, and that you were “compelled by God” to answer the phone. Knowing that the call was literally a calling to you, you can then enthuse about your faith (real, abandoned, or otherwise) to at the very least annoy the scammer. If you’re able to get them to reevaluate their actions, you’re doing even better!

You might take this further by referring to some religious decrees about fraudulent behavior (here are some from the Bible, but you should be able to find commandments that match your preferred faith with little trouble).

4. Repeat Every Line They Say

Every parent — and adults with long memories — knows how easy kids can wind you up. Telephone scams really are a childish venture, a lazy attempt to make cash by abusing trust, so why not be equally childish in response?

Such things you might try include:

There’s no need to get personal, here, I might add. Don’t verbally insult the scammers. Instead, just be incredibly silly. Eventually they’ll hang up. And if you recorded the call, you’ll have something amusing to share on YouTube.

5. Just Hang Up

This is the option that you always wish you’d taken, as a long, fraught phone call comes to and end and you eventually remember that you were heading out. But we were raised to remember that manners cost nothing, so hanging up the phone to a stranger is just rude, right?

Of course, it’s a matter of priorities. Do you want to be considered rude, or do you want to be fleeced? It’s all very well telling them you have no internet or winding the caller up in some other way, but is it really worth your valuable time?

Image Credit: BrAt82 via Shutterstock.com

Often, I hear of people who do all the stuff above to waste the scammer’s time. This way, they’re less able to target others who may be more vulnerable to this kind of ruse. But if you consider that there are many different scams being run, each of which is manned by huge teams of people, it quickly becomes apparent that any attempt to “waste their time” is, in fact, simply wasting your own. You’re barely scratching the surface.

So just hang up.

How Do You Pwn Windows Tech Support Scammers?

We’ve been looking at the telephone-based Windows Tech Support Scam here, but there are other tech support-based scams online. It’s important that you also know how to deal with those How to Avoid PC Repair & Tech Support Scams How to Avoid PC Repair & Tech Support Scams Not every PC technician has your best interest at heart. Some apply sleazy sales tactics or will scam you into buying their service. We reveal popular methods and help you identify trustworthy PC repair technicians. Read More . Meanwhile, we’ve previously found that scammers can turn abusive, not to mention downright creepy Readers' Windows Tech Support Scam Stories Readers' Windows Tech Support Scam Stories The Windows Tech Support scam prevails. Little can be done to counter it, except to hang up. We have collected stories from our readers who engaged the scammers and their tales are obnoxious. Read More . As such, we’d advise you to simply hangup unless you’re able to deal with their unique brand of entitlement.

Once you’ve done this, consider reporting the call What Should You Do About the Windows Tech Support Scam? What Should You Do About the Windows Tech Support Scam? If the Windows Tech Support calls you out of the blue, know that it's a scam. But what should you do? Hang up, lead the callers on, or report them? Let's find out. Read More . Note that this will not stop them outright, but will help authorities to build a picture of what is going on, with this and other cold calling scams Why They Keep Ringing: How Cold Calling Telephone Scams Work Why They Keep Ringing: How Cold Calling Telephone Scams Work The Microsoft tech support scam is hugely profitable, and has proved both effective and lucrative for scammers around the world. But have you ever wondered how it works? Read More .

From my previous looks at the Windows Tech Support Scam, I know that people have many ways to screw with the scammers. So what are yours? Do you just hang up or do you try and waste time? Have you recorded your endeavors? Share them, and your thoughts, below.

Image Credits: WilmaVdZ/Shutterstock

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  1. curts
    September 7, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    I got one of these calls at work this summer. They identified themselves as being from Microsoft, so I knew immediately it was a scammer. I didn't have time to "play" (much as I wanted to), so I simply started laughing. When the scammer asked why I was laughing, I told them I knew they were a scammer. I did indeed receive a rude reply before they hung up. I reported the call to the company's cyber security team.

    I've been waiting for one of them to call me at home, so I can start with the "which computer?" tactic to hassle them. I only have 35 years of computer experience to torture them with...

  2. Ed
    September 2, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    I had one of those annoying calls and during the first 3 minutes, I said "Excuse me a minute. Sgt Edwards , make sure you get pictures of the body from that angle over there." Next thing I heard was a phone slamming down. Best laugh I had.

  3. Tom Jones
    September 2, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    We used to get calls like this at an unlisted number at work. The phone was only used for outgoing calls, so anyone calling in was fair game. I would answer in my imaginary native tongue using proper intonation so that it sounded like conversation. I would keep asking something repeatedly. Then I would act as if something was very important and repeat the same "phrase" over and over demandingly. It was fun when they kept talking like idiots.

    Alternately we would answer CIA Telephone Investigations, Chief Fred Collier. How may I help you?
    Very few were brave enough to talk to the Chief.

  4. joe Birch
    September 2, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Once I recognised who it was I help the phone at arms length and shouted, "Dave, have we got an ETA for the ME getting here yet?"
    Then, speaking into the phone I asked who it was to which I replied, "Sorry this is a crime scene. Goodbye".

  5. suzybel
    September 2, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    I haven't gotten any calls since I ditched my landline, but I always told them I had a Mac and my husband is a tech investigator with the police. They couldn't hang up fast enough.

  6. San
    September 2, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Tell them "This is a crime scene, can you tell me how you know the deceased? What is your name, phone number and address, a police office will visit and take a statement"

    Strangely enough they hang up!

  7. Patrick
    April 3, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    I just tell me I'm recording the conversation. Next thing I hear is dead air over the phone. LOL

    • Christian Cawley
      April 7, 2017 at 7:48 pm

      Now that is a response - kudos Patrick!

    • Matt
      September 2, 2017 at 10:54 am

      I like that, gonna use that one.

  8. Keith Collyer
    March 29, 2017 at 8:30 am

    I have found saying, in my creepiest voice "Oh, you sound nice" works. I've never had to use the next line "Can you tell me what you're wearing?"

    • Christian Cawley
      April 7, 2017 at 7:48 pm

      That's such a worrying response.

      I don't advise using this!

  9. Mayer
    February 15, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    I answer the phone in German (my mother tongue) and insist they speak to me in German. They cannot and they hang up.

  10. Tracy Landsberg
    February 15, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    With caller ID, who even answers an unknown # in the first place?

    • Gbswales
      September 3, 2017 at 12:49 am

      In the UK most hospitals and doctors hide their caller ID so do many of my family and friends so this option results in missing genuine, possibly important calls. Like some of the other ideas though. Also these computer scammers often do display a number

  11. Heimen Stoffels
    February 15, 2017 at 11:25 am

    North America or UK? They're also very active here in the Netherlands. We've got calls from them an awful lot of times in the past 3 years and lots of Dutch companies and media have also gotten calls from them. Dutch TV networks have also warned everyone for this.

    So as you can see, they're active in more countries than you think.

    • Matt
      September 2, 2017 at 10:55 am

      Australia too.

  12. Jim
    February 15, 2017 at 12:07 am

    I never seem to get these calls, but my wife gets at least one a week. She tells them that her husand, who works in IT would be the one they want to talk to. They never wait on the line long enough to for me to have fun with them...

  13. David
    February 14, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    Set up a VM, lace it with all kinds of digital nasties and angry pixies and then give them the info for that.

  14. David
    February 14, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    Set up a VM, lace it with all kinds of digital nasties and angry pixies and give them the info for that.

  15. Isabel Storey
    February 14, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    I leave the phone next to either the TV or radio.

  16. Jeanne
    February 14, 2017 at 10:41 pm

    1. Tell them you don't have a computer.

    2. In a childs voice, tell them to hold while you get your Mommy. Then just put the phone down and leave them hanging.

    3. Tell them your husband or son is an I.T. specialist, thank them and say you'll have him check it out.

    4. Just keep saying "Hello?" like you can't hear them.

  17. Mike
    February 14, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    After having been caught twice by these pricks,I have stopped answering calls from unknown numbers,and they never leave a message. Simple,but it works perfectly.

  18. Bill Collins
    February 14, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    If I have the time, I ask a bunch of inane questions, tell them I'm very interested and keep them on the line (with a few holds) for a long time. I also play very dumb as I try to follow their directions.

  19. Mac
    February 14, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    With the most recent call I said 'can you just hold on a minute' then abandoned my phone for 10 minutes.

  20. The Boca Deb
    February 14, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    I usually refer them to my "Technical Assistant," who is a sixteen-year-old calico cat with a lot to say about everything.

    Otherwise, my favorite tactic is to get them to go off-script any way possible.

  21. John Smith
    February 12, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    Or you can just immediately hang up instead of wasting your time and listing some pathetic tactics. I would have had no problem if you had some original trolling ideas, but this list has none.

  22. Steve K-E
    February 12, 2017 at 12:12 am

    I say "Oh, I have a virus coming from my machine? Can I verify the machine you are talking about... what is my MAC address?" - they invariably will say something like "oh, you aren't using a Mac, you are using a PC"...

    Alternatively, I just say "Well, if it's coming from my machine, then you'll have the IP address on that... could you tell me what IP address I am using?"

    Either way, they tend to hang up.... I suggest these two approaches to my friends - I tell them that they don't need to know their MAC address or IP address... all they need to know is that the scammer will *not* be able to give either....

  23. Fik-of-Borg
    February 11, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Just hang up????
    But I never answer an unknown number in the first place!

  24. Jim
    February 11, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Just hang up. And it's never rude since the ahole on the other end it's trying to scan you. Don't waste your time just hand up and move on.

  25. Swaggie
    February 11, 2017 at 6:23 am

    I say my computer is working ok but do you know anything about washing machines. They all hang up.

  26. ckpeck
    February 11, 2017 at 12:10 am

    Scammers ruined my elderly mother-in-law's computer. Thankfully, she refused to give them any money. When I got their call, and I am a Mac user, I gave them an earful about how they steal from the elderly and asked how can they sleep at night spending their days this way. There is a special place in Hell for people who steal from the elderly.

    Funny, he hung up on me.

  27. Dustin R
    February 10, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Usually I get a call they say
    Them:"The computer registered under *Name* is sending error messages to the Microsoft server, it has a virus"
    Me: "Which one? I have like 8 PCs"
    Them: "Anyone"
    Me:"But which one has the virus?"
    Them:"... Just login to one and I will help you get rid of them"
    Me:"But, which one has the virus?"
    Them:"The one registered under *Name*"
    Me:"That's all of them, can you tell me the model or manufacturer?"
    Them: *Hangs up*

  28. KT
    February 10, 2017 at 12:20 am

    I usually use #2 because I do mostly use Linux, But the last time I said "I'm sorry, but I am expecting a very important call about my thick, bloody, milky, yellow discharge." That stopped him in his tracks!

    • Christian Cawley
      February 10, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      Nearly choked on my tea! Thanks, KT :D

  29. johnbuk
    February 9, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    I just tell them the computer is not on. They ask me to switch it on, I say, "Ok wait a second", and then just get on with what I was doing. I might go back after 15 or 20 minutes to see if anyone's there and usually they've gone.
    PS I have a Chromebook anyway.

  30. Jas
    February 9, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    I pretend to be an ancient Russian who gets angrier and angrier as he thinks they have broken his computer if I can keep it up long enough I get to threatening them with my son who is a Russian gangster and will find them and kill them and all their family.

    • Christian Cawley
      February 10, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      Do you speak Russian, or is it all clever vocal gymnastics?

      • Js
        February 13, 2017 at 4:25 pm

        No, but nor do they . Silly Russian accent plus occasional fake Russian. They are the worst kind of scum, deliberately seeking out the vulnerable to take advantage of. Lowest of the low, not smart enough to get a real job but think they're smart for outwitting some poor pensioner by following the dumb script.

        • Christian Cawley
          February 14, 2017 at 12:56 pm

          Good for you -- worth a try :)

  31. Kent Wilson
    February 9, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    I tell them I have to get my Dad on the phone to talk to them. I then lay the phone down and go back to what I was doing. Oh yeah, I'm 75 years old.

  32. Michael DiNunzio
    February 9, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Be careful playing with these guys! I got snippy with one of them and later that day I was targeted with thousands of spam emails that came in within 10 minutes time like a flood filling my inbox from supposed sites I signed up for. Then I found one of those emails was from Amazon where they stole my password somehow and ordered an expensive thing which I caught, cancelled, and changed my password before shipping. Just hang up on these scumbags because they may have more info on you than you think before you even speak one word.

  33. John
    February 9, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    The last time one of these scammers called me, he said "I am from tech support, I need your information", to which I replied "No, I am from tech support, I need YOUR information". This confused him, he said "You are also from tech support?", and I hung up.

    • Christian Cawley
      February 10, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      Excellent, thanks John!

  34. Linux Fan
    February 9, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    I make fun of them, by faking following their instructions, playing dummy. I know Windows well, so I can figure what the computer should show me. After a while, playing very dummy, I ask them about what is that word I see on my display, which is UBUNTU. Curiously enough, the call ends quickly then.

    • Steve K-E
      February 12, 2017 at 12:15 am

      I did this once... 'following' their instructions, asking for clarifications every step of the way, even though I was neither at my computer, nor was the computer on. It worked until I got to a stage (Event Log, I think) where I couldn't remember what would be on the screen, so couldn't fake it any longer!

      I then told them that actually, I was not at my computer - and that I'd wasted their time, as I knew they were "scummy scammers"... they hung up at that point!