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Scammers are everywhere, but in recent years they’ve found a new angle: exploiting ignorance about computer viruses.
The “Microsoft tech support” scam catches people out every single day. Some people take it upon themselves to waste the scammers’ time, or even antagonize them. In truth, neither is a good idea.
Here’s why it would be better if you just hang up on fake tech support.
The Microsoft Tech Support Scam
This telephone tech support scam should feel familiar.
The phone rings. At the other end is someone claiming to be from “Microsoft Technical Support”, or something similar. Your caller will typically have a thick Indian accent, and an Anglicized name.
With the intention of forcing you to pay for tech support you don’t need, the scammer will demonstrate that your PC “has a virus” by talking you through checking the Windows system log.
They’ll follow this up by prompting you to install their remote desktop software, which provides the scammer with admin access. Your data is already at risk. The remote user might install a backdoor for regular access or compound your problems further by installing malware.
See our guide to how the tech support scam works for more.
Clearly, these scammers don’t work for Microsoft. If your PC has a virus, no one knows until it’s detected by antivirus software; Microsoft certainly doesn’t.
Employing cynical scare tactics to snare victims, the scam relies on Microsoft’s largely positive reputation. With an average yield of $350 a time, this hugely popular scam shows no signs of dying off, despite various legal actions by Microsoft.
You’ll find plenty of examples of people taunting these scammers on YouTube and Reddit. They’re often amusing, but is it a good idea to taunt them?
Here are three reasons why you should just hang up and get on with your life.
1. Fake Tech Support Scammers Will Keep Trying
Telephone scams return around $470 per call. Thanks to robocalling (automated calling), number finding technology, and fake caller IDs, scammers fool more people than ever before.
Given how much money the scam makes, and how little call centers pay (e.g., Indian call centers pay around $2 an hour), your decision to “keep them on the line” really isn’t helping anyone.
The volume of scamming and the technology used to make many simultaneous calls means that you cannot make a dent in the scammers’ profits. When you see the “scam likely” message, just ignore it.
2. Scammers May Threaten Physical Violence
Be realistic: these people are criminals. Taunting criminals is never a good idea. You don’t know what they are capable of, beyond attempting to scam people on an industrial scale. Given how low that is, wasting their time can result in some very concerning outbursts.
We’ve seen numerous reports of threats of physical and sexual violence following previous articles on this topic. Threats of any nature are unacceptable, but these people are criminals. They’ve already abandoned reasonable behavior.
Here’s an example: Jakob Dulisse, a wildlife photographer from British Columbia, Canada. After receiving a scam call, claiming to be from the Los Angeles-based “Windows Technical Support”, Jakob quickly realized he had an opportunity to waste the scammer’s time.
Stringing the scammer along, Dulisse broke cover: “I think you’re a scammer, a thief, and a bad person”.
The response was chilling: “It’s not like we’re living in India and we don’t have anyone in Canada. We have our people, our group, in Canada. I will call them and I will provide your information to them. They will come to you, and they will kill you.”
“I’m a killer, not a scammer. Do you know what we do to Anglo people in India? We cut them up and throw them in the river.”
While it’s a threat that is unlikely to be followed through, it’s going to ruin your day. The lesson is to just avoid the conversation by not engaging with the scammers.
3. Fake Tech Support Already Control Your Computer
There’s another reason why you should avoid giving your “Windows Tech Support” scammer an ear bashing: they already installed remote software on your PC.
Picture it: you get so carried away leading them on that you’ve ignored that fact that they already installed the software. Perhaps you were planning to use a virtual machine to watch the scammer waste his or her time… only you got confused.
Letting rip with a few choice words is a bad idea when the scammer can basically destroy your PC. Just let it go. They call, you hang up.
Conned by Windows Tech Support Scammers?
It may be satisfying to know that someone who is trying to scam people is having their time wasted.
Remember, hanging up is safest, because:
- They’re going to keep trying anyway—it’s the business plan.
- You may be threatened with violence.
- Windows scammers may already control your PC.
These people just aren’t worth the time and effort. Instead of tackling them head on, help your friends and family. Tell them about the scam, how it works, and what is at risk. You can use unlisted phone number services to help dodge the scammers. You can also share with them these telltale signs that show you’re on the phone with a scammer.
Tell them that when the call comes, they should just hang up. After all, the Windows tech support scammers are criminals. You wouldn’t taunt a street criminal. Don’t wind up these characters. And make sure you know how to avoid other types of data breaches, too.