Windows 10 dropped last week, and the reviews so far have been very positive. More than 14 million people downloaded the operating system in the first 24 hours. The OS is being hailed as the “Windows 7” to Window’s 8’s “Vista” and has a bunch of impressive new features, giving you every reason to upgrade .
Even more importantly, Windows 10 will be the last time you have to formally upgrade Windows. All future releases will happen as updates to Windows 10 .
All of which is great news for Windows users. However, with so many new (and potentially new) users, the popularity has attracted some nasty characters. Unfortunately, a number of scammers are taking advantage of the enthusiasm and confusion for Windows 10, with several new scams targeting Windows 10 customers. Luckily, if you keep your wits about you and know what to look for, it’s easy to stay safe. Here’s what you need to know.
This phone-based scam been around for a while . Here’s one scam call from a year ago:
With the release of Windows 10, these scammers have put a new twist on it.
The scam goes something like this: you get a cold call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft support or some other tech support organization. They offer you something (fixing an “error” with Windows 10 they detected, or helping you upgrade to Windows 10). At some point, you give them access to your machine via a remote access application like TeamViewer, allowing them to install spyware that can steal financial information. They may also try to get you to pay for their “help.”
How to stay safe:
- If you receive a call claiming to be from Microsoft, ignore it. Microsoft support and other legitimate tech support organizations will never cold-contact you by phone.
- Never give a stranger remote access to your machine.
- Always do software installation / upgrades from an official source (like the Microsoft.com website)
Microsoft has actually sent out official emails alerting people that they successfully reserved copies of Windows 10, as part of their staggered release scheme. Unfortunately, this has allowed scammers to create their own emails that resemble real Windows 10 alert emails, but actually direct users to malware.
One popular scam email picked up by Cisco Security offers users a “Free Windows 10 Upgrade.” Via either a link or attachment, the user is prompted to install what seems to be a Windows 10 upgrade file, but is actually a piece of malware called “CBT-Locker.” This is just one example of Windows ransomware , and encrypts your files, deletes the originals, and then ransoms the key back to you via an anonymous Bitcoin payment. The email for this version of the scam looks like this (via the Consumerist):
This kind of malware has become increasingly popular, and can be very destructive to small businesses and the elderly, who may have important or sentimental data, but not the technical savvy to back it up off-site. It’s nasty, and the ransom can be expensive.
Other variations on the scam might install adware, or malware that steals financial information for identity theft. Luckily, like the phone scam, scams of this type are pretty easy to avoid.
How to stay safe:
- Remember that Microsoft will never send you a download link or attachment. Ignore any emails like this.
- Always use the official website to initiate any downloads or upgrades.
- Be skeptical of emails that have unprofessional formatting, errors, or typos.
- Even if emails seem to come from a “Microsoft Support” email address, use caution – this information can be easily faked .
How to Really Upgrade to Windows 10
There are a few easy ways to upgrade to Windows 10 legitimately.
Via the Upgrade App
If you have Windows 8.1, you can reserve a copy using the “Get Windows 10” App, which appears as a small white windows icon on the right hand side of your task bar. Clicking that allows you to reserve a copy. Microsoft will notify you by email (without a download link) when your copy is available, and you’ll be able to upgrade from within Windows itself, via the same app (which will reappear).
Don’t see the icon? Check out our guide to using the “Get Windows 10” app .
Via an ISO
If you don’t have a valid copy of Windows 8.1, you may need to do a fresh install from an ISO, and move your files over manually. To get to the official ISO, Google “Download Windows 10 ISO – Microsoft.” The official download page should be in the first few results – useful information to share with friends and family interested in upgrading to Windows 10.
Either way, look for the green lock in your browser bar to verify that you’re on the official site. From there, the site will direct you to burn a disc or bootable USB drive. You’ll be able to use your existing Windows product key to complete the installation.
In general, scams aren’t that hard to spot. If you stick to safe general principles, like being wary of cold contacts and always downloading software from official sources, you’ll be safe from most scams and other “social engineering.” Be careful, and make sure your friends and family are on the lookout for their own electronic safety.
Have you received on of these scam messaged? Just excited for Windows 10? Let us know in the comments!
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