SCAM ALERT: Legit Companies Don’t Call You to Offer Tech Support

Christina Tetreault
Staff Attorney

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

 

Illegal robocalls are a hassle, but illegal robocalls perpetuated by scammers are a danger. Benita from Washington, DC, wrote in with this warning about a phone scam where the caller pretends to be offering tech support:

“Have you received a call telling you that they notice that you are having problems with your computer, and you should go to “run” and enter a code — which would allow them to take over your computer and repair your problem?  This is a major SCAM and your computer will be corrupted. Hang up — do not continue call.”

Benita is not the only person getting these calls. This scam is so widespread that Microsoft has a warning about it on its website, and there’s even a Wikipedia entry about it.

One way the scam works, as Jeffrey from Fallston, Maryland, tells us, is that the fraudster will try to get you to allow him or her to take over your computer:

“I received a call from someone claiming to be working with Microsoft who told me that my computer was infected with a virus and that I need to take action immediately.  Being an IT person, I knew this was a scam and decided to play along.  The scammer had me open up the Windows Event Viewer and tell them how many errors. There were 21,000 errors listed (something that every IT person knows is normal) and their response was “My God, I’ve never seen that many errors before. Your computer is heavily infected.”  Then, they wanted me to go to a website and download a piece of software that would allow them to remotely control my computer. That is where I had to pretend like I was dumb and couldn’t install the software. After about 30 minutes, the scammer caught on that I was wasting his time and called me a “Bloody Bastard” before hanging up on me.”

If a caller directs you to a website to install software that will let him or her access your computer to “fix it,” don’t fall for it! If you do, your computer and your personal information are visible to the scammer and you are vulnerable. If you get a call from someone claiming to be from tech support, your best defense is simply to hang up. Follow these additional tips from the FTC to avoid getting scammed:

  1. Don’t give out any personal information to anyone that calls you out of nowhere. Do not give out your user name, passwords, credit card numbers, not even your address.
  2. Don’t rely on caller ID. Spoofing, where criminals make it look like they are legit callers is very common. Don’t be misled.
  3. Don’t purchase any software or tech service from anyone who cold calls you.
  4. Don’t visit websites or download software at the direction of a caller, and never give control of your computer to a third party to someone who calls out of the blue.
  5. Do report scams to your local law enforcement, state attorney general, and the Federal Trade Commission, at FTC Complaint Assistant, https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1. If the scammer claimed to be working for Microsoft, you can report the scam to the company here.

Scam robocalls are a menace, but together we can end them. We’re calling on the phone companies to provide free tools to block robocalls. Join us here!

View all Campaign Updates

57 responses to “SCAM ALERT: Legit Companies Don’t Call You to Offer Tech Support”

  1. Scott Bergeson says:

    No such thing as a “Windows Event Viewer”. Why don’t you say that only apply to Windows 7 and beyond, tell equivalent in XP and other earlier versions?

  2. Janice says:

    I had the same thing happen on my computer that Susan Henry had. Not only was my computer locked up, but my computer speakers were also telling me I had a computer virus. The company is XPERTONFONE and/or TechOrbite. I filed a complaint with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Division of Consumer Affairs regarding (company location) on April 1, 2015. This morning I sent the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Division of Consumer Affairs an email asking about the status of my complaint.

  3. G L Shannon says:

    Very good article. Enjoyed the comments!
    I don’t suggest the following as a solution, but it is fun, and if you have the time, it can inject some recreation into an otherwise dull process. I receive at least one call a week telling me “they” have detected my computer doing something “bad” which “they” need to help me fix. I am always “very concerned” to hear about this, but tell them that since I have several computers in my home, they will have to help me determine which computer it is… can they help me.
    The salivation is audible, in some cases literally. SURE, you just need, they say…. “Wait a minute”, I inject, “first you to provide the MAC and IP address you are seeing for the computer in question.” “But, I can do it by just…” they respond. Again I stop them, “I’m sure you’re computer literate to be able to be doing all this, so please just give me the MAC and IP. If you need to, feel free to get your supervisor on the line to help. At least half the time they do. On one occasion, I heard the supervisor tell him “idiot, don’t you have enough sense to even know when you’re being played? Hang up.” In most cases, I’m able to keep them on the line for ten or fifteen minutes. For some reason they really don’t want to hang up on you. They keep trying to get the ‘sale’. Eventually I try for an amiable conclusion with something like “I appreciate the free entertainment, but I don’t want to waste any more of your time making you look like an idiot so I’ll let you go.” Recently, one of them became quite agitated, saying he didn’t look like an idiot and I hadn’t wasted his time. I refused to hang up on him, and by the time he finally hung up, he was literally screaming at me and the background ‘chatter’ had gone totally silent.
    Not a solution for most, but if you’re a retired bit-head like myself, it cheaper that most alternative forms of entertainment.

  4. Lorrie shupe says:

    I don’t like these call and already have been scam on this .

  5. Hans Potters says:

    Even in the Netherlands we get these Phone calls with alarming messages. Now they start saying “Do you speak English?” I respond: “No, thank you”. and hang up. Better not knowing English than being stupid.

  6. CHRISTINA LOBO says:

    STOP ROBOCALLS ONCE AND FOR ALL.

  7. Jim Dick says:

    I have been called every day by the same company saying my computer is having problems and they can fix it. I have reported them to the Do Not Call Registry. Everybody do the same with the phone number as harassment.

  8. Nadia Bernstein says:

    Please end robocalls now; they are so infuriating, intrusive, disturbing and depressing. Help, please, end this terrible nuisance (or worse).

  9. not sure what u mean by website most robo comes thru aol. If u advise me what website u mean I can send it along. I really don’t believe there is any way to stop these calls. I complained many times to the agency who takes these complaint but nothing ever happened. When one stops another starts. Good Luck.

  10. Bernard P. says:

    I ask “Who is calling please?” some times it is a real person. They seem to know what time I decide to eat breakfast or dinner.
    There have been clusters telling me i am eligible for a home security system. I live in a high rise in a gated community.

    These days, I just hang up. The “No call list” only works with the outfits who are respectful. I haven’t heard from the Nigerians. In along while; over a month ago I had two calls from the “Indian” team trying to convince me I had computer problems. They are polite but most persistent. I tell them I am hanging up, and do.
    At my advanced age, a little stimulation is fun.

  11. L Oster says:

    For months I have been harassed by phone calls from U S Pharmacy. I have never done business with them … or contacted them directly … yet they have both my home and mobile phone numbers. They call 1-2 times per day … but the calls are from various area codes across the U.S. Have reported the problem to the “Do Not Call” program … and I suspect they do nothing. Have asked a number of the callers to take my name and number off their list … stating I will not do any business with them. They simply hang up. If you Google their name … some folks are getting as many as 30 calls a day. Have contacted a couple Congressional representatives. So far … no action except to refer back to “Do Not Call”. Most of the time I do not answer the call other than to open and end the call. Help!

    • L. Lovejoy says:

      A year ago, when I was at the Doctor’s office, I was asked if I lived alone. This was during that time when they are asking about drugs that you take, etc. I said yes and she kept on going. Five days later I started getting those calls wanting you to sign up for home monitoring…”I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”. I kept explaining that I wasn’t ready for that yet, please don’t call again but the calls didn’t stop. A friend told her brother who is a nurse and he said that those companies offer doctor’s office staff “goodies” for lists of “marks”. I called and left a message for the Dr. office manager, complaining about this practice, but she didn’t call me back. The next time I was in the office the PA told me to stand out in the hall because the Dr. wanted to see who I was. HUH? Probably wanted to see if I would call HIPPAA (sp). I can’t complain about this is the Dr. is my pain management guy. LESSON: Don’t tell the Dr. that you live alone or you will get Robocall cooties.

    • Ginny says:

      My solution to robocalls: I don’t answer calls from numbers I don’t know, if they are outside of my area code. If a relative/friend is calling using a borrowed phone, he/she will leave a voice mail message and I’ll call back. If no VM message is left, they are scammers.

      The FCC offered our tax money to anyone who could come up with technology to stop robocalls. Someone did; the company is called NOMOROBO. Sadly, the FCC did not require the phone companies to offer this to their customers. Sadly, CU still thinks that government is part of the solution. I now know that they are part of the problem.

  12. Bill Josephs says:

    Robocalls are a large percentage of the problem. I have ATT. They allow marketers to use a telephone. If due to call ID, their call is not answered and then returned, it is a disconnected number. The telephone carriers are entirely responsible and don’t care. Our Congress will prove to money influenced to do anything. It is up to is never to answer; but it takes a caller ID on the phone.

  13. Craig Reynolds says:

    In speaking with numerous acquaintances, it seems Metro Detroit was hit really hard by these scammers. For a time, I was getting several calls a week. Another one came just a few days ago. In a couple instances with a little cajoling I was able to trace the calls to a province in Northeastern India. I guess that’s the epicenter for computer scams, just as Nigeria is for the “financial opportunity” ones.

  14. Betty Atwell says:

    The answer machine is helpful as 99% of the robocalls I get never leave a message. Also, incoming numbers appear on my TV screen which is helpful. No more running to answer the phone only to find a scammer on the line.

    I had a call from the “IRS” with a local number shown on my TV screen. I wrote it down along with date/time and took it over to our local police dept. I was surprised to learn they won’t even bother taking the info. as they said these callers can’t be caught & it would be a waste of their time! Not the response I was hoping for! It’s odd since they gave a seminar recently on scamming issues & said it is important to report them to the local police.

  15. Ray says:

    There is an app for cell phones that will allow you block calls and is very simple to use. The site is: “calls blacklist”. I hope that this helps everyone.

  16. Emily says:

    This is important. Tech companies you do business with provide information to these scammers, or maybe people within the company sell the information to scammers.
    I have had scammers know that I had three computers, that I have iolo System Mechanic, which security I have on the machine. I am absolutely certain that they got information, some of them, from iYogi, because I have a computer I have never used, a new laptop, and a scammer mentioned that it was in distress. There’s no way the existence of that computer would be known other than records at iYogi. It isn’t plugged in, it hasn’t done anything at all for two years.
    Scammers even knew how many months I had on my contract with iYogi.
    My point is, they will tell you stuff to make you think they are really connected to your machine somehow. This works with people who are not computer and fraud savvy, or if they get a person who’s suffering a migraine, is mentally impaired in any way.

  17. Rodrian Roadeye says:

    AOL mail was recently hacked. I received an ad from a friend who denies sending it. The ad was for a diet product endorsed by Dr. Oz and Oprah, and they offered a free trial if you gave them your credit card number which would only pay for shipping. Don’t fall for it. The hackers grabbed AOL email friends lists and spammed them all, making it look like your friends from AOL sent it. Now it is in the news that Verizon is buying AOL. HA! Good luck there. If AOL can’t protect bit’s email what will Verizon do? Nothing! Just another monopolistic takeover similar to Comcast wanting Warner Cable. Where are the petitions to stop this deal?

  18. Leslie says:

    We had to finally get rid of our land line altogether as we had about 3-4 robo calls daily. Horrid, at least my cell phone I can put a block on one if it does call. Fortunately I don’t get very many. Now how is a good way to stop them at your place of business?

  19. jeannie and roland duhamel says:

    All of these robocalls should be against the law. It is our constitional right to privicy, and, these are infringing on these rights. Where is our representives to aid us with this dilima.

  20. Bob day says:

    Feigning interest-thereby wasting a sp(c)ambers time-may be a satisfying pastime for some, but the fact is the despite its entertainment value, it wastes your time, too, and there are thousands more of them than you. The only way it could be effective is if EVERYONE who received a spam call did it, and maybe not even then.
    The sad fact is that the phone companies aren’t going to do anything unless mandated to end servicing spammers (which they would fight to the very end and win because they own Congress and, big surprise, they make oodles of $ from spammers and it would also cost the a teeny-weenie bit of their bottom line to invent, install and maintain a robocall defeating service.

  21. Terry says:

    The scam calls: three ways to stop them, demand to speak with their supervisor, they usually can’t respond and hang up.

    Hold the * or the # button on your phone, they think they got a fax machine and hang up.

    Just plain hang up if you hear it is from Microsoft, they do not call their customers in this fashion.

  22. NINI BLOCH says:

    Thanks for the info on how to report robot-call fraud. I get the “infected computer” call multiple times a week. Despite my saying I’m not interested in the scam, they keep on calling the number. I don’t see how repeatedly calling an uncooperative prospect fits into a profitable scamming business model. Now I simply hang up. The number of such calls has risen dramatically since I turned 70—I feel I have a target on my back.

  23. Richard Herndon says:

    CR recommended the service “NoMoRobo” which works with VOIP phone services (voice over Internet protocol). It’s very effective and free! We now typically hear one ring from a robocaller, and then the phone stops ringing as it is intercepted by NoMoRobo. If robocalls do come through, you can report them and the service investigates the number to see if it is indeed a robocaller. I would highly recommend this service.

  24. dennis says:

    Sometimes, if I feel in the mood, I chat with them wasting their time. I talked with one guy who was not at all happy with his “boiler room” work in India. He wanted to know how to emigrate from India to another country. I was able to give him some advice for which he was grateful and he even asked if it would be alright if he called again. (I did not hear from him again)

    I once talked with an African-American from a boiler room, we talked 20 minutes ( It was my intention to waste his time but we had a nice chat). at the end he said ” We are supposed to cut you off but as you are such a nice guy I did not do that”.

    As to the computer guys from India, their software works only on Microsoft computers.

  25. David Kunsemiller says:

    RoboCalls are the bane of our existence. Too bad there is no way to reverse the calls so when the robot calls our phones detect it and send the call back to their call center. I would install that app in a heart beat.

  26. Donald Thompson says:

    Please stop all Robo calls they are a nuasance.

  27. John Wade says:

    I get at least 2-3 scam calls per day, and a couple more that hang up if its the answering machine. I can’t say its a sleazy conspiracy by the phone companies to up their call volume, but I have to wonder. Stop the robocalls. Most, if not all are scams.

  28. LUCY D.V. says:

    i get tons of calls that are annoying especially if I am driving. This is a distraction I don’t need. I am signed up with the do not call list but that does not work.

  29. Mary Newell says:

    A couple of years ago I contacted a recommended company for help with a computer issue. I called Omnitech and my computer problem was addressed in part for a fee. Several months later I got a call from an Asian with a very ordinary American name along with an Omnitech ID number. It seems they did not download software I had paid for and the government was requiring Omnitech to refund. After much rigmarole I told him to forget it. However, it turned out that I had been given a fake Western Union number (I was supposed to set up a WU account to process the refund. I also looked into the number this person gave me for a call back and it is listed as a scam number. Then for the next 2 years I have gotten dozens of phone calls from Omnitech “employees”, all Asian, all very Americanized names, with each call becoming more harassing and threatening. Eventually the “refund” was no longer the discussion but the “we’re getting messages from your computer” scam developed. I notified Omnitech twice of the problem but never got an acknowledgement nor denial of such employee names. I got a call blocker device which works quite well but it cannot stop spoof numbers nor calls without numbers appearing on my ID screen. I recently changed my phone number because of the number of calls I was getting every day.
    Another significant issue I have follows: Why does Microsoft allow advertising on its website that makes these scammers look like they are actually part of Microsoft? I almost got caught in that scam because I have a contract with Microsoft and when I was told that the caller was receiving all these messages from my computer that there was a problem I understood it to be a Microsoft employee. When we got to the part of the discussion where the person would connect with my computer, I said I would do that once I verified this was a Microsoft connection. Much discussion followed including the point that the callback number was actually a computer and I would not be able to reach the live person. The caller finally hung up with a “..**** to you, lady” . This was a company out of Canada. Since then, I’ve had a few occasions to connect with Microsoft online and am amazed at the numbers of advertisers/scammers that appear to be attached to Microsoft on the website but many list numbers when researched are out and out scammers. Shame on Microsoft and any other company that allows these advertisers to contaminate their websites. This should be an easy fix in my opinion.

  30. Richard & Mary Rutledge says:

    These calls must stop. I know they are scams but a lot of seniors our age don’t and will fall for it every time. This is harassment and needs to stop.

  31. Gina Fenton says:

    I just purchased a new phone with the caller BLOCK feature because I’m at my wits end. The volume of calls we receive at home has become both a violation of privacy and huge disturbance of my families peace. I feel victimized.

  32. Dr. Barbara Spitzer` says:

    About 30 a day on my home and business phone. Getting worse and worse!!!

  33. Kevin Kriescher says:

    Forgive me father, for I have begun to enjoy such calls with insidious intents of my own. I turn the tables: “Is there?” he says. “Sure, I say, can you wait a second while I get him?” I put the (live) phone down and forget about it. 2) Say you are soooo grateful for his call but have to run, then ask for his call back number. His English suddenly turns to baby talk. Funny, I did not know Microsoft says “fuck you” repeatedly to their customers.

  34. diana gordon says:

    i get so tired of calls any time, any day from ”unknown ” caller

  35. Elayne says:

    Its a scam Seniors beware

  36. Boris J Dirnbach says:

    My iPhone has the feature where you can block individual numbers from calling and texting you. (I assume android phones can do the same.) After the call, go to “Recents” click on the “i” button (for information). Scroll way down to the bottom and click on “delete this caller” and that’s it. BTW, this can be undone if you mistakenly block a number. Go to the Settings window and scrolling down to the “Phone” icon and find the blocked numbers. If you “edit” these you can unblock them.

  37. Jo Fanning says:

    These calls must stop. I know they are scams but a lot of seniors our age don’t and will fall for it every time. This is harassment and needs to stop.

  38. Facebook is calling my husband all day with a recorded message telling him he’s got new friends at Facebook or something stupid like that and he has NEVER asked them to notify him about anything at Facebook! He could care less who is joining Facebook either.

    The hubris of Facebook to think everyone can’t live without knowing who’s on that dumb site. I hate FB!

    He also never gave Facebook his cell #.

    I asked Virgin Mobile to do something about these calls and they said they couldn’t stop them.

    What?

    Cell phones are great but the companies don’t want to get involved in helping you to stop these calls.

  39. BYRON ANGELL says:

    EVERY TIME I ANSWER A ROBOCALL I AM CHARGED A MINUTE ON MY PHONE..THIS COST SHOULD BE REVERSED, THEN MAYBE THEY WOULD STOP.

    • John says:

      Don’t get spam calls. Use ITPVoIP for home, very configurable by IT types & others that are willing to try. Use my contact list as a white list for my phone, its all I need and I don’t want calls from anyone / everyone. Just not an issue.

  40. BYRON ANGELL says:

    TRY STOPPING ROBOCALLS.

  41. marie cameau says:

    the probem is from all the branches .of the government.they open the gate,any website have a tracking cookies to follow u.facebook,they block ur account,asking u,to up load,one of this birth certificate,bank acc,driver license,passport.,utilities bill,rent or mortgage,school id,credit cards,been selling people informations for pennies,no role,moral or ethics,scanners and crooks?

  42. Michael O'Kelly says:

    PLEASE STOP ROBO CALLING !

  43. Diane Green says:

    Also important is reading the terms of acceptance for ANY service or reward program because many of them include a clause that allows them or their associated companies to send you not only mail, email and regular telephone calls but robocalls as well! If you blindly accept their terms, you are opening yourself to their robocalls even if you are on a no-call list.

  44. Carl Beekman PhD says:

    End robo calling.

    • Susan Henry says:

      It isn’t just calls, I got a popup on my computer twice in the last week that was an obvious scan. The popup locks up my online screen and does not allow me to exit. It says that my computer is infected with a virus and I need to call their 800 number for instructions on how to remove the Virus. Both times I did not call, I hit to ctrl/alt/del and bring up task manager did an end task there to get out of the scammer’s screen. I should have taken a screenshot first to and used it to report the sight. I will when it happens again. I then ran a legitimate virus scan on my computer to make sure blocking me from stopping their screen was all they did. I am sure, if I called their number, they would have instructed me to download their software, and then I would have a Trojan or virus. Someone less sophisticated might think their computer screen was locked because they had a virus, and this screen uses the look and colors of one of the leading brands of ant-virus software. ( just not the one I use, which was a big red flag). As the criminals get more and more sophisticated, how are we supposed to defend ourselves. Not too long ago my antivirus software stopped me from loading a nasty virus when I simply mistyped the URL of a legitimate site and the resulting screen instructed me to load software to run their site. I was a computer programmer for over 30 years, I am not new to technology. If they can fool me, they can fool anyone. I have heard “Gramma, Gramma the computer says it has a virus!” several times from my grandson. I always tell them not to touch a thing until I check it out. Most times it was my virus software saying it blocked something, but once in a while its a scam pop-up.

  45. David Mandel says:

    Yet another scam relates to an offer to help you get solar electric for you home. If the scammers are not trying to get your personal info, they are trying to sell you information on US Gov’t. incentives which is either free or taken care of by the solar equipment installer. All the calls I have received whether for computer tech support, solar electric service or medical insurance are South Asian (I lived in S. Asian for almost 10 years so I am a bit of an expert) though they always insist that they are calling from CA or NY, etc. They will hang up the minute you probe a bit in order to get info to use in filling a complaint. Several have called me “a bloody f***er, a very S. Asian expression, before hanging up.

  46. Brian says:

    There is another phone call scam similar to this one. Sometimes my mother and I get calls from someone claiming to work for the “Department of Legal Affairs”. They claim that there was a mistake with our taxes and that they will have us arrested. However we hang up and nothing happens.

    • Christina Tetreault says:

      Thanks for the warning Brian! Your mom’s experience shows why it’s important we have an option to stop robocalls before they reach us.

  47. Earl Roney says:

    Please end robocalls. It is at the point of being ridiculous now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *