Tech support scams claiming to be Microsoft are becoming increasingly common as their is a profit to be made through illegitimate services. A person will receive a cold call that claims to be from Microsoft. The agent claims to be receiving notifications that there is a problem with the person’s computer – perhaps malware or some other problem. To “demonstrate the problem”, the technician will get remote access through various means and then install malware or break key files or registry keys to try to convince the innocent victim that they should pay for Microsoft’s services to solve the problem.
Microsoft will never call individuals directly offering support like this.
In response, Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit filed a civil lawsuit in federal court in the Central District of California against Omnitech Support and a “for unfair and deceptive business practices and trademark infringement.” The suit was followed December 18th, 2014.
Omnitech Support, a division of Customer Focus Services, is charged with misusing Microsoft’s name, registered trademarks and service marks in connection with the provision of phony tech support services. Omnitech utilized the Microsoft trademarks and service marks to enhance their credentials and confuse customers about their affiliation with Microsoft. Omnitech then used their enhanced credibility to convince consumers that their personal computers are infected with malware in order to sell them unnecessary security services to clean their computers.
In some instances, Omnitech has actually created security issues for victims by gaining access to their computers and installing malicious software, including a password grabber that could provide access to personal and financial information.
Microsoft talks about the scams and a few ways to avoid becoming a victim in the video below:
Microsoft does not do cold calling but does offer support through microsoft.com/answerdesk. Additionally, Microsoft offers these tips if you are called claiming to be from Microsoft tech support:
- Do not purchase any software or services.
- Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the “service.” If there is, hang up.
- Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer.
- Take the caller’s information down and immediately report it to your local authorities.
- Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support.
Microsoft also has a Report a Scam page on their support site. Additionally, victims might report to the FTC, State’s Attorney General, and the Better Business Bureau.