Protect yourself from tech support scams

Applies to: SecurityWindows 10Windows 7 More

Tech support scams are an industry-wide issue where scammers use scare tactics to trick you into paying for unnecessary technical support services that supposedly fix contrived device, platform, or software problems.

How tech support scams work


Scammers may call you directly on your phone and pretend to be representatives of a software company. They might even spoof the caller ID so that it displays a legitimate support phone number from a trusted company. They can then ask you to install applications that give them remote access to your device. Using remote access, these experienced scammers can misrepresent normal system output as signs of problems.

Scammers might also initiate contact by displaying fake error messages on websites you visit, displaying support numbers and enticing you to call. They can also put your browser on full screen and display pop-up messages that won't go away, essentially locking your browser. These fake error messages aim to trick you into calling an indicated technical support hotline. Note that Microsoft error and warning messages never include phone numbers.

When you engage with the scammers, they can offer fake solutions for your “problems” and ask for payment in the form of a one-time fee or subscription to a purported support service.

How to protect against tech support scams


First, be sure to follow these tips on how to keep your computer secure.

It is also important to keep the following in mind:

  • Microsoft does not send unsolicited email messages or make unsolicited phone calls to request personal or financial information, or to provide technical support to fix your computer.
  • Any communication with Microsoft has to be initiated by you.
  • If a notification appears with a phone number, don’t call the number. Error and warning messages from Microsoft never include a phone number.
  • Download software only from official Microsoft partner websites or the Microsoft Store. Be wary of downloading software from third-party sites, as some of them might have been modified without the author’s knowledge to bundle support scam malware and other threats.
  • Use Microsoft Edge when browsing the internet. It blocks known support scam sites using Windows Defender SmartScreen (which is also used by Internet Explorer). Furthermore, Microsoft Edge can stop pop-up dialog loops used by these sites.
  • Turn on Windows Security real-time antivirus protection in Windows 10. It detects and removes known support scam malware.

Popular scam types


There are several forms of tech support scams, all of which aim to trick you into believing that your computer needs to be fixed and you need to pay for technical support services.

What to do if a tech support scammer already has your info


  • Uninstall applications that scammers have asked you to install. If you have given scammers access, consider resetting your device. To learn how, see Recovery options in Windows 10.
  • Run a full scan with Windows Security to remove any malware. Apply all security updates as soon as they are available.
  • Change your passwords.
  • Call your credit card provider to reverse the charges if you have already paid.
  • Monitor logon activity. Use Windows Defender Firewall to block traffic to services that you would not normally access.

Reporting tech support scams


Help Microsoft stop scammers, whether they claim to be from Microsoft or from another tech company, by reporting tech support scams:

www.microsoft.com/reportascam

To report an unsafe website directly to Microsoft, fill out a Report an unsafe site form. You can also report unsafe websites in Microsoft Edge by selecting Settings and More > Help and Feedback > Send feedback  when you encounter something suspicious.