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Avoiding Tech Support Scams

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Posted: September 28, 2019 in: Leo's blog
This is a minor update to an article originally posted November 5, 2016
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113 comments on “Avoiding Tech Support Scams”

  1. Two comments: First my husband fell for the Microsoft call but luckily he handed the phone to me as I am more computer savvy. I decided to have some fun with the caller. I played stupid and kept him thinking he had a sucker on the line for 1/2 hour until he asked me to install remote access software. I told him I wasn’t going to do that; who do you think was panicking now?! Lol.
    Second, a friend of mine called me in a panic saying she got a popup telling her she had a virus and it provided a number to call. It also had annoying non-stop audio. She tried to close the popup (which occupied the entire screen) to no avail. In this case there was no way to even close the browser, so I hit Ctrl Alt Del to access the Task Manager but even that couldn’t close the program and it regenerated multiple times. I did Ctrl Alt Del again but this time I logged off. When I logged in again, the popup had disappeared. A scan revealed no malware so all was good again.
    Very important video, Leo. Thanks for posting.

  2. I’ve had them call several times, a dozen or more. I almost fell for it the first time until they wanted to take control of my computer. Then I told them that this is a scam. You should have heard them try to back out of that one.

  3. I get these calls often, Even if I were not a computer professional myself, it is pretty obvious it is a scam. Every so often, I like to play with along with the for a while. I act surprised and concerned and sometimes I give them my ip as 45.89.123.’screw you’. Somesrime I’ll get really friendly and ask where they are calling from and then they’ll mention the state, A few minute later and playing along a little more, I ask them the capital of the state. DId you know the capital of Wyoming is pronounced SheAnn and that the capital of California is Los Angeles? Othertimes, if I don’t have a lot of time to play with them, I may simply ask, if they’re parent are proud of what they do.

      • It does seem surprising that it works. They must know a lot about human nature. I had one call me yesterday and when I said “I think you’re a scammer” and hung up – they called right back and started yelling at me. I mean, the guy just started right in yelling at me. I picked up the second time just to see what would happen and that surprised me. I suppose there is the chance that I really ticked the guy off… but maybe it’s that aggression that actually works.

        • This was a conversation I had recently.
          Caller: “I’m calling from Microsoft Technical Department”
          Me: “No you’re not, it’s a scam”
          Caller: “Well f*** off then!”.
          I was charmed!!

        • I have had them yell at me, too.

          I told the guy that he was lying; that he was not with Microsoft, and that there was nothing wrong with my computer, and shame on him for trying to rip people off.

          I hung up on him once he began yelling…………….

          The “IRS is suing you!” ones I’ve had have all been phone calls. Speaking of someone who NEVER calls — that would be the IRS…………………………..

          So many predators out there. Sheesh! Thank you for helping people learn how to hang up on jerks.

    • I’ve heard this same explanation for some of the obvious spam we all get as well. It only has to work a small percentage of the time for it to be of value to the spammer/scammer.

  4. The scams I see give a number to call as if that’s Microsoft (it’s not) cannot be closed or deleted in any way but in my case the start button is still available for a restart which will clear the alert scam.
    I also run Spyhunter to make sure nothing lasting has occurred.

  5. There is a very similar scam where they claim to be from the IRS. (The IRS uses mail not the phone.) I’ve been called by these people six or eight times.

  6. Yes I went through this with REImage fixit software. I needed a new key code so I called them, but I was redirected to a CSR (customer support representative). I let him in my computer, He was showing me a lot of tasks that were stopped and tried to say that was problems, but I had just reloaded Windows 10 and I could smell a scam. I powered down the PC and hung up on him. Then I ran all my malware sniffing utilities to get all the junk out.

  7. I usually just say, no, I won’t do that (turn my computer over to them) and hang up, but occasionally I have acted concerned and inquired which computer of the several I have, is the problem? That usually throws them off – and I hang up anyway.

      • Great, Tom. I don’t have a TV so always astonish (legit) callers from, say, Spectrum, wanting to sell me some super TV ‘bundle’ with my phone (– and I don’t even have a landline)!

  8. Hi Leo, even here in South Africa we are plagued by these “Microsoft type scammers”. One can hear they are either Nigerians or Indians by the disguised accent which they cannot hide. They are onto people every single day. Some get caught with their rubbish but the name of the game is to keep them on the line and when YOU are tired then tell them that you either have Apple Software, Linus or just swear at them. The line goes dead very quickly. I get about 2 of these calls a week and have fun playing the game of deception. A lot of friends do the same as myself for laughs……

  9. I asked the scammer if he had a computer at home. He said yes he did. I said would he make changes to his computer at home if someone called him on the phone and said there was a problem. He didn’t know what to say.

  10. Hello Leo, Driver updates fall into this category. Only safe way to get a driver update
    is to go to the manufacturer’s website.

    Security updates can also be a source of scams.

  11. Great post! A lot of my senior customers have been attacked by this “Tech Support Scam.” It seems the scammers somehow know how to target seniors. They must think that the elderly are easier to fool.
    A new twist that has occurred recently is the addition of an Administrator password in the bios settings. If the scammers are allowed access to a computer, that is now the first thing they do. That way, even if you later get suspicious, hang up and turn off the computer, you can’t get back into the system. Sometimes the new password can be cracked and the problem resolved, however later attacks seem much more devious, as the system must be reset and a new installation of the operating system is required. All programs and data are therefore lost.
    Thank, Leo, for taking time to spell this out for everyone who takes the time to read it. I plan to send a link to all my contacts. Maybe some of them will actually read it and learn.

    • What sure upsets them, especially when you mention to them that you spoke to their brother the week before. They hate when you thank them for having wasted 45 mins of time from scamming another person that would had believe their crap, and my number one favourite Thank them for the entertainment they supplied as I recorded the scam itself. That hit’s harder, and I get the best laugh of all and for the time I play it to other people.

  12. Was once called by a scammer when I was far away from my computer. Played along, simulated a VERY slowly working computer, in order to waste as much of the scammer’s time as possible. Wouldn’t call it wasting my own time, as I enjoyed the opportunity to counterattack 🙂
    In the end, there was more than one person at the scammer’s end, they were obviously believing that they had found a really fat victim.
    It finally dawned on the scammers that they were the ones being held for a laugh, that caused an angry reaction…

    The call was from a UK cellphone number.

  13. Great information Leo, but there are a few things you might want to include.
    I own my own computer repair/support company, so I get a lot of calls related to these issues. First, it has become increasingly common to use Syskey to lock the user out of their computer after a scammer gets access and the person refuses to pay. As many users may not know (I didn’t, the first time I saw it) is that it is possible to lock a user out of their own computer very effectively using this technique. No malware or ransomware is required. The user reboots the computer (or the scammer does) and you see a a password prompt that is not a Windows or a BIOS prompt. Whether it can be fixed or not depends on how sophisticated the scammer was when they did it, but the process is fairly involved. Often, the password is just 123456, by the way.
    Second, some of those scammers now are US-based. I was fixing someone’s computer with a particularly aggressive tech support pop-up, with audio, that would not close through conventional means and would not let you use the computer. It had a US number, so I called. And, sure enough, I was speaking with someone with a very definite American English accent. After talking with the guy for awhile (and unlike the Indians, they will not claim you have errors, but are very, very careful to say “you MAY have some problems with your computer, would you like us to give you some assistance?”) I got the impression the way this scam works is several actual tech support companies, with very unethical practices, band together and hire a malware advertiser. When someone responds to the pop-up, it gets routed to one of the participants at random. They are careful to say you “may” have a problem, unlike the aggressive Indians, who always insist you do. My point here is not all tech support scams are foreign-based, and a few are actually from companies with a name and location. This one was in Florida.
    Third, sometimes the Indian scammers know a great deal about you, but don’t be fooled. I had just fixed a customer’s HP laptop that had a defective hard drive, but was still under warranty, so I returned it for them and took care of the problem. About a week later, I started getting calls, as often as twice per day, from Indian tech scammers who correctly knew my name, address, that I have an HP, and the serial number of said HP, and, of course, they always claim to be from HP and leave a support number that is in fact that of HP. The timing and specificity of this particular scam leads me to wonder if someone at HP is not selling information, or there is some other security leak that needs to be addressed. Actually, I don’t even own an HP, the one they are referencing was the one I fixed for someone else, but it was my name on the return form and I paid shipping. The point, however, is advising someone to be wary of a scam because the scammers don’t really know a lot about you isn’t really sufficient, because often times they know quite a bit of detailed information about you, but they are scammers nonetheless.
    Fourth, and you alluded to this one somewhat, is people really need to learn the difference between a search and an address. I see a lot of people that will use chrome, but still type “google” in a search box to get to The problem with this is even typing something as specific in a search engine as “Dell”, for example, will lead you to a first response that is NOT in fact, but some scam site advertising “Dell support”. Most people don’t read that carefully, click it, and the problems begin.
    Lastly, I know a lot of your subscribers are older people, and older people often feel inadequate around computers, but a recent study shows Millennials are actually more likely to fall for a tech support scam than seniors. The last one I fixed was from a 14-year-old girl.
    I hope this helps, and than you as always for the informative work that you do.

  14. There is always the possibility that scammers just call at the right time when you are expecting help. I was waiting for a new modem from my provider when I got a call saying they had identified a problem with my internet so I thought it was genuine at first. When I mentioned that my modem hadn’t arrived and they sounded as if they didn’t know what I was talking about I realised that they were not from my internet provider. Then they asked me to do some things to my laptop and were taken aback when I said I was using a MacBook. I then rang off and sent the phone number of the caller to my provider who confirmed it was a scam. Basically, no one is going to phone you to put things right for you.

  15. When I get these birds on the line, I talk slow and soft, and play dumb as a post. I ask them to speak up, as I am a bit hard of hearing. After they’ve adjusted their audio to accommodate the near deaf pigeon they have on the line, I’ll play along when they give me the “next step” by reaching for an old police whistle I keep nearby and give them the mightiest blast I can muster. If done properly, I’ll hear feedback from their headset, then hang up.

  16. One called me and I said ” I’m glad you called, I am from the Internal Revenue Service and your company owes $16,380,000 for back taxes plus interest and penalty.” Then I heard a disconnect.

  17. I got a call from an “Authorized Symantec Service Center” which I assumed was scam. I told them I was not using that software. They replied that their records indicated that I had bought two licenses nearly two years earlier. That was exactly right, so I went along…until they started giving me instructions that would result in turning over control. I stopped and hung up, but shortly received additional contact by phone and computer. Just to be sure, I performed a hard reset and used a recent image to restore. That was the end. Question: How did they know the exact Symantec product, the number of licenses and the date of purchase?

      • Yes, the guy addressed me by “Mr. S*****”, so they had my last name anyway. Also, on a side note, the guy called back to tell me he was going to post my porn. I laughed, “No porn.” Then the guy made an unseemly remark about my mother, and was cursing as I hung up. The caller had a Chinese accent, but with that isn’t necessarily a tip-off.

  18. I had one of these, and so I hung up on them.

    They guy called back a couple of moments later and said “Why did you hang up on me, are you mad?”

    I told him he was a thief and hung up again.

    He never called back.

  19. I wish I had listened to your solution. I got scammed with a Microsoft came up on my computer & wouldn’t let me do anything. I wish I had known to just turn my computer off but instead I called the number then realized it was a scam. so I unplugged my computer. Had my son-in-law take it clear down & rebuild it.

  20. One thing I have found which is really disappointing is that the police are not interested in scammers they don’t give a toss. I had a scammer telling me my PC was infected. To cut a long story short I managed to get the phone number from him. It was from another state. So I rang the police department and told them the story and gave the officer the information, to which he replied ” that phone number is outside this state you need to speak to the police in that state. So I hung up and rang the police in the offending phone numbers state after talking to the officer for a few minutes he asked for my phone number I gave it to him and he replied ” your not in this state you need to contact your local police department” I explained to him that they had told me to ring him all he had to say was well they are wrong. By this stage, I got a bit upset and told him that they were worse than the scammers and the only thing they were really interested in was revenue raising by collecting traffic offenses be and hung up. So it would seem we are on our own in the fight against scammers as the authorities couldn’t give a dam even when information is given to them.

    • I don’t think you’d get that reaction in the US. That kind of thing is a Federal crime handled by the FBI since it’s an interstate crime. You might try reporting it to the national police in your country.

  21. Excellent Leo! As a 73 year old computer nerd I really value your information and appreciate your dedication to help keep me from doing something stupid.

    Love this info.

    Thanks again. JimE

  22. I got several calls like this in the past months. I know a bit about these computers and these dung heaps so I play along and, seeing as it’s their dime, keep them going as long as possible. We old coots need some type of entertainment and I get a huge kick out of screwing with idiots. My computer is running Sanboxie from the get-go so I play stupid and do what they tell me when it comes to letting them in my system. But I play like I’m dumb, hard of hearing and blind as a post and make them repeat everything five or six times if not more. I know there’s a lot of people using computers that aren’t tech savvy so I figure if I keep, at least one of these dastards on-line for an hour or three, someone else isn’t getting pestered. Just doing my part for a nicer world.

  23. Leo, Great article. I only wish I had this information before falling victim to such a scam. I am 85 years old and it cost me just over $500.00 to resolve the problem. One morning about four months ago when starting my computer virtually everything was “locked” and I wasn’t able to do a thing, even shut down. There was a telephone number I was told to call to “fix” the problem. I called. The rest is history, virtually the same as you describe in your message, which I have forwarded to a couple of friends. Thank you, and be well. Ed

  24. I got scammed for the tune of $299.00. After I realized it I immediately called my credit card company & told them to stop payment for this scammer & to cancel my card & issue me a new card which they did. This was all fine & I thought I had done the right thing & every thing was going my way to get my $299 back. NOT so! I was told by my card company to send them a report describing the scam & that the scammers would also be sending a report of why they did what they did for the $299. I was told that if the scammers did not respond within 45 days they would credit my account the $299 & all would be good, BUT, if they got any kind of reply from the scammers they would immediately let go from my account the $299 back to the scammers without giving me time to respond to the scammer report. I contacted the card company & complained that they should have given me time to respond before giving the scammers my $299 again. they said that was their protocol in this type of transaction, which I told them it was unfair to me!! Needless to say, that was the end of
    me getting my $299 back. We contacted the scammers & they said money had been deposited in the bank & was unavailable for this kind of payout transaction! What should/could I have done differently??

    • There are lots of cases where a legitimate company is misunderstood by a customer online. For instance, a customer agrees to a charge, and then forgets about it. Later, they blame the legitimate business… when it is actually the customer’s fault for not paying attention to what they bought, and to any followup emails sent. So these legitimate businesses need to also have a recourse. Unfortunately, your case sounds suspiciously like this to me simply because of the amount of $299. That sounds like something you actually purchased. If that is the case it is wrong to label the business as a scammer. If they are a legitimate business they will likely have a money back guarantee and you should always pursue that avenue first. The fact that you were able to contact them also leads to this conclusion, and you may have better luck if you clear up your coversation with them. If they are actually a scammer, then they won’t respond to the credit card company – so this is probably a good policy.

  25. Thank you for this information. I will pass this on to my friends. Knew about the first one and the third, on the 2nd scam, it has happened and I closed out, now I know to close the browser.

    Thank you again.

    • Depends on how they are accessing your PC. So your question will need to be more specific. It might be nothing more than Window’s constant notifications showing up on your screen. It might be that people are finding you through Skype. But if it is actual hackers popping up on your computer then you have a serious malware infection and I’ll point you to this article:

    • If they show up in your web browser, than it’s likely just pop-up advertising from a site you are visiting. If it pops up when you are doing other work, than it’s likely malware as Connie mentioned.

  26. Great advice, Leo – Thanks very much!
    In the case of phone calls, I like to prolong the call as much as possible, by feigning hearing loss, bad connection, confusion, etc. Asking a lot of questions is a useful tool.
    If I can keep the scammer on the phone for 10 or 15 minutes, it cuts into his profitability, which can be an effective way of discouraging the whole scamming operation. I’ll go as far as pretending to turn on my computer and entering the access code, then start asking questions about why it isn’t working.

    As you suggested, I keep my credit card in my pocket, and DO NOT allow ANYONE I don’t know to remotely access my computer.

    • I’m with you on that one. In fact, I have a virtual machine ready to go for this very reason. It’s so much fun messing with them. 🙂

  27. Hi Leo
    Just finished listening to your latest message. I was caught this way a few years ago. I’d had trouble with my connection and was waiting for a call from my Telco. When I received the call I just assumed it was the real deal. He had me right up to the end when strange things showed on my screen so I rang the bank and blocked my account. He rang back soon to say that the bank wouldn’t allow the payment. I has happy to tell him that I’d woken up in time. Although inconvenient, it was a good lesson. I’ve been receiving similar calls recently. I finally let it go through, listened to the spiel then said “No chance” when she told me to open my PC (which was already open). No more calls to date. Your messages are great.

  28. Regarding pop-ups with numbers to call, often with a voice saying “Warning…” etc.
    The recommendations here say; close the browser.
    Often, clicking the “x” in this case doesn’t close the browser.
    The answer to this is, on your keyboard, simultaneously press “ctrl”, “alt” and “del” (that’s “control”, “alt” and “delete”).
    This brings up a screen which gives you a number of options, including “Start Task Manager”, click that.
    A box appears showing the programmes running in desktop. In that, click the name of the browser you are using, and then click “End Task”.
    The offending web-page will then close.

  29. Thanks Leo, Shared on Face Book. I have had issues with these scammers. I first got involved by a search with one claiming to be Microsoft support and paid them. After realizing they were fake, I demanded and got a refund. They called me back over a year later stating I had paid and offering to fix my computer. I asked them not to call again. The last scam call was to my fax number telling me that my Windows key had expired wanting me to renew. I told him that windows keys don’t expire and asked him to remove me from the list. I try to block the number of every unwanted caller. I don’t want to be bothered.

  30. When I get this type of call I have learned to say “what computer? I don’t own a computer.” With this they usually just hang up. And don’t call back again.

  31. Hi Leo. I just got your email and I think I’ve been taken for $449 and used my CC
    I will call them to let them know.
    The remote user put a security protection on my computer called 360 Total Security.
    I’ve noticed that it has a way to run a scan and then tells me what needs to be fixed.
    Sounds good to me but I’ve noticed that this Little scanner stops after it did the scan and tells me I need 4 items then asks me to download 4 programs or items if I want to fix it.
    I clicked to start it and noticed after a few hours that it was still on the first download item.
    IT didn’t ever finish the program by the time I shut it all down.
    Is this 360 a reliable company?
    I also noticed that the top right hand corner has a log in box to Face Book. Why would 360 Total Security be associated with FB?

    Here is a email they just sent to me today. (Below)

    I have not called them back but I don’t know if they actually fixed anything or just went to my computer and cleaned up what was already there that was posing a risk to the Internet or FB.
    Is that a possibility that FB would deny me access because I had too many things running on my computer when I went to another site from my FB page?

    Just so you know. I did report them to my CC company and it is now in dispute….Thank you for your expertise and willingness to share your knowledge. I will share this with others.

    {email address removed}

    4:00 PM (3 hours ago)

    to me

    Dear Mr.Morse,

    This E-mail is in regards to your order # 19626 for the amount of $449.00 USD . Our Customer Service Department tried contacting you to confirm the issue resolution however you were

    Unavailable. We would appreciate if you can acknowledge this E-Mail by confirming if the issues were resolved for you by our technicians or if you need further assistance.

    You can always contact us at {phone numbers & email address removed}

    We value your time and would appreciate your reply.



    Customer Service Department

    US Software Solutions INC (Eminentech Solution)

    Note : US Software Solutions INC do not call customers asking for Financial or Personal details, neither will ask for the remote access of your computer until you have requested a call back at a specific time

    • As far as I’ve heard, 360 Total Security is a legitimate program, but they are not associated with Emintech. I have no information as to the legitimacy of Emintech. The best thing you can do in that case is google Emintech and see what others have to say about them.

      There’s definitely no way Facebook would deny you access because of too many programs running at the same time.

      • I need help to solve this problem.
        Is this a download that is essential for my computer?
        KB982316 2010 08 10 ………………… first of 4 that 360 states needs to be updated but is not completing the install.
        360 scan says they are vulnerabilities from Microsoft, Windows and RDP.
        Thank you

      • They called me after I sent them an email in response to their wanting customer satisfaction and offered to fix the problem so I let them do it again; since they are trying to keep me as a happy customer. After saying I was OK with their attempt to fix the Microsoft downloads I find that the 360 security is still doing the same thing and wants to download the same updates but doesn’t complete its cycle. Why is it that it doesn’t complete them and why did the tech guy say that my computer is running well with all the proper Windows updates installed. He told me that he did all the needed updates today on the phone while doing remote access, but the security of 360 says it needs to be downloaded after he worked on my computer today. Strange inconsistency’s here don’t you agree? I am not so sure about 360’s reliability. It scans and says I need 4 updates, but doesn’t complete any of them. It is still on now while I write to you, saying that it is downloading but it isn’t??? Crazy to me.

  32. I just got an email saying that my Yahoo account would be terminated.
    ow ly followed by some obscure number. Stupid as I am I clicked on it and was invited to log in into my account. Well, I don’t know my password, so I could not. And then I woke up and looked at the sender (some hotmail account) and the link.
    This just for your information.

  33. Excellent information Leo, and very simple to understand. The video will certainly help a lot of computer users to hold on to their cash and equipment. Thank you and your team for making the net safer for all. Over the years I have been exposed to these type of scams along with the infamous 419 scams. Gratefully I was already informed by someone like you, otherwise I may have fallen victim. I will share this and I have also shared other help with the people around me that you have given everyone who have the luck to meet you on the internet. You are the best.

  34. Back when the phone calls began – reports were all from the East coast area – I got one here in WA. The person had a heavy accent (clue #1) and said he could see from the Internet that there was a problem with my computer (clue #2). I merely told him that there was no way to tell from the Internet that I had a computer problem and hung up. That was the only call like that I’ve ever gotten.
    I used to get a lot of pop-ups saying my computer had a problem or some sort of malware. At the time, those just had a button to click to get help in “fixing” whatever was wrong. I never clicked the button. I just shut down the browser and ran three malware checkers to make sure nothing was downloaded. I still get a few of these from one site I occasionally visit (known to be unsafe, but still useful). Since they are known to me, I just close the window and go about my business – then do a malware check when I get what I wanted from the site. Since I don’t really look at them, I don’t know if they have phone numbers or not. I simply don’t trust pop-ups (except the one asking me to sign up for AskLeo newsletters).
    Just to be sure, I keep my backup current (mostly in case of bad Windows updates). If I have any doubt, I simply restore the latest image – only had to do that once.

  35. Dear Leo,

    I just viewed your anti-scamming video (link forwarded by a friend) and thought I would leave a comment.

    While I knew the telephone calls from “Microsoft Technical Support” or “Windows Support” (or “Whatever Support”) were nonsense, the very first call showed me something I was unaware of. The event log. It seems that the comings and goings of the machine get logged with some abend situations red flagged. And if my computer was indeed generating error messages, how would this particular group of people receive them? Whenever I asked for the exact wording of my computer’s supposed error messages, the caller usually hung up.

    One time I asked the caller where they obtained my telephone number and was able to get them to tell me the telephone company name which was what you would see if you researched the number via the Internet but was actually 1 or 2 mergers in the past.

    I have friends and relatives who are clueless and so easy prey for scammers. I try to help if asked.

    My background is technical. I was an IBM mainframe programmer for 30 years and in 1988, after a job change, was introduced to the world of PCs. The dumb terminal on my new desk was an IBM PS/2 with a 3270 emulator. By the time I retired, XP was the latest fashion.

    Thanks for being out there and trying to help the clueless among us although even the most tech savvy can get fooled.

    • The event log is a mess. I have a few articles on it. Scammers leverage that mess to scare people. (On a properly operating system it’s STILL full of errors.)

  36. Completely off topic, but … Leo, it seems that you changed the web pages to show only some of the topics and now have links for “Older” and “Newer” comments. You may have jumped the gun and taken too seriously a comment on November 1 from commenter Kertész ( ) who said that scrolling down to the more recent comments is “tedious”. Boo Hoo. Perhaps a more appropriate response might have been instructions on how to use the browser scroll bar, or mouse wheel, or finger, or page down key.

    You (Leo) recycle many topics from years ago because they are still relevant and interesting. The topics are resurrected because you have a new take on them and your readers respond with new comments. The older comments, even from years ago, are not necessarily irrelevant. They add perspective and information. Often you’ll see new responses to older comments or you’ll find proposed solutions to problems in the older comments that still work.

    I applaud your responsiveness to your readers by spreading out comments on several pages to “hide” older comments, but every “fix” has some side effects that may not be so good (a typical gripe we all have with Microsoft’s constant changes). Also, one aspect of your web site that I appreciate is its simplicity and clarity in organization and presentation. Unfortunately, spreading out information for a given topic on several pages doesn’t help matters. It has made it more awkward to follow the “conversation” among the commenters and to do searches. Now, it’s not clear what is a “newer” or “older” comment. Sometimes the “older” comments on another page are only a few days older. Sometimes there is only one comment on a page and you have to go to another page to follow the conversation. References that commenters make to each other now can be spread out on several pages. As I said, searching for something is also more difficult. Sometimes I use Google to find information I remember reading on (by using the syntax), but when go to the page found by Google I can’t find the info because the particular search text in on another page.

    Of course, you can spend weeks devising and testing different algorithms for how to divide up comments, but I doubt it’ll be worth your time and it’ll never be perfect. Here is a suggestion to help people like Kertész who have difficulty scrolling down a page while keeping the information on a given topic intact on one page: At the end of your article put a link that says “Jump to the most recent comments”.

    • Ha. Goes to show that I clearly can’t please everyone.

      This particular approach was drop-dead simple. It’s a checkbox in my content management system. I’d considered the very link you mention at the end, but it actually would have been more work. (A checkbox is hard to beat.) The current approach (like everything I do) is a test. It does have some side benefits as well, in that pages are somewhat faster to load.

      Thanks for the feedback. It really is appreciated. 🙂

  37. Leo, thank you for all the information. I wish I had seen this 3 days ago as I fell for one of the traps. Instead of a phone call, I got a pop-up stating that Microsoft received messages that I was putting out errors blah…blah…blah and call the number above. I knew this was a scan and just tried to close the window (with the X). Little did I know then, that was the trigger that seconds later my machine was locked. I could do nothing at all. I couldn’t even close my browser. Then I knew I had been scammed. No way to even run scans, malware, etc. I could only power down my machine but when I powered back up, it came right back to the same locked condition and showing the same screens. So I just forced it to power down again and contacted my support for help. They were able to get it to power up and run antivirus, malware and other software to clean things up. Now I’m back running again. Obviously, huh? 🙂 I kick myself for not keeping better tabs on your site and getting the chance to read this and avoid having to pay my support. If only I had just kept up my warranty, I could have kept those dollars too. At least the dollars went to the good guys, not the scammers.
    Thanks again for all the great information on your site.

    • My 89-year-old mother got a similar alert in her web browser once, and, being very tech un-savvy, very wisely called for me.

      By the time I got to her, she was starting to panic, and was just about to click the “close” button…

      I very hastily (but gently) grabbed her hand, explaining that this situation was fraught with danger, and suggested she let me take over.

      She let me take over. (Fortunately.)

      I hastily invoked Process Hacker, and terminated the process tree for both that page, and the browser.

      The problem instantly went away (literally). I vacated the seat (so Mom could could continue her browsing), but admonished her not to visit that site again.


  38. I Had a friend who fell for this scam and they encrypted their computer and it would only boot to Drive letter x no way to access c:\. I tried every thing I knew to do without results. I took their computer to a local shop as they had photos and documents they wanted to save. So reformatting was not an option at that point. the shop could not save any thing and since the charged me any way I ask them to format the hard drive for me. Thank Goodness I did that, when they connected it to a machine to format it in infected their entire network with the virus. Another lesson learned and why back up is so important.

  39. Try these phone numbers for MS Support with either Office 360 or Outlook:

    Microsoft Store Sales and Customer Support or Technical Support:
    Call {phone # removed}

    They have another number for established cases: {phone # removed}

    If that does not work call: Microsoft’s Corporate Phone Number: {phone # removed} They will transfer you to support.

    • I don’t know if you posted this in ignorance or as a spammer, but at least one of those are scam numbers (I only checked one). You should have Goggled those before posting them.

  40. Another great topic, Leo. Thanks for your great endeavor about helping others out there. Just last week, I had a call of that ilk from a scammer with a strong Indian accent (that was not the first time ’cause I had calls like that in the past). I don’t know if those guys ever consider the time zone. It was very early in the morning and he woke me up. I was so mad that I started, once he had identified himself as being a representative from Microsoft calling to fix a problem with my computer, telling him some nasty, really nasty stuffs. He hung so fast that I didn’t have time to finish my rant…

    One thing that I still can’t understand though , how come in this day and age, people are still falling for this type of scam? Except probably for senior citizens for whom I have the greatest respect, and I don’t mean to be condescending, one who is regularly reading newsletters of any kind shouldn’t be a prey for those scum bags. Incidentally, I really like the second part of your video with regard to pop-ups appearing suddenly while browsing to tell you that your PC is infected. The normal reflex of anyone would be to try to click the little “x” at the top right corner of that message box, which is definitely not the right thing to do. My point is that one has never finished to learn..

    • People are still falling for the Nigerian prince scam too. It’s very easy to become complacent and assume everyone knows everything we do. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case.

  41. I have been getting these scammer’s phone calls for years. They always tell me my computer has infections or my computer is sending out errors. I have never fell for this scam. I have screamed at them, cussed at them and lately I have asked them if their Mother knows that their job is trying to scam innocent people out of their money. Of course, they always hang up on me. I am so glad you made your video and I heard all the ways I could be scammed. I have only received the calls from people with a heavy accent. When I am not getting calls from them, I am getting calls from the “IRS” saying I owe them $5,000 and if I don’t agree to pay them immediately, Officers will be coming to my door in the next hour to take me to jail for 6 months. The last time one of them called me with that story, I told them “Bring it on! I have had my bag packed and sitting by the front door waiting for the last 2 years since they starting calling me.” They hang up.

  42. I’ve had a few of those calls over the years. After the first one, I bought myself a whistle, one of those police whistles with a really loud and shrill noise. And the second time they called, I used the whistle. I figured the callers wear those earpiece attachments that you can’t pull out of your ear fast enough to avoid damaging your ear drum. I work from home at my computer all day; I have no time for this nonsense and I have no pity or compassion people who try to scam others. I used my whistle a total of 3 times. And it’s still there, on a hook, just in case I get another one of those clowns on the phone.

  43. I post this to you in hopes of spreading the word. Recently I received a phone call from someone claiming to be Norton Internet Security. They said that my Anti Virus software was not functioning properly. They had my phone number so I assumed they were legit. They first asked me to open my browser (FireFox) and navigate to “Team Viewer”. At this point I knew this was some sort of a “Scam”. Here I decided to “Play” along. I said to them I had opened my browser to Team Viewer. Here I was directed to Download Team Viewer Trial Version. (I played along) I was then directed to open and install Team Viewer. I told them I had. I was then directed to enter a code into the “Box”. Again playing along – – I told them it would not accept the code. They said keep trying. This proceeded for about 10 minutes. Back and Forth. They then caught on, called me a few names and hung up. I immediately notified Norton.

  44. I’m getting a rash of these calls. Over the past four months, my land-line and my mobile have rung sometimes three times a week with these scam ‘Microsoft Windows technical department’ or ‘BT Internet support’ calls. I do like to lead them on if I have the time, and keep them talking for as long as I can. I told one of them that he wouldn’t be able to look into my computer in the way he wanted since I was using Linux and not Windows. The poor chap then spent another five minutes arguing with me. He told me that I was using either Windows or Mac and there was no such thing as Ubuntu Linux…
    I had considered setting up an old laptop just so that I could follow the instructions on one of these calls, and see what they actually did to a PC, but now I read it from your contributors.. I take it from the comments above that you are directed to a website (Team Viewer?), download a programme (would this be a dot exe for Windows?), install the programme then enter a code which would lock your PC? I take it that the PC would still be able to boot, so am I correct in thinking that the PC could be resurrected by installing a new operating system?

    • Reinstalling Windows (the nuclear option) or restoring from a backup would roll the machine back to an uninfected state.

  45. I had one of these calls from “Microsoft Technical Support” a while ago. I simply told the caller I did not own a computer and hung up.

    • My 89-year-old mother got a similar alert in her web browser once, and, being very tech un-savvy, very wisely called for me.

      By the time I got to her, she was starting to panic, and was just about to click the “close” button…

      I very hastily (but gently) grabbed her hand, explaining that this situation was fraught with danger, and suggested she let me take over.

      She let me take over. (Fortunately.)

      I hastily invoked Process Hacker, and terminated the process tree for both that page, and the browser.

      The problem instantly went away (literally). I vacated the seat (so Mom could could continue her browsing), but admonished her not to visit that site again.


  46. Many people here are complaining about “getting calls” from scammers. Let’s state the obvious. There is a very easy and low tech method of fixing this: if you don’t recognize a phone number, don’t answer the phone! I suspect that most people these days should have caller ID as a standard feature of their phone service. If you don’t, perhaps you should find another phone service. Most phone services today also give you the capability to block phone numbers. If yours doesn’t, you can buy a telephone set that can be programmed to block phone numbers within the phone device itself. Finally, all phone services today should provide you with a messaging system, so you shouldn’t worry about missing any calls. If someone legitimate really wants to talk to you they will leave a message and you can decide if you want to talk to them.

    • I tend to agree. When we finally got caller ID (I was annoyed at having to pay extra – monthly – for such a basic feature that it wasn’t until I tried Vonage that we got it included), I can’t imagine living without it.

      If it’s important to them, they’ll leave a message. If it’s important to me, I’ll call them back.

      Pretty simple.

  47. “pop-ups appearing suddenly while browsing to tell you that your PC is infected.”

    Personally, I’ve always been afraid to click that little X box, especially after the Windows 10 fiasco of installing it after you clicked that box.
    I’ve usually tried to close the browser and if that doesn’t work I’ll log off the computer, which usually closes the browser for me.
    If that also doesn’t work I shut the entire machine down and restart it.
    I do the same thing occasionally when I hit a site that says everything is being encrypted etc…
    Close the browser, or log off, or shut the entire computer down and restart it, then run a virus scan.
    I NEVER click anything in the pop up.

    • There I was, reading the article, thinking about my efforts to get scammers to tell me which of my five machines they were talking about or eliciting a fake address in Rochdale when up comes this unsolicited popup. The Ask Leo! Newsletter! it said. Either I subscribe or I click the X. Or just close my browser….

      Just kidding – thanks Leo – you do a great job

  48. I have been called that states the person is from either Health and Human Services or Blue Cross Blue Shield. Saying that they are updating my records or if they are from BCBS, who is my primary physician. I hang up, not sure what the scam is, I hang up since I can not imaging that Health and Human services is calling and I do not have BCBS insurance.

    Love your article, thank you.


  49. I found your website while researching what I expected was a scam. It was exactly this. I told the guy on the phone that I thought it was a scam and he said that he did not know what a scam was! I had to define ‘scam’ for him. I think that this scam is tricky for a lot of people. He almost got me with the ‘unique computer ID’ which was only number allowing directing to compressed files which is in no way unique but could easily confuse lots of people. When I told him that I would research this on my own he started getting upset and said that I had to call him back in 2 hours or he would lock out my computer. That was an hour ago. Since I did not allow any access or click on any websites (he tried to get me to type [URL removed} into my ‘run’ command box) I do not see how he can do anything to my computer.

    • Scammers often try to bluff you into believing they can do more than they actually can. The only way they can get access to your computer is if you install software and give them permission, or in some cases, go to a website they direct you to.

  50. I have let one of these scammers have remote access to my computer – I now realize this was a mistake – do I need to worry that they can now get into my computer any time they want to without my knowledge?

  51. Hi Leo,

    I want to thank you for this email on scamming. My mother has been scammed. She says her computer made a loud alarm noise and advised her computer was infected and she needed to contact Microsoft. I asked her not to but she did anyway. They asked her a large sum of money which she refused to pay. If I reset her computer to a previous date before the warnings began, will this stop the notices from popping up?

    Thank You

  52. After reading this article I did a search for Hotmail support and Windows support. Believe it or not, no ads showed up in the search results. In fact, was the fourth result after a Lifewire article and 2 Microsoft pages. That was on Duck Duck Go. I figured maybe Duck Duck Go has a safeguard against some scams so I tried Googling it. Similar results just different websites but no scam ads. It seems that search engines are doing better at filtering out scams. I wouldn’t let down my guard, though. Scammers are always doing more to break through the barriers.

  53. If they happen to guess your ISP]s name, they wouldn’t know your name. Your ISP would not only not say “I’m calling from your ISP.” They would address you by name. I’ve received a lot of email from my ISP, usually monthly billing information, and they always address me by name. I would still be careful as some scammers can be sophisticated but if they don’t know my name, they are obviously scammers.

  54. Thanks, Leo for making this information available. I was scammed. I repeatedly received phone calls, threatening phone calls saying my windows program had expired and was causing problems on the web. I believed there was something to it, as they sounded so convincing. They said they needed to remotely look at my computer to address the problem. I allowed and their next step was that they wanted to become my tech support at $99 for one year, on up a graduated scale for multiple years. This is where I knew what was up. I said No and they begin to exit my computer. Realizing they may have left something behind like malware or ransomware, I immediately ran my PC Matic. I then ran it again and when the computer came up the second time, it locked and I could do nothing with it. I contacted PC Matic. They instructed me to download a file from their site that did nothing to aleviate the problem. Since they only provide any sort of tech support by email, I was out of luck. Luckily, I didn’t have a lot on the computer so I ended up scrubbing the hard drive and rebuilding with the computer back to where it was before.

  55. Being retired I have a lot of spare time so on the rare occasions I get one of these calls I keep them talking until I can boot a virtual machine. I play dumb (before retiring I was, in turn, a real-time system software specialist, a sysadmin, a dbadmin as well as a Windows application developer) and generally waste their time. I let them remote into the VM and when I finally tire of the game I give them a loud blast of a whistle into the phone mic.

  56. Whenever you get an “alert” like this in your browser, or — what is infinitely worse — a pop-up warning in Windows itself, when your browser isn’t even active — you should never, never, ever click the “close” button! Scammers and/or malware writers are notorious for converting the Windows “close” button into a “agree-and-continue” type button.

    Always use something like “Process Hacker,” ” Process Explorer,” or even just “Task Manager,” to kill the underlying process (if possible, killing the process tree would be even better) instead.

    It’s much safer that way!

  57. Double rip off with the “your card don’t work trick.”
    Lady in her eighties has two laptops. Popup said she was infected so she did phone and they did the regular thing and then promised to keep her computers running for five years for $600.00 such a deal. Poor lady must have felt bad about calling me every time she had a problem because I do it for free. I do it because it makes me feel good helping out old folks. She called me up telling me about the deal she got and my heart sank. I had a hard time convincing her that she set herself up to be robbed. I filled her in about the scam which I had warned her about before and asked which credit card she used. She said Master Card because the Visa wouldn’t work. I told her they were lying and charged both her cards and to call both of them. Sure enough they did charge both of her cards. The your card don’t work trick was a new one for me.

    I scanned both laptops but had a bad feeling so I did a reinstall on her new one and put Linux on the old one. Now she is happy. lol.

  58. Dear Leo,
    I have just finished reading ALL the comments and I have noticed that my preferred method – just hitting the reset button, holding down the start button or switching off the power is only mentioned once (I think). This has saved me a few times, even when the ‘Your computer is locked……’ occurs. I know that we are warned that we should always close Windows by going through the approved shut-down procedure but emergency actions need to be fast. Am I missing something?

  59. I have on a few occasions people trying to say I had an issue with my computer. One time, I had it at the Geek Squad for a check up. I always yell at them and say I don’t give access to people who call me. I also had pop ups saying I have a virus/malware. If I can’t close the browser, I use the power button to shut down. When the computer comes back up, with one exception, the pop ups are gone. If it isn’t gone, I shut down again and restart.

  60. I forgot to say in my last comment that when they call and I don’t give access, I hang up on them. Thanks for the info.

  61. Best defense I know of is simply not to answer your phone, unless you know exactly who it is beforehand.

    If it’s actually something you need, they will usually leave a voicemail.

  62. YOU ARE THE BEST! Discovered you while driving on day. That was almost 5 years ago. I have learned so much from you.
    I would like to share some of your tips in our senior newsletters but wanted to ask permission first.
    Thanks so.
    Faithful Fan
    p.s. yes I subscribe to your newsletter-packed with great information!


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