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I searched and found a Hotmail support number, but is it legit?

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I Googled Hotmail telephone contact US, and one of the sites that came up was {redacted}, the Phone number on the site is: {redacted}. I called the number on this site and was put by the first caller to someone he described as his supervisor who with my permission could access my computer to resolve the problem.

I followed the instructions from the guy and allowed him to access my computer, then he asked me to open one of my hotmail accounts, which I did. He then showed me on my computer a number of files which he informed me were persons trying to gain access to my hotmail account,  and said that this and other things needed be cleaned out so the laptop could function effectively again.

He indicated that they provide a technical service to Hotmail for its customers.

Is the site a safe one to go to?
Is there a telephone number to contact Hotmail?
Should I allow him to access my computer?
Should I allow him to clean out what he says needs cleaning out?
If not, now that he had access to my computer have I opened myself to any risk and is there something I could do to prevent him from accessing my computer again?

That’s actually an excerpt of a lengthier question I recently received from someone experiencing difficulty logging into their Hotmail / Outlook.com account while travelling overseas, a very common and often unsolveable problem.

His approach seems sound on the surface: search for a Hotmail support number, and see if the person at the other end can help.

Unfortunately, this path typically leads to even worse problems.

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There is no Hotmail support number

Let’s get one thing clear from the beginning: there is no official telephone support for Microsoft’s free email services. That includes Hotmail, Outlook.com, MSN, or whatever free email address you might have from Microsoft.

In fact, that’s true for almost all free email service providers. One of the “costs” of using a free service is that there is no phone number, no email address, and no person you can contact and talk to directly for help when you have problems with your free email account.

There is no Hotmail support number. That’s what you get when you use a free service.

There is no Hotmail customer support email address. That’s what you get when you use a free service.

I’m being explicitly and annoyingly redundant, because so many people refuse to accept that with free services like Hotmail, you get what you pay for when it comes to support.

The only support I’m aware of for Microsoft’s free email services are the community forums for Outlook.com. This is primarily Hotmail and Outlook.com users helping each other, with occasional assistance from Microsoft personnel.

The Hotmail support number in search results

If you search for phrases like “hotmail support”, or similar, you’ll get results.

Hotmail Support Search Results

There are two incredibly important problems with those results:

  • Every one of them that claims to provide support is a paid advertisement in the search results (signified by the little yellow “Ad” icon).
  • None of them are Microsoft. Microsoft does not provide support for Hotmail in this manner.

They paid to be there. They’re not Microsoft.

That should absolutely concern you.

Desperate people do inadvisable things

That the person asking the question allowed someone to access their computer remotely is, to me, a very, very scary thing. It’s a scenario that’s ripe for abuse. That remote technician could be doing who-knows-what to the computer.

They could be legitimate. It could happen.

But with so much fraud and so many scams in technical support, it’s difficult for me to take any of them seriously at all.

There’s simply no way that I would trust any of them.

I totally get that losing access to your email while traveling can be a huge problem.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of individuals out there who are ready to take advantage of your desperation, and they often make your problems worse, not better.

Only Microsoft could help

Here’s something important to remember: when it comes to recovering access to your account, a third party can do no more than you can. If you’ve exhausted all the recovery options that Microsoft makes available, someone else isn’t going to be able to do more. Period.

Only Microsoft could help you.

And there is no Hotmail support number or email address to turn to.

And before we turn this into Microsoft bashing, I’ll remind you of two points:

  • This is true for most all free email services from other providers.
  • You’re getting what you paid for.

There is no Gmail support number, either

Here’s one additional point of interest.

If you search for “Gmail support” or “Yahoo mail support”, you’re just as likely to see the exact same kind of results, often with exactly the same phone number.

That’s yet another clue that these are not official support sites at all, but rather individuals or organizations that are advertising specifically for these types of situations.

Are they legitimate? Some could be, I suppose. They could really be trying to help.

But I’m extremely skeptical. As I said, they wouldn’t be able to do anything more than you or I could do on our own.

Personally, I would never call one. And if I did, I would never, ever let them access my machine.

Preparation is key

The only way to avoid these types of desperate situations is to prepare beforehand.

  • Use a paid email account with real telephone support, particularly if you’re traveling.
  • If you can’t find a paid and supported alternative, then always have two free accounts, on different services, that you could use interchangeably.
  • If you use Hotmail, or any Microsoft free email account, set up a recovery code. This, theoretically, guarantees you account access as long as you have set the code up beforehand, and have it with you.
  • And of course: back up, back up, back up.

And don’t let strangers into your computer.

But if you do….

Unfortunately, once you let someone access your computer you really don’t know what they could have done while they were there. The remote “technician” might well have installed malware, spyware, or worse.

The only advice I can give you is the standard advice I give anyone who suspects malware or a compromised machine: run scans with up-to-date anti-malware tools, make sure you’re backed up, and keep an eye out for odd or suspicious behavior on your machine.

And keeping doing all the things you know you need to do to keep your computer safe on the internet.

And again, don’t let strangers into your computer.

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12 comments on “I searched and found a Hotmail support number, but is it legit?”

  1. Having allowed access to your machine, by someone who might not be legitimate, nothing short of reinstalling the operating system is a sure enough recourse.
    This could be to a previous backup, but if you don’t have one, I suggest reinstalling from scratch.

  2. In the “good old days”, before MS bought out Hotmail (1996 or so), there was a real toll-free number that provided Hotmail support.

  3. I have a Hotmail address that I converted from free to paid years ago. For $10/month or so I get quite decent support and — the biggie — you don’t even have to change your email address, although you’re actually on MSN.com.

  4. Hi Leo,

    I can understand that there will always be people falling for scams either knowingly or unknowingly.

    However, it is shocking that Google allows Scams on its own site knowing fully well. Is it, “I don’t care when scamsters pay me” – and, I can get away with it? Do they not check the credentials of such advertisers who make such claims? And, why the Regulatory Authorities do not take any voluntary action against Google ( or such others) and those blatant scams?

    Will you or anyone, please clarify this phenomenon?

    • I think the problem is simply too large for Google to be able to do that. Consider ALL the ads (probably billions) from all the different companies (probably millions) across the entire planet that Google serves. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect Google to be the scam police. To be fair, they do try, but the scammers – like spammers – are quick to change their tactics and names and whatever else so they can appear again elsewhere with the same scam.

  5. I feel there are more bad sites than good sites whe searching for help/programs etc.. The other day I wanted to download Apache Open Office. I clicked o. A couple of sites that appeared to be legit, only to find out that they were no legit. I then removed the garbage they installed.

  6. The only times you should allow ANYONE else to have control of your computer would be……
    1) if you contact the manufacturer of your computer and YOU contact them. NEVER if they contact you.
    2) If you manage to contact Microsoft and get into a chat with them and YOU started the call.
    3) If you have a FRIEND that you can really TRUST. Absolutely trust. Positively trust.

    If you contact a place like Geek Squad or whatever, you’re on your own. You might get an honest technician or you can get one out for their own benefit.

  7. I went through all the steps to try and recover my Hotmail Account that you had here some time ago.
    After the month waiting period, I received an Email saying they have provided me with a #—— and that’s all I need- I do not have to do anything else.
    What does that mean? What do I do with the number that has several digits to it?

    I still don’t know why they shut me out of my old Hotmail account. One answer said lack of usage. I had a lot of usage! Mainly for my agent and publishing contacts since I am a writer. A couple I know don’t even use theirs anymore and got to keep theirs! So confusing…

  8. Wow….I called the Hotmail help number. The guy (Norman) immediately goes into shady mode. I had to remind myself that I had called him as this sounded like one of those unwanted callers from the start. I was told that someone in Boston was downloading child porn from my hotmail account. Then he said they would probably hold my account hostage for $7000 . He then brought up two family members who might be in jeopardy. I was told to discontinue banking and pay pal which I do not do for this site. Then he proceeded to offer up Octatech as a service which started at $199 . It just seemed to steamroll too quickly.

    • “….I called the Hotmail help number” – NO YOU DID NOT. You called a scammer’s number. He was pretending to be Hotmail, but he is not.

  9. This phone number called me twice claiming that there have been several complaints from my hotmail and wanted me to confirm information. I asked how I knew they were legit and he hung up the first time. The second time I told him it was a scam and not call me and he replied with “**** you” obviously not a real business.

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