You’ve been locked out of your outlook.com email account.
Maybe you forgot the password; maybe you were hacked. Your recovery attempts have all failed, and you’re desperate to regain access to your account.
So, you search online for “outlook.com support phone number”, hoping to talk to a real, live person, to get some help directly from the source.
Unbeknownst to you, things are about to go from bad to worse.
There is no official support phone number
I want to be very clear about something before I go further.
There is no official telephone support for free services such as Outlook.com, Hotmail, Yahoo!, Gmail, or many, many others.
There just isn’t. It’s part of the “cost” of being a free service. Hiring actual live human beings to answer the telephone when you call is much too expensive. If they hired customer service reps, your email wouldn’t be free.
That cost should be a clue as to what you might find if you do search for a support phone number.
Your search returns support phone numbers
I did a Google search for “outlook.com support phone number” and got some very interesting results.
At the top was an ad. This was paid by a company wanting to appear here when you search for terms related to outlook.com support.
It was followed by what’s referred to as the “organic” or “real” search results.
First were two entries to Microsoft support web pages – totally legitimate, and ultimately unhelpful, since Microsoft provides no phone support for Outlook.com.
The next entry happens to be my own Ask Leo! article about contacting Outlook.com customer service. (Spoiler: there is no phone support.)
However, four of the remaining five entries appear to offer actual phone numbers you can call for Outlook.com phone support.
What’s up with that?
Scammers get you to call them
I’m witnessing an alarming scenario: in desperation, people call these numbers thinking they’re actually legitimate, official, Microsoft Outlook.com support numbers (they’re not), and either of two things happen:
- They find that they have to pay – often a lot – for any help at all.
- They get scammed.
It ends up much like the “Microsoft Support Scam” (where so-called support engineers call you claiming your computer is “causing problems on the internet”) … except you’ve made their job easier by calling them.
After listening to your concerns, a scammer will often offer to take remote access of your machine to “fix” things, only to install malware, or worse. Or they’ll insist you purchase expensive software you don’t need.
Even if they’re legitimate (albeit not Microsoft, because Microsoft has no phone support for Outlook.com), they can’t do anything you can’t do yourself. They have no special access or magic wand to help you with your account problems.
All they can do is make your wallet lighter.
Don’t blame Google
When I mention this scenario to people, the first reaction is to blame Google for allowing these sites to appear in search results at all.
It’s not that simple. Not even close.
- If a site does get kicked out by Google, the folks behind it simply set up a new site and start the search ranking game over again. In fact, knowing they’ll be kicked out eventually, they could always be grooming replacement sites to keep the process going. For Google, it’s a game of whack-a-mole.
- What is a “legitimate” site, anyway? Sure, actual illegal activity is banned by Google’s terms of service, but what if it’s completely legal – just somewhat misleading? Or it’s just expensive? Or it’s just willing to go along with your mistaken belief that it’s really Microsoft? (It’s not.)
- What if there are actual, legitimate sites that perform a real service for Outlook.com users in need? How is Google supposed to tell the difference based on a web page?
- It’s not just Google. These same scenarios apply equally to any search engine including Bing, DuckDuckGo, and others.
Speaking of others, there’s much more to it than just Microsoft.
It’s more than Outlook.com
I’ve been using Outlook.com as my example here, but in reality, it applies to just about any popular free online service, most notably Yahoo! Mail, GMail, and possibly others.
Here’s the kicker: I took one of the phone numbers that appeared in the search result for “outlook.com support phone number” and turned around and used Google to search for it. The results, as a clickbait headline might say, will surprise you.
Of course, that number appeared for entries associated with Outlook.com, as well as Hotmail and Windows Live and MSN support. That much is somewhat expected, as those are all Microsoft products, and all actually the same Microsoft service.
However, that phone number also turned up for Yahoo! Mail and Gmail support. If there was any question before, it should be very clear: this number isn’t provided by any of those services, as there’s simply no way they’d support each other’s email.
At best, it’s a third party trying to get your business.
At worst, it’s a scammer.
So, what to do?
Don’t rely on searching for straws to grasp at
There is no telephone support for free email services like Outlook.com, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, or others.
No amount of searching will make it otherwise, and no amount of search results mean otherwise.
There is no official number to call.
You’ll need to get what help you can through other means.
Always, and I do mean always, start with the official website for the service you’re having difficulty with. That’s Outlook.com for Outlook.com, Gmail.com for Gmail, Yahoo.com for Yahoo! Mail, and so on. If there is support to be had, you’ll be directed to it from those sites.
There’s no need to search further, and every reason not to.
The larger picture
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the very best thing you can do when accessing information on the internet is to be skeptical.
Particularly, if you’re in a desperate situation, that’s exactly the time to stop, take a breath, and really ask yourself if what you’re finding is legitimate, or possibly an attempt to scam you.
There are legitimate resources out there – I’m particularly fond of the #3 entry in my search results example – but there are also others more than willing to take advantage of your desperate situation and take things from bad to worse.