Technical Support Scammers – hang up on them.
It’s probably happened to you, either at work or at home: A technical support scammer calls, frequently with a heavy foreign accent, says their “Steve from Microsoft” and they’ve seen a batch of problems (or virus, or malware) on your PC. This is always a scam. Microsoft finally got tired of it and has tried to take action against some of the more blatant offenders. You can read about it here. There was an extensive discussion of this news on Slashdot (news for nerds, in case you’ve never heard of Slashdot.)
There are generally one of three things that happen next:
1) You recognize the scam and hang up.
2) You don’t recognize it as a scam, and don’t hang up. You know that you’ve gotten some messages about programs terminating abnormally, and you think “Wow, after all those times I’ve sent off the reports, finally somebody noticed!” And you’re on their hook. They’ll show you errors in the event log, and try to get you to let them do remote support. Once you do that, they’ll install malware or ransom-ware on your computer and your computing life will begin a slide down the slippery slope of having your PC hijacked. And possibly your identity, depending on how thoroughly the people behind the malware start to explore those files stored on your hard disk.
3) You recognize the scam, and have a computer or virtual computer ready so that you can string “Steve” along and waste his time. Many techs or nerds enjoy this game. The longest I’ve seen claimed was over three hours. Although this sounds like lots of fun, I just don’t have that kind of time available.
Microsoft is finally trying to slow or shut them down.
Its taken a long time, but Microsoft is finally trying to take action to shut down some of the worst offenders. Some 65,000 complaints later, and they’re filing suit where they can find someone to sue. Many of these scammers work in India or Eastern European countries, and are very hard to locate after any length of time. The FTC has also received many complaints, but has the same challenges – many of these people are outside the US and outside their jurisdiction, and they don’t play by the rules anyway.
In conclusion, Microsoft technical support employees don’t just call out of the blue and offer to help. If you have set up a trouble ticket with Microsoft (as in an Office 365 problem, Azure problem or similar), then you’ll get calls from Microsoft. But you’ll be expecting that call.