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03 Apr 2018
How ‘tech support’ scams work  

Several organisations, including the Netherlands police and the national Public Prosecution Service, are joining forces to combat the scourge of Microsoft phone scams in the country. How do these phony tech support individuals ‘from Microsoft’ operate?

These con artists have harassed people for many years now. And their methods have become quite sophisticated. They usually adopt a five-step approach to get to your money. The scam works like this:

  1. You receive a cold call from an individual speaking with a strong Indian accent who claims to be from Microsoft. There is something wrong with your PC, he says. Fortunately, the problem can be solved.
  2. The caller provides ‘proof’ of your PC problem and asks you to carry out a number of commands that will trigger error messages.
  3. We’ll fix these problems, the caller says reassuringly. He tells you to a website that enables them to control your computer remotely. is the name of one of those websites. The caller gives the login details. Once you’ve entered them, they will have remote control over your machine. They can now do almost everything with your PC, but of course they won’t tell you that. After all, they’re only there to help you.
  4. You’re not touching your mouse or your keyboard, but you’ll see the cursor move up and down your screen, supposedly cleaning up your system.
  5. As a final check to see whether your computer is now free of malicious software, you are asked to log in to your online banking account. There’s the rub, because this will give your tech support person access to your bank account. Without you knowing it, the scammer is already busy transferring money from your savings account to your payment account. They will tell you that you have received money from Microsoft which will need to be transferred to another account. Other reports speak of a certain amount of money that needs to be paid to a foreign account through a wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram. In yet another variant of the same story, the scammer asks you to pay for a subscription in order to be protected against malicious software for a number of years. And all the time, you’re thinking you’ve paid € 80 before it turns out that € 800 has been withdrawn from your account.

Because everything goes so fast and this Microsoft tech support guy can be very tenacious, there’s little time for you to think twice. Often, victims only realise what’s happened to them well after they have hung up and discover that their money has gone.

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