Why is Windows/Microsoft calling me about files on my computer
March 13, 2014 10:15 AM   Subscribe

I have recently received a couple of calls from someone who identifies them self as a representative of Windows. They sound like they are calling from an Indian call center. They say that they have received error messages from my computer and are calling me to help me delete some bad files. They then asked me how old my computer was and to turn it on. I told them and turned my computer on. They then put me on hold and I freaked out, hung up and turned my computer off. A friend called me yesterday and said she is getting these calls. Is this a scam?
posted by cairnoflore to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's a scam. Windows isn't a company. They call everybody.
posted by w0mbat at 10:16 AM on March 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

This is a scam. They want you to install "support software" which is actually a program that lets them take control of your computer remotely, in order to steal personal information/install trojans, keyloggers, etc.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:17 AM on March 13, 2014 [10 favorites]

posted by phunniemee at 10:17 AM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here's an article about it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:17 AM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, this is a scam. Do not do anything they ask of you.
posted by mrg at 10:17 AM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes. My school and my office get these calls at least twice a day, every day.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:18 AM on March 13, 2014

Microsoft will never, ever, ever, ever call you about a file on your computer.
posted by rockindata at 10:19 AM on March 13, 2014 [9 favorites]

My parents got taken for hundreds of dollars. Hang up on them.
posted by desjardins at 10:34 AM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh my god, thanks for the quick response. I don't have a kid to bug with this type of question so you guys are it.
posted by cairnoflore at 10:47 AM on March 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Just coming in to agree, it's a scam. And I wouldn't worry if I were you, if they didn't convince you to install any exe file or similar, then you're fine.
posted by crawltopslow at 11:50 AM on March 13, 2014

I asked this question about the phenomenon earlier. I don't even have a Windows computer, and there they are, calling at 6 A.M. and claiming that it's a security risk. Sure thing.

Also linking to this question.

I can just as well update here how it went for me. One day I called one of them names, and it did actually stop. I'm not proud, but I snapped - and it helped.

posted by Namlit at 11:58 AM on March 13, 2014

N'th'ing that it's a scam. Also, for fun, when they say they're from Microsoft, go "oh man, that's awesome! I work for the Microsoft Austin campus! Where are you based out of? Did you see that email this morning about the US IT reorg?"
posted by introp at 12:56 PM on March 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

When I got one of these calls, I asked how they identified that it was my computer generating the "error messages" and how they got my contact info. Without skipping a beat, he politely replied that they used the software registration.

I asked which computer he was asking about. My home computer, he politely replied. Registered in my name? Yes, he replied. I bemusedly informed him that I would not be needing his services and that he needed to remove this number from their call list NOW. He was indignant for a moment and insisted that this was a serious problem that could harm my computer, and then I told him that I wasn't going to argue with him and was hanging up now, at which point he did say he would remove my number from their list. I didn't explain what was so funny, which is that I have a Mac at home. But I haven't gotten any more calls.

I warned my elderly parents about the scam immediately. Eesh. The guy who called me, at least, was careful to stay on the reasonable-sounding side of the crazyscam alarm, and I can totally see how people fall for this.
posted by desuetude at 1:05 PM on March 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I've gotten this call too. The only computers in the house are macs. Scammity-scam-scam.
posted by leahwrenn at 1:40 PM on March 13, 2014

My friend is a tech-fixer guy, and spends most of his time on data retrieval and removing viruses. He once told me that probably half of his day is devoted to undoing the effects of this particular scam. Don't feel dumb! They fool a *lot* of people.
posted by jessicapierce at 1:42 PM on March 13, 2014

If I'm not actually busy, I make it a point to waste their time until they hang up on me. Go through the motions of their instructions, then ask 15 min into their conversation 'Does my computer need to be turned on?'

The best reaction was when they asked 'Why are you wasting my time?' then hanging up on me.

All shenanigans aside, I am astounded how prevalent this scam is, and pissed to think of the hit ratio of victims they are able steal from, most likely a lot of older generation people.

How hard is it to shut down these types of companies, seeing that the payment information must go to a legitimate bank account with traceable companies or individuals?
posted by edman at 2:03 PM on March 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

(Apologies if this is considered a derail, remove if necessary; I feel it's relevant and may help others identify when they're being scammed.)

Edman, these particular scammers almost always ask for payment in the form of a very specific sort of money order, which is only sold through a few businesses (Walmart and CVS pharmacy, I believe, maybe others) and is apparently harder to track/trace.
posted by jessicapierce at 2:06 PM on March 13, 2014

For what it's worth, Namlit, these are some of the few people I just curse a blue streak at when they're on the phone. It's funny, really. I picked up the phone the other day, and as soon as I figured it out I was all "You ** worthless ** lying **. Find a job that isn't being a thief, you ** ** **. *** my ***" and hung up. I never do that and people in the room were staring at me in complete shock.
posted by tyllwin at 3:52 PM on March 13, 2014

Scam. Scamalamadingdong. Scamaliscious. I got the call. I messed with them til they hung up (I have Linux).
posted by brownrd at 3:54 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Superscamaliciousexpialdocious with a side of SCAMASUARUS REX. Props all who are hip to it and can spare the time and effort TO WASTE THESE PATHETIC F*****S TIME, y'all are doing the Lords work, yo.
posted by The Vice Admiral of the Narrow Seas at 4:58 PM on March 13, 2014

These jokers called my mother with this scam. My mother does not own a computer.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:47 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

My wife was getting these calls every day just before I got home from work and it was driving her nuts. One day I happened to come home early and caught the call myself.

The poor guy was not prepared for me to treat him the way I would someone telling me something doubtful at work. So, walk me through what you're seeing, and explain what would be happening on my computer to make that happen? I don't recall having any monitoring service on my computer, can you tell me what program is giving you this information? "Windows" must be a big company, what division did you say you worked in? And what's your name? Your supervisor's name? Can I get your phone number to call you right back?

We haven't gotten a single one since, and that was months ago.
posted by ctmf at 6:49 PM on March 13, 2014

I got a bit sharp with him, but not abusive.
"You're name's Dave? Dave what? What's your official job title? Mind if I call to verify that?"

He ended up getting the picture that I wasn't going to do what he wanted and hung up on me.
posted by ctmf at 6:55 PM on March 13, 2014

When these guys called me, before the dude could even finish his spiel, I said, "Okay, so here's the deal: my husband is a web programmer who specializes in security. And I edit websites; I'm pretty tech savvy myself. You are not going to convince anyone in this household to fall for this scam. So maybe let your coworkers know not to call here again, eh? Oh, and by the way: You seem like an enterprising young man. Maybe think about finding yourself another job that doesn't involve scamming people, hmm?"

He giggled nervously, said, "Oh, okay, ma'am," and hung up.

They never called again.

So basically from my experience and the experiences of others above, it seems like the simplest way to get these people to stop calling you is to demonstrate in some way that you're not an easy mark.
posted by BlueJae at 10:27 PM on March 13, 2014

I usually use the opportunity to improvise new forms of verbal abuse on the caller or put the phone up to my speakers and crank some Black Metal.
posted by Liquidwolf at 4:25 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

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