Tech support scams are an industry-wide issue where scammers use scare tactics to trick you into unnecessary technical support services to supposedly fix device or software problems that don't exist.
At best the scammers are trying to get you to pay them to "fix" a nonexistent problem with your device or software. At worst they're trying to steal your personal or financial information; and if you allow them to remote into your computer to perform this "fix" they will often install malware, ransomware, or other unwanted programs that can steal your information or damage your data or device.
How tech support scams work
Scammers may call you directly on the phone and pretend to be representatives of a tech company. They might even spoof the caller ID so that it displays a legitimate support phone number from a trusted company. They'll probably ask you to install applications that give them remote access to your device. Using remote access, these experienced scammers can misrepresent normal system messages as signs of problems.
Scammers might also initiate contact by displaying fake error messages on websites you visit, displaying support numbers and enticing you to call. They may also put your browser in full screen mode and display pop-up messages that won't go away, apparently locking your browser. These fake error messages aim to scare you into calling their "technical support hotline".
Important: Microsoft error and warning messages never include phone numbers.
When you engage with the scammers, they can offer fake solutions for your “problems” and ask for payment in the form of a one-time fee or subscription to a purported support service.
How to protect against tech support scams
First, be sure to follow these tips on how to keep your computer secure.
It is also important to keep the following in mind:
Microsoft does not send unsolicited email messages or make unsolicited phone calls to request personal or financial information, or to provide technical support to fix your computer. If you didn't ask us to, we won't call you to offer support.
If a pop-up or error message appears with a phone number, don’t call the number. Error and warning messages from Microsoft never include a phone number.
Microsoft will never ask that you pay for support in the form of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, or gift cards.
Download software only from official Microsoft partner websites or the Microsoft Store. Be wary of downloading software from third-party sites, as some of them might have been modified without the author’s knowledge to bundle malware and other threats.
Use Microsoft Edge when browsing the internet. It blocks known support scam sites using Microsoft Defender SmartScreen. Also, Microsoft Edge can stop pop-up dialog loops used by these attackers.
Tip: Click here for a free, printable, sheet of tips for spotting tech scams that you can keep for reference or share with friends and family.
What to do if a tech support scammer already has your info
Uninstall any applications that scammers have asked you to install. For more info on how to uninstall applications, see Repair or remove programs in Windows.
If you have given scammers access to your device, consider resetting it. To learn how, see Recovery options in Windows.
Note: Performing serious recovery methods like resetting your device can be a bit time-consuming, but this may be your best option in some situations—for example, if fake error codes and messages pop up continually, all but preventing you from using your device.
Run a full scan with Windows Security to remove any malware. Learn how.
Apply all security updates as soon as they are available. To see available updates, select the Start button, then select Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update. For more info, see Update Windows.
Change your passwords. Learn how to change your Microsoft account password
Call your credit card provider to contest the charges if you've already paid. Let them know what happened; they'll probably want to cancel and replace your affected cards to prevent the scammers from using them again.