Windows tech support scams are back

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here’s an explanation for

Windows tech support scams certainly aren’t a new thing, but with new reports of their resurgence, it’s worth a reminder to steer clear of these scammers.

In addition to anecdotal reports, the Harrisonburg police in Virginia recently warned of an increase in tech support scams in the area, according to

And a report from the blog Malwarebytes notes that the Microsoft tech support scam has now spread to new markets like Europe and Japan.

How the scam unfolds

Fortunately, the pattern of the scam is often very similar and it’s easy to spot.

It starts with a phone call from a blocked or international number. The caller claims to be a Microsoft-certified technician, or a tech for another well-known company. Some claim to be from the Windows help desk while others use Microsoft Support.

Then the caller says he has detected a virus or malware on your Windows PC and that it must be fixed promptly, notes Microsoft in a blog post about the scam.

The “technician” may ask to take over your PC remotely, for your username and password or to install software that allows them to assist.

Finally, to clean your PC and fix the issue, the scammer demands payment of several hundred dollars via credit card or online payment methods.

If you refuse, they might resort to scare tactics and threaten to destroy your computer, Microsoft notes.

But, of course, there’s no real problem with your PC. And nothing gets fixed. The entire thing is a fabrication.

It’s important to note that these scammers aren’t only targeting individuals — they’re after businesses as well.

Am I at risk?

Unfortunately, these types of scams are only becoming more popular and more sophisticated.

The vast majority of victims are located in countries where English is the primary language — the U.S., U.K., and Canada, for example — but new targets include France, Spain, Germany and Japan, notes Malwarebytes.

It’s wise to be suspicious of calls claiming your PC has been infected.

How can I protect myself?

Microsoft offers the following tips for avoiding tech support scams:

  • Never give up control of your computer to a 3rd party unless you can confirm it’s a legitimate representative of a company with whom you’re a customer.
  • Hang up if there’s a subscription associated with the service.
  • Never provide credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be tech support.

If you do fall victim to one of these scams, report it to local authorities immediately and alert your credit issuer.

It’s also always a good idea to monitor your credit reports on a consistent basis.

You can pull your credit reports for free at