Beware of Phone Calls Claiming Help For Windows Errors

May 23, 2013

I am writing to warn you of a scam. It isn’t a new scam, but I had my first exposure to it recently. For the security of your computer and your wallet, please take the time to read about it so you don’t fall victim!

A few nights ago I was sitting at home relaxing. The clock read 9:30pm. I had the business phone forwarded so I was a bit surprised to hear it ringing so late at night. Called ID said “Unknown Call” which usually is a bad sign. I picked up the phone anyways and answered “Unleashed Productions” just as I do with any business call.

It took a few seconds before I got a response and the caller definitely sounded like he was in a call center of some sort. I don’t remember the name he gave me, but he claimed to be from “Windows Technical Support” and wanted to talk to the user of the Windows computer. He continued by telling me they had received a number of error messages from my computer.

This had me scratching my head as there are multiple Windows computers in our office and it was very generic to ask for the user of one of them. All of the alarm bells were ringing loudly in my head, but I decided to play along for a short while. I asked if there was a specific user and the “support representative” knew my name.

The bells had gotten too loud for me so I simply said I wasn’t going to play along with his scam. I was surprised when the answer came back “Who told you this is a scam?” That was the end of our call.

Once I got off the phone, I got on Google and found many similar tales from the last few years and I guess it was vague memories of those stories that allowed me to smell this dead fish so quickly.

Just in case you get such a call, I want to provide you a little more information on what they are going to do. First, they are going to ask you to run the built-in Windows Event Viewer as a way to “prove” to you that your machine is spitting out errors that they claim to receive. Note that Event Viewer does not report these errors to Microsoft. What does this look like? A screenshot from my main machine is shown below.

Windows Event Viewer

Yes, there are some errors in there. If you’ve never looked at it before, it might look rather scary. Keep in mind it is called “Event” Viewer, not “Error” Viewer. Notice that these are all the events for a ten day period and most of them aren’t really errors. One is labeled MsiInstaller and simply indicates I ran an installer for some new software. Another is labeled RestartManager and indicates I got a message asking me to restart after an update.

After the scammer shows you this dialog and scares the daylights out of you, they ask you to install some free software so they can access your computer remotely. From the other stories I’ve read, the software they ask you to install is safe and is used for good reason by many people. The company that makes the remote access software is just an innocent victim of the scam.

Now that they can get on your computer, they’ll bring up other bits and pieces of information to try and convince you that your machine has massive virus infections. Again, the information they show you may look scary but it is nothing out of the ordinary.

Their goal is to get you to pay them to “fix” your computer and possibly also sell you some anti-virus software. Of course the software they sell you could actually be a virus itself.

If you get such a call, beware. Please do not let them access your computer and definitely don’t pay them anything. Just hang up!

Post Discussion


  1. Anonymous

    You are absolutely right. One of my clients called me after receiving one of these calls. She did not pay them anything but she did let them ‘look’ at her computer before she realized it was a scam. They told her that her computer would working in 13 hours if she did not let them fix the problems. That was a week ago and her machine keeps running fine although I am waiting to see if they were able to load some scareware while they had her online. Although it didn’t happen, I was amazed that they predicted an exact time her machine would stop working.

    As you said, HANG UP the phone!

  2. Bob

    First time I got their call I was curious so I played along to a certain point. We’ve gotten several calls since then. The first time my wife answered she was concerned until I told her it was a scam… I can see how easy it would be for someone not computer savvy to fall for this. Last weekend, I was with a 79 yr old friend and he fell for the scam and paid them $250 (they wanted $500 but discounted it for him) for anti-virus/malware software. He said somehow they were able to access his computer remotely and move his curser.

    Scary stuff going on out there.


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