Microsoft Sues Fake Tech Support Scammers

Brandon Dimmel's picture

Have you ever received a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to work for Microsoft's technical support department?

Late last week Microsoft announced that it had sued two technical support companies alleged to have infringed on several Microsoft trademarks. According to the firm, these companies called people at home offering support for non-existent problems with the Windows operating system. Microsoft says many people were tricked by the scheme and paid the scammers money for their assistance.

Scammers Claim to Represent Microsoft

"Defendants have utilized the Microsoft trademarks and service marks to enhance their credentials and confuse customers about their affiliation with Microsoft," Microsoft says in its complaint. "Defendants then use their enhanced credibility to convince consumers that their personal computers are infected with malware in order to sell them unnecessary technical support and security services to clean their computers." (Source:

The two companies sued by Microsoft include California-based Customer Focus Services and Florida-based Anytime Techies. Microsoft says these firms used a range of sites -- including,,, and -- to support its fraudulent claims.

Windows Event Log "Malfunctions" Harmless

Microsoft says that, in most cases, people targeted by Customer Focus Services and Anytime Techies were told that their Windows-based systems were malfunctioning, often as a result of a malware infection. To demonstrate the existence of these issues, scammers pointed victims to the Windows Event Log, which shows processes and errors - most of which are harmless. That's when the caller, who claims to be a legitimate Microsoft support technician, attempts to convince the target to pay money for technical assistance.

The end result often involves the installation of useless software the scammers claim will resolve malware infections and other phantom problems with Windows, Microsoft says.

Undercover Microsoft Investigator Pays $860

In an effort to learn more about the scam, Microsoft carried out an investigation that involved calling the phone numbers listed through the websites associated with Customer Focus Services and Anytime Techies.

Once the connection was made, the scammers "claimed to have found 75 issues of concern ... caused by 'polymorphic viruses,'" Microsoft said. "The alleged issues involved benign junk files and folders, none of which contained viruses or malware," the firm added. Nevertheless, the Microsoft investigator complied with the request. In the end, they paid $860 USD to "clean" and "fine tune" a Windows-based PC that Microsoft claims was healthy.

Overall, it's estimated these kinds of scams have generated annual revenue of $1.5 billion in the United States alone. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Have you ever been contacted by a suspicious caller claiming to represent Microsoft or another major tech company? Did you immediately hang up or did you try to learn more about the scam? What do you think the penalty should be if Microsoft wins its lawsuits?

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Average: 4.8 (13 votes)


Dennis Faas's picture

It's good to see scammers finally receiving a taste of justice, but the issue is so widespread and operates in many countries around the world - so I'm wondering how long it will take to be truly effective.

That said, many of the scams revolve around supposed errors in the Windows Event Log. I also wonder why Microsoft has not yet placed a special notice somewhere in the Event Log to help warn users of such a scam? This would certainly have a dramatic effect on the scammers credibility and thus their ability to receive funding - at least in the short term (and until they find a new way to scam people).

Lipl1_2237's picture

Unfortunately if they fall for the scam then they'll just be told that the the "malware" put the message there to fool them into thinking the PC is fine.

gi7omy's picture

I usually let them ramble on - then told them I was using Linux

Lipl1_2237's picture

I kept getting calls from "MS tech support" saying they've been monitoring traffice to my PC and boy were they hard to understand. I said I was using Linux and was told that Linux is a part of Windows so they needed to connect and fix the problem. Hmmm someone got slapped on that one but I'm not saying who .... LOL

LouisianaJoe's picture

They usually have a heavy accent. When they tell me that they are monitoring my PC, I ask them to tell me what my IP address is. They say that they do not have that. I tell them that to monitor me, they must have my IP address. At that point I usually hear profanity followed by them hanging up.

tarza177_2334's picture

On the internet search for 'any company' technical support and you will definitely find similar scammers. I have run across the for both Dell and Kodak. I'm sure there are many more.

randyh2's picture

Hi Denis...
Yes, I get calls from these frauds. Usually, I call them names and then hang up, but one time
I played along and kept their "tech support" guy on the phone for 25 minutes! He finally hung up
after I told him I had worked with computers for 40 years, and he didn't know what he was talking
about. Not only did I waste his time, but hopefully I kept him from scamming someone else.

w4bms9_2757's picture

These company's should be forced to pay ALL moneys that they have duped people out of to go to the homeless people of America.And from that point on they should be placed on 20 year probation that says they may never connect to the internet ever again.

murphmich_3775's picture

I have gotten quite a few of these calls over the past several years. I usually just hang up on them, but when I first started to get them I would listen for just a moment and then realized everything they had just told me was a lie. I'm like you can't be monitoring my computer.

seghillian's picture

I guess that most people using a site like this one have at least a little technical knowledge and are able to see through this very obvious scam. It annoys me a lot though that many people have been conned by this ($1.5B in the USA alone!). It's great that Microsoft is suing but I'd like to see people going to jail AND having their assets confiscated for these types of scams.

JeffRL's picture

I get several of these calls a week. I suspect they come from overseas, in fact I'm sure they do, so MS may have trouble stopping them, but I wish them well. The callers are often obnoxious. I told one last week that I wasn't interested and I hung up. I didn't get rude or swear, I just said I'm not interested. He immediately called back and told me to f*** off. I told him that I'd been told worse things by better people and that confused him, so I hung up again and that was that -- for a couple of days, anyway.

I saw something on another site where they had a computer with a fresh installation of Windows and nothing else on it. It had never been online and they knew it was 100% clean, so they told the next caller claiming to be from MS that they wanted his help. They kept a log and transcript of the whole process from that point. The first caller is just trying to get you to agree to ask for help (and that is crucial), then he hands you off to someone else who does the hard sell by "showing" where your system is supposedly infected, then convinces you to ask for help (again, that's crucial), then you get handed off to someone who will close the deal by "cleaning your system" -- AFTER getting your credit card number. For it to stay legal, other than their claim to be from MS, they have to get you to ask for help and agree to it. That way, they're not invading your computer. You've invited them in and authorised it. It's all part of the sell they use on you.

The person who investigated this confronted the third person in the chain and he basically admitted that before pulling the plug on the phone chat and on the computer-to-computer connection.

I've tried telling callers that I use Linux, that I have a Mac, that I have a Radio Shack TRS-80 (look it up, you young'uns), even that I have an IBM mainframe running Fortran, but they always have a comeback reply. I'm sure it's all scripted for them. Telling them you don't own a computer ends their interest, but so does just saying nothing and hanging up.

I get a laugh from the names they give. I'm sure they're in south Asia and that they've been told to use a "Western-sounding" name. Two have been named Abraham Lincoln, one was George Clooney, one was Clark Kent, and Kevin seems to be a popular name. I often say, "Hi Kevin, my name is Sanjay Bindar." That ALWAYS confuses them and some have had to start their scripted spiel all over again.

I'm going to start telling them that I'm logging the call to send to Microsoft's lawyers and see how they react to that. Feel free to use it, too, but be careful not to say or imply that you work for MS!

Commenter's picture

I love to act like I'm totally bewildered by my computer. I have "trouble" finding my event viewer, sometimes misspelling words and having to start all over. I click on the wrong buttons "accidentally", make them repeat themselves over and over, all kinds of things. Acting hesitant and confused gets them believing that they've got a hot prospect on the line.

One time I acted like I couldn't hear or understand so much that I finally hung up. The guy called back. I did it again. After a couple minutes, he called back with a Skype call. With a regular phone number on my caller ID. I should have given his phone number to all those bill collectors who call for people I've never heard of.

Another time I went through the entire rigamarole with the event viewer, again hesitant and making a lot of mistakes so the "Microsoft tech" had to explain things over and over to me. When he finally got to the point where he wanted me to go to his website so I could have a remote session, I told him that was the problem, and wasn't that why he called me from Microsoft -- because I couldn't get on the internet?

My family loves to have me put these guys on speaker so they can listen to the fun. The only problem is keeping them from laughing so hard that the guy on the line can hear them.

Oh, good times, good times!

JeffRL's picture

I got another one today. I told him I had to put him on hold for just a second while I went to the phone beside my computer, then I just set the phone down and went back to what I was doing. After about 30 seconds, I could hear him calling "Hello?" and that went on for about a minute before he gave up and hung up. My record is 3 minutes and 10 seconds. That one was yelling incoherently into the phone by the end of it.

Sometimes I interrupt them right at the start of their spiel and tell them that the call is being recorded for instructional purposes. At a minimum, that confuses them, but it has really freaked out a few of them. The funniest was one where their system had already told me that THEY were recording calls for training purposes, but their caller was really upset about the idea of me recording him. When he calmed down, I told him that it was video recording, not just audio. Dead silence, then he started screaming at me and the line went dead.

In case people don't know, there are "do not call" lists that you can register with and that will reduce the number of calls you get. I'm in Canada, but I signed up for both the Canadian and American lists and I recommend everybody do that. It doesn't help with calls from overseas, but it does reduce the total number of calls.

gi7omy's picture

Not quite the same thing, but this guy has the right idea:

toubes1's picture

I have tried "do not call" lists, but of course they do call. I have also a feature that is supposed to deny callers without caller ID. Nothing works. What does for me is to either hang up on them, or to have a lot of fun.

The last one, I asked them, because of their foreign accent, if they were from North Korea. That got an immediate hang up. I have let them talk and say, well I have done everything you ask and my computer shows absolutely nothing of what you claim.

I also went on with one bird that I was happy that they were on the phone as I was with the INS and do they have their green card? we are coming right over because we traced their IP address and if they didn't have one, they would be immediately deported to Cuba at Gitmo. That got one in panic.

Also I have done the ,hold thephone while I get to my computer, and finally will you speak up I can't hear you.

Mostly I hang up. What needs to happen is that in all the major newspapers, a large notice, front page article or something warning people of this expensive scam.

I also get the calls that clam I have malware on my machine. I hardly have that, with Bitdefender Internet security, Malwarebytes and a few other that I scan with , nope , nada..