Posted by: Jacqueline Beauchere, Director, Online Privacy and Safety

Phone Scammers Infographic

*Click on graphic for larger view.

Before I go any further, I want to assure you that this is a legitimate Microsoft blog, and that I genuinely work for the company.

If you’ve received an unsolicited phone call from someone claiming association with Microsoft and offering technical support, or help with a security problem you didn’t know you had, I wouldn’t blame you for doubting me.

Unfortunately, in today’s day and age, a little suspicion is a good thing because increasingly devious, determined and resourceful criminals want to steal from you. Cash is what they really want, but personal information they can exploit for financial gain – that’ll do nicely, too, thank you.

Phone scams have been around for a while. If you haven’t already been a target, it’s probably only a matter of time before you’ll get a call from someone claiming to work for Microsoft, one of our partners, or another reputable company, about a problem the individual claims to have detected on your computer.

Of course, these individuals are there to help; help themselves that is. Once these crooks have tricked a victim into believing they are who they say they are, they employ a range of tactics designed to separate you from your cash, your credit, or your good name. Some will ask straight up for credit card details as payment for “help” with a non-existent problem. Others will trick you into installing malware or logging onto a website designed to extract valuable personal information. Some even manipulate victims into downloading a remote access tool to gain control of your machine so they can again: help themselves. The BBC in the UK ran a compelling story, which is worth viewing.

So, how can you help protect yourself? Again, this is where suspicion and cynicism are good things. First off, know that Microsoft will never telephone you about a support or security problem. If you get such a call, hang up. Always treat unsolicited calls, especially those asking for money or personal information, with a large dose of skepticism.

Knowledge is the best defense. To help raise awareness we ran a related campaign this year. We surveyed 7,000 computer users in the UK, Ireland, the U.S. and Canada; 15% of them said they had been called by a scammer. In Ireland this increased to 26%. Of those who said they received a call, 22% were duped ranging from permitting remote access to their computers and downloading harmful software code to handing over credit card information.

In financial terms, our research showed the average loss across all four countries was $875 per victim. In Canada the average loss was $1,560. Overall, the average cost of repairing damage caused by scammers to computers was $1,730. In the U.S. the average was $4,800.

Our commitment to online safety and working to address cybercrime runs deep; it’s something we take seriously. To learn more about phone scams and how you can help guard against them and other cyber fraud crimes, see our website