Pop-Up Panic: The Tech Support Scam

June 8th, 2017 by admin

As an IT company we see a lot of viruses, scams, and other cyberattacks that businesses encounter. The Microsoft support pop-up scam is one of the easiest to recognize if you are prepared. The following article will tell you everything you need to know to be able to recognize, respond to, and protect yourself from this scam. You are browsing along on your computer when all of the sudden a pop-up window appears informing you that your computer has been infected with malware and that your files are being deleted or your information is being stolen. The pop-up message includes a phone number to contact Microsoft support where they will be able to solve all of your problems if you call quickly. The classic response is to panic (they try their best to make this sound urgent) and then to call the phone number provided. Never call the phone number. If you do call, someone will answer claiming to be Microsoft support. They will lie to you and claim that in order to remove the virus they will need remote access to your computer and walk you through the steps to install it. After doing so they will have complete access to all of your files and information. To top it all off, they will ask for your credit card information in order to cover the “service fees.” The problem is that it’s not Microsoft support on the other side of the phone. It’s a hacker who now has access to all of your financial information and computer files.

The Scam:

This example from Hoax-Slayer illustrates exactly how convincing these pop-ups can be. They pop-up will say something similar to the following:


Please call us immediately at: [Phone number removed] Do not ignore this critical alert. If you close this page, your computer access will be disabled to prevent further damage to our network.Your computer has alerted us that it has been infected with a virus and spyware. The following information is being stolen…

> Facebook Login > Credit Card Details > Email Account Login > Photos stored on this computer You must contact us immediately so that our engineers can walk you through the removal process over the phone Please call us within the next 5 minutes to prevent your computer from being disabled.Toll Free: [Phone Number Removed]

The Truth:

This is a popular scam that, due to the panic and fear it causes, many people fall for. Microsoft’s website clearly states “Do not call the number in the pop-up. Microsoft’s error and warning messages never include a phone number.” Additionally Microsoft states that they “will never proactively reach out to you to provide unsolicited PC or technical support. Any communication we have with you must be initiated by you.”

How to Respond:

  1. Never call the phone number.
  2. Exit out of the pop-up. Often in this situation the pop-up will continue to appear, or will be difficult to exit out of. By clicking CONTROL-ALT-DELETE, selecting the browser, and clicking “End Task”, you should be able to get back to work.
  3. Don’t worry. As long as you don’t call the number and allow them to remote in, they don’t actually have access to anything on your computer.
  4. If you have questions or concerns, call someone that you do trust by searching for the legitimate tech support number.
If you have already made the mistake of calling, start changing the passwords for your computer and particularly for your financial and online accounts (shopping, social media, etc). Scan your computer for viruses and be aware of any problems that could arise.

Proactive Care:

Like most computer issues, there are proactive steps that you can take to prevent these problems from happening. In order to protect your company from pop-up scams do the following:
  • Make sure your firewalls and antivirus are business quality and up to date.
  • Use web filters to keep your employees away from websites where they shouldn’t be, and where these pop-ups may be prevalent.
  • Ensure that your employees are aware of these situations and trained on how to appropriately respond.

Posted in: Protection, Security, Tech Tips