Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Microsoft hits Windows tech support scammers with lawsuit

Gregg Keizer | Dec. 22, 2014
Microsoft on Thursday sued two technical support companies, alleging that they infringed numerous Microsoft trademarks and practiced false advertising as they tricked consumers into paying for bogus help.

That complaint's accounting of investigators' calls read like many of the emails Computerworld has received from Windows PC users.

"I have been scammed ... I am ashamed to say not once, but twice," admitted Linda Reynolds in an October email.

"Just received a call from a man with such a strong East Indian accent that he had to transfer me to a [female] associate," reported another reader just this week. "They claimed to be from 'Windows,' and wanted me to go to my computer so they could show me how to 'fix' the horrible problems I have with it."

"I have been called repeatedly from an anonymous phone number, claiming to be Windows tech support and wanting me to log on for them to rid my computer of viruses that threaten my software," added Jack True last month.

While the best advice seems to be to simply hang up on such calls, even that hasn't worked for some.

In a long email, Dan Evans of the U.K. described a persistent and abusive scam that involved seven calls over a three-hour period. The final call was the most bizarre. After Evans told that caller to take his name off their list and "go away," the stream of invective reached new levels.

"Then followed a tirade of verbal abuse that really shocked me," Evans said. "It included 'f*** you, f*** your mother and f*** your daughters, you f***.' I hung up then. I thought they were trying to wind me up so much that I would call back."

The scammers are persistent because there is big money at stake. Microsoft estimated that the loss in the U.S. alone amounted to $1.5 billion annually, and that a third of those contacted by scammers fall for the ploy. "This significant conversion rate is a testament to the great lengths to which the companies offering fraudulent services go to appear legitimate and to confuse consumers about purported problems with their software and PCs," Microsoft said.

It's unlikely that Microsoft's lawsuit will do much to stymie scammers.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed similar lawsuits against other scammers — in 2012 against a half-dozen Indian firms, and most recently ones aimed at two in Florida — but while those actions may have put some fraudsters out of business, others have taken their place.

As an indication of the extent of the problem, Microsoft said that it had received 65,000 customer complaints since May, when the company last blogged about the plague.

Microsoft has asked the court for unspecified damages and injunctions to stop the scammers from using its trademarks.

Neither defendant, Customer Focus Services nor Anytime Techies, responded to Computerworld's request for comment. The firms' various websites remain online, although none now displayed Microsoft trademarks or logos.


Previous Page  1  2 

Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.