Microsoft announced earlier this month that they will no longer be providing free security updates or technical assistance for the Windows 7 operating system — and scammers are looking to capitalize on this, according to the Better Business Bureau.
The BBB says scammers are trying to convince Windows users that they can pay to update their "expiring Windows license."
Here's how the scam works. You receive a call from someone posing as a Microsoft employee, saying you need to upgrade your operating system in order for your computer to keep working. The fake Microsoft employee may tell you that you need to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10, or that your Windows license is expiring.
Then, they are going to try to convince you to pay annual fees (that don't exist) in order to update your expired Windows license. They also might request remote access to your computer under the guise of installing new software.
"If you pay the fees, you could lose hundreds of dollars," the BBB warns. "But if you allow the scammer access to your computer, your secure personal information, such as banking details and login credentials, can be compromised. This puts you at risk for identity theft."
Microsoft has confirmed to the BBB that they never reach out to offer support by phone or via pop-up windows on your computer screen. All support requests are initiated by customers.
"Microsoft won’t reimburse scam victims for money or gift cards given to scammers, but they are happy to check over your computer to make sure any viruses or malware have been removed," the BBB says.
The BBB has the following tips for folks who don't want to fall victim to tech scams:
- Don’t trust unsolicited callers. Reputable companies don’t call consumers without their permission.
- Double check unusual claims. If someone calls you claiming you have a problem you had no idea existed, don’t take their word for it. Hang up and do some research before you accept any help. In the BBB Scam Tracker reports, victims report that they were already using Windows 10 when they got a call claiming they needed to upgrade.
- Never allow a stranger remote access to your computer. If you have a genuine tech problem, get help from a reputable company or individual.
- Get tech information straight from the source. If your computer runs Windows, for example, find out about updates, new operating systems, and tech support directly from Microsoft. Double check you are on the official website or calling the real support line before you share personal information or pay any money.
The Microsoft support website has more information about updating from Windows 7 here. And should someone fall victim to a Microsoft support scam, they can report it here.
You can also report the scam to the BBB's Scam Tracker.