Yesterday a new scam or I should say one that was new to me. A call from an unlisted number, a robotic voice saying call an 800 number because your windows license has been expired. The Robotic voice was a nice touch. Although, like the other windows phone scams the goal; is to get you to call and give them money.
Just to recap, there is no central; windows computer. As a long time (now former) Microsoft employee I can honestly tell you such a computer couldn’t exist. Just the sheer raw number of errors from 1,000,000 computers would overwhelm such a system in a day. L: let alone the more than 1 billion deployed windows PC’s in the world. Can you imagine how much storage such an error system would require?
I find it funny but I also find it really sad. So, if you hear a robotic voice and it does not say Microsoft corporation on the caller ID, it is probably a fake. Microsoft technical support is very busy helping people with real problems. They don’t call you when your windows are expired.
By the way, Windows doesn’t expire and Microsoft doesn’t expire existing legal windows keys. So, the other side of this sad reality is it doesn’t happen.
So why do they continue doing this? Well first off last year alone this scam cost people more than 100 million US Dollars. So, the scam is profitable. They have evolved because a lot of us were keeping them on the phone for as long as we could (my record remains 11 minutes before the person go frustrated and hung up on me). I figure if I can get them to stay on the line with me, that is at least one more call they won’t make that day.
All of this said there are four essential rules.
1. Microsoft will call you from a number registered to Microsoft Corporation. If it says unavailable on your caller ID, it isn’t Microsoft.
2. Microsoft does call and notify you that your license key is expired. If, your license key isn’t valid your computer will go to a log in screen with a telephone number for you to find out why your computer isn’t logging in properly.
3. Microsoft answers the phone Microsoft. Funny how that works.
4. There is no central windows computer.
Now, if you really want to have fun, let them go through their spiel and then tell them you have a Macintosh. I think that just destroys what they are doing. It is my favorite thing to string them along asking dumb questions and then tell them I have a Macintosh. Or tell them my laptop was stolen and since it is reporting errors could we conference in the Police, so they could, from the central windows computer, provide the current location of my stolen laptop?
Remember the four rules. Oh yeah, and have legal software. If your software isn’t legal then whatever happens next is your fault. This goes for users and for companies. If you have 2000 employees and are allowed to have 1000 copies of MS office, installing 2000 copies of MS office is actually stealing. You wouldn’t want someone to walk into your business and take your most profitable items without paying for them. You would most likely call the police.
Rule one is the one that should stop 90% of scam calls. Rules 2-4 are just in case the person calling is persistent enough that they stay on the line despite not being from Microsoft. If you push the central windows computer folks enough why will admit they are not from Microsoft. They are a Microsoft partner!
The best protection against scams is to pay attention and follow the four rules above!
(Today’s pictures courtesy of Henry O. Andersen)
Windows fan, antispam guy