University of Vermont

Information Technology

Phone Scammers Claim Your Computer Has Errors

Although scams involving our computers usually arrive via email, sometimes the telephone is the medium of choice.  It pays to be just as on guard for phone-based technical support scams as we are for email scams. 

For example, a UVM community member recently got a phone call "from Microsoft."  The friendly caller said Microsoft had been monitoring her computer for months, and that it had "errors." 

What to do

If you receive a call like this -- whether the caller claims to be from Microsoft, from other technology company, or even from UVM IT personnel -- please hang up.  If you're not positive whether the call is a scam, please contact the UVM IT Helpline (656-2604) or your departmental IT support folks.  They'll be able to determine if your computer really does have a problem, and if it does, they'll help you fix it.    

How it works

Telephone-based tech support scams have been going on as long as people have had computers.  The caller may lead you through steps that "prove" your computer has a virus or another problem, and of course you'll be offered a fix, usually involving downloading software from a web site.  That software, of course, isn't helpful at all -- it infects your computer and proceeds to steal information or to enroll it in a world-wide network of zombie computers that will do just about anything the scammers command it to do.   

For more information

Here are some examples of technical support phone scams:

Movie hacking vs. real-world hacking


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