Microsoft Support Alert scams are very common on the internet. Please review these details, in case you meet one. Foreknowledge will help you avoid becoming a victim!
What This Scam Looks Like
Support Alert scams appear as you surf the internet or open email. They are a type of pop-up, but don’t present like an advertisement. Check out this screencap of a recent support alert scam:
You can also safely see it in action this YouTube video. But there are some other critical details to this scam when it appears:
- A loud tone may play, followed by a robotic voice. It may announce alarming things, like “Your computer has been locked”, “Do not shut off your computer”, or “Your identity has been compromised”.
- All other windows that were open may be hidden and inaccessible.
- The mouse cursor may disappear.
- The X buttons and other elements will not respond to clicks or keyboard entry.
How You Might Meet this Scam
Here are some examples of how and when you might be accosted by this particular scam:
- Clicking on a Sponsored Post or Ad on Facebook
- Viewing a Celebrity Death Hoax article on social media
- Visiting a Sponsored link or deceptive website from search engine results
- Misspelling or mistyping a URL in the browser address bar
- Clicking a link sent to you in a spam email or unexpected private message/text
Microsoft Support Alerts also originate from adware and malware installed on a computer. If this scam pops up frequently, then the computer may be infected!
What to Do When You Meet This Scam
Many people encounter this scam and feel helpless. The mouse doesn’t respond, the ‘X’ buttons do nothing, and the robovoice is urgently insisting to call the number before doomsday begins. But this is all part of the psychological ploy to get the victim to make the wrong choice (calling the number leads to an immediate remote control scam). Never call the number shown on these messages. Here are the right things to do:
- Turn down your speakers, if the noise is too much for you.
- Press CTRL + ALT + DEL on your keyboard, and then click the power icon to the lower-right. Choose Restart.
- Or, press AND HOLD the power button on the computer, until it turns off. Let go of the power button and press it again to turn the machine back on.
- When your computer is power back up, open your browser and see if you can use the internet normally again, but do NOT click Restore Pages, if asked. If you click Restore, you will resurrect the scam popups!
The messages on-screen may specifically tell you to not turn off your machine, but that is part of the scheme. Please do not believe it. Rebooting the computer is key to getting away from this scam!
How to Protect Against This Menace
This type of scam is powered by basic web pop-ups, so most antivirus programs won’t help. But there are other tactics & tools to lessen the likelihood of seeing this pop up:
- Install an ad-blocker in your default browser. I like AdBlockPlus best.
- Install Trafficlight in your default browser to reduce bad results in your searches.
- Consider using FB Purity, if you spend a lot of time on Facebook.
- Go into your browser notifications settings, and select “Don’t allow sites to send notifications”.
- Resist clicking on any salacious news items, lotteries & giveaways or offers that are too-good-to-be-true.
- Never click links in spam (email, texts, private messages).
- Be careful when typing in any URL from scratch, as cybersquatters are ready to capitalize on your typos.
Despite all of these protections, you may still see a Microsoft Support Alert scam on your system someday. The creators of this are devious and determined to get around all barriers, and get better at their efforts everyday. So be ready to reboot, and you’ll be OK!