Advent tip #4: Unsolicited tech support call? Just hang up!

Many of us have had unsolicited technical support calls, sometimes several of them.

It’s a scam that’s been going on for years, and it goes something like this.

Your phone rings, or an SMS arrives, or a popup appears when you visit a website, and the message tells you that there’s a virus of some sort on your computer.

If the “warning” arrives in an SMS or a pop-up, you’re urged to call a “support line,” typically a free number that seems harmless enough to dial.

Whatever the route, you end up talking to an earnest-sounding “support techie” who will typically imply that he’s from Microsoft, or Windows, and has some official-sounding reason to be talking to you.

We’re using “air quotes” here because everything about these calls is bogus, and you’re about to be squeezed into paying for a service you don’t need, and which wouldn’t fix your problem even if the caller were telling the truth.

There are various storylines the call will follow, but, in the end, the scammer will insist that a virus infection has been traced to your computer, and that you need to let him help you fix it.

If you don’t act now, you could lose all your data, be sued, get cut off by your ISP, or worse: a pack of scary lies to squeeze you even harder.

If you cave in, you’ll end up paying by credit card for a remote-access support session or some software that you didn’t need, that you can’t trust, and that won’t solve the problem you didn’t have.

Encourage your less tech-savvy friends and family not to yield to this sort of pressure.

End the call right away, because there is nothing useful to hear, and nothing useful to say.


Here’s a short podcast you can recommend to friends and family. We make it clear it clear that these guys are scammers (and why), and offer some practical advice on how to deal with them.

(Originally recorded 05 Nov 2010, duration 6’15”, download size 4.5MB)

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