Business & Real Estate

‘Expiring license’ scam tricks Microsoft Windows users

Microsoft Corp. no longer will provide technical assistance, software updates or bug fixes for Windows 7, which is big news for users of the popular operating system. The recent announcement is giving scammers an opportunity to confuse Windows users into paying to update their “expiring Windows license” – whether they need to or not, according to recent Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker reports.

How the scam works

You receive a call from someone who claims to be a concerned Microsoft employee, who explains that you need to upgrade your operating system if you want your computer to keep working. The caller may say that you need to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10, or simply that your Windows license is expiring.

The caller may seem friendly and helpful, but he or she is far from it. Someone may convince you to pay yearly fees (that don’t exist) or request remote access to your computer under the guise of installing software. If you pay the fees, you could lose hundreds of dollars. 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.

Protect yourself

To safeguard consumers from the scam, the Better Business Bureau recommends the following.

  • 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 claim they were already using Windows 10 when they got a call advising 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.

Better Business Bureau representatives checked with Microsoft, and officials confirmed that the company never reaches out to offer support by phone or pop-up on a computer screen. All support requests are initiated by customers. Microsoft won’t reimburse scam victims for money or gift cards given to scammers, but representatives will check a computer to make sure any viruses or malware have been removed.

For more information, visit BBB.org/TechSupportScam tips.

For BBB’s research on why some people are more susceptible to scams, visit BBB.org/ExposedToScams.

Victims of a scam can report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker to help others stay alert and informed and avoid similar fraudulent activity.

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