South Africa: Microsoft warns of local phone scam

South Africans “third most likely” to fall for online scams-study
South Africans “third most likely” to fall for online scams-study. (image: Microsoft)

Microsoft South Africa is once again warning local consumers to be cautious of a reoccurring phone scam, which has left the wallets of unsuspecting consumers hundreds and in some instances thousands of Rands lighter.

Microsoft South African has warned of an ongoing phone scam (image: Microsoft)
Microsoft South Africa has warned of an ongoing phone scam (image: Microsoft)

Cybercriminals and scammers make use of public phone directories as info gathering sources on consumers, in an effort to convince clients that they can be trusted. In addition, these callers also claim to be from Windows Helpdesk, Windows Service Centre, Microsoft Tech Support, Microsoft Support, Windows Technical Department Support Group or even Microsoft’s Research and Development Team.

From this point onwards the scam typically unfolds in the following manner: A cold caller, claiming to be a representative of Microsoft, one of its brands or a third party contracted by Microsoft, tells the victim they are checking into a computer problem, infection or virus that has been detected by Microsoft.

“In reality, the scammer only tricked unsuspecting consumers into believing that there is a problem and that paying a fee would be the best way to sort the issues out. Often they will also push clients to purchase a one year computer maintenance subscription,” says Ashleigh Fenwick, Microsoft South Africa’s PR and communications manager.

Beyond this tactic, cybercriminals also aim to trick consumers into installing malware onto their PCs, with the aim of gathering sensitive data the likes of online banking logins.

Fenwick says that consumers should be aware that Microsoft will not cold call them with regards to malfunctioning PCs or viruses. In the rare instance where Microsoft might contact consumers directly, the caller will be able to verify the existence of a current customer relationship.

In order to keep from falling victim to the phone scam, Microsoft provides the following advice to local consumers:

•             Do not purchase software or services over the telephone.

•             If there is a fee associated with the service, then hang up.

•             Consumers should never authorise remote control over a PC to a third party, unless they can confirm that the party concerned is a legitimate representatives of a computer support team with whom they are already a customer.

•             If you feel that a caller is acting suspicious, take down their information and report them to the South African Police Services (08600 10111 or

•             Never provide credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support.

Staff writer