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Microsoft Reports Onslaught of Tech-Support Scams

Telephone scammers who impersonate Microsoft technical-support agents have redoubled their efforts, according to Microsoft. The callers will claim your Windows PC is insecure and at risk of being hacked, but they really want remote access to your machine in order to convince you to buy bogus antivirus software — and, in some cases, following their instructions may end up with your system being locked and being held for a hefty ransom.

Image: Microsoft

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft in a blog post yesterday (Sept. 30) that it had received over 175,000 customer complaints about these fraudulent calls since it put up a Web page to report the scams in May of 2014. It also estimates that PC users in the U.S. will likely pay more than $1.5 billion to scammers in 2015 (though Microsoft did not specify whether that figure was only for tech-support scams).

MORE: How to Protect Yourself From Tech Support Scams.

Yesterday, Microsoft hosted more than 300 members of the AARP to a seminar at its main Redmond, Washington campus to educate them on this matter. It's a sign that tech-support scams have a higher success rate when they prey on computer users who aren't especially tech-savvy..

The AARP's Fraud Watch Network Ambassador, Frank Abagnale — the legendary former con man portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Catch Me If You Can — led the discussion. Of course, all you really need to know about tech-support scams is that you should hang up if you ever get a cold call claiming to be from Microsoft's (or any other brand's) tech support.

Henry T. Casey

Henry is an editor writer at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and Apple. Prior to joining Tom's Guide — where he's the self-described Rare Oreo Expert — he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. You can find him at your local pro wrestling events, and looking for the headphone adapter that he unplugged from his iPhone.