Don’t be caught by these new PHONE scams (and yes, one of them claims it is Microsoft)

By Sandra Clitter  

Hi, All –

This post is a bit different than some…a down and dirty warning about some old, but apparently resurrecting phone scams that are active right now.

IF SOMEONE CALLS YOU AND TELLS YOU THAT THEY ARE FROM MICROSOFT, A UTILITY COMPANY, OR THE IRS, then ask you/tell you something akin to the following:

Microsoft: Your computer system has been compromised
Utility Company: Your bill is past due and we’ll shut you off if you don’t pay within 2 hours
IRS: We’re going to arrest you if you don’t pay your back taxes immediately

What is the common thread to these things? They are all PHONY…SCAMS…SCUMBUCKETS…and other words that I won’t print!

If there is a Microsoft issue, or pretty much ANY issue with your computer, you will get an EMAIL which has identifying information in it (e.g. your name, account id, last 4 digits of your cc) which will give it some validity. Check the link that is in the email asking you to take action or to ‘learn more’ by hovering over it to make sure you are indeed going to the site you expect to go to (e.g. Go to a browser window and type in the URL of the company directly, then search their site for any known issues. Face it, large issues make the news…and the companies involved (think Target) don’t have time to call every person affected. You’ll get an email containing lots of validating information…and it will be personally addressed.

Utility companies are bound by LAW to go through a written, documented process before cutting off service. They will NEVER have you go to a local drug store and buy a prepaid debit card to pay the balance of the bill. If someone claims to be from a Utility company, then politely ask them if you can call back at the published number (the one on your bill) and ask to be reconnected to that person. If they’re for real, it will NOT be an issue.

The IRS will NEVER call without having sent PLENTY of notices via the mail. Again, they’re understaffed. They mail letters (one of the few who still does) about issues with taxes. They do NOT call you out of the blue and tell you that they’re going to throw you in jail tomorrow if you don’t pay up. You KNOW if you’re in trouble, and you probably have the direct numbers of a number of people that you’ve been dealing with while trying to get yourself out of trouble.

In all three cases, the scammers prey on panic. They try to BULLY you into “paying up”. When you hand over either money or personal information, they WIN. Do NOT let them get to you. Stay calm. Call the company back, or send an email to that organization’s customer service before forking over ANY personal information or dollars.

I have had two clients in the last few weeks who were ‘stung’ – one by the Utility scam, and one by the Microsoft scam. In both cases, it was panic, the need to NOT have the dire consequences occur that sent common sense out the window.

Please, PLEASE be careful and cautious. These scammers are probably thinking up a new twist on the approach as I write.

UPDATED 10/18/2014 – A client and friend of mine, Dan Crowley, shared this video that he made of a call with this type of scammer…stick with it till the end…I burst out laughing! Well played, Dan!

Dan’s Scam Video


  1. Posted September 8, 2014 at 2:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    So many predators out there. Very Scary!

  2. Posted September 7, 2014 at 3:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Yes I had the Microsoft Scam call me and they wanted to access my computer immediately to correct a problem. I figured out it was a scam because MS never makes calls like this and they do not monitor anyone’s computer for a virus. Is was hard to get them off the phone and I finally hung up on them. However they called back a few days later. Anyway thanks for the alerts.

    • Posted September 16, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink | Reply

      You are so right, Rob. Microsoft doesn’t care that much about individual users :-). I’m not saying that in a bad way, but they just don’t know/care who we are individually. Glad you didn’t get sucked in.

  3. Posted September 7, 2014 at 7:31 am | Permalink | Reply

    And watch after your friends, especially your elderly friends who may be more susceptible to a scam like this.

    My Mom is 91 and in the medical wing of her retirement community, but she seems to feel that every fund-raising letter or phone call must be followed up with a check. (Thankfully, she doesn’t control the checkbook any longer.)

    And never give any personal information back. If THEY know so much about you before they call, let THEM tell YOU what your address, account number, etc are. But never give passwords or money.

    Charlie Seymour Jr

    • Posted September 16, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink | Reply

      ABSOLUTELY, Charlie!!!! And yes, the older among us (and younger) are most susceptible, so share these ‘best practices’ with them.

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