Have authorities detected illegal activities on my computer?

John writes:

I got an email saying that illegal materials were found on my computer and it would be locked until I paid a fine. Is this a scam?

Yes, this sounds like a common blackmail scam called ransomware. Ransomware is an email, website or pop-up window that displays warnings about possible illegal activities and demands payment before you can access your files and programs again. Delete the email and report it immediately.

Do you think you might have already fallen for a ransomware scam? Find out what to do.

About the Author
Eve Blakemore

Group Manager, Trustworthy Computing

Eve Blakemore is a Group Manager for Trustworthy Computing who delivers consumer guidance around the latest trends in security and privacy. Eve joined Microsoft in 1998 and has worked in corporate and field roles with Microsoft Learning, US Public Sector, Read more »

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69 comments
  1. Anonymous

    IT IS AMAZING HOW MANY PEOPLE THINK THEY ARE AUTOMATICALLY SAFE WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING

    INTO SECURITY. ANYONE WITH WIFI HACKER APPS CAN SIT IN STARBUCKS AND WATCH EVERY KEY

    AND MOUSE STROKE. PEOPLE GET WITH IT OR GET LOST (ALL UR MONEY LOST). ONLY YOU ARE

    RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR SECURITY, YEAH YOU ! !! . JEFF

  2. Anonymous

    I have people calling on my house phone saying they are calling from Microsoft and I need go to my computer and put in some information they give me to fix it because people are doing illegal activity on my computer.  My son talk to them and told them he is an IT person himself and the information that they wanted him to enter did not sound like a liget site.  Then they hung up but they continue to call here.  Today I finnaly told the man to got to Hell and stop calling my house because I have two IT people in my house that can fix my computer.

     

  3. Anonymous

    I had the same type of phone call today saying that someone was trying to hack into my computer and if I turned my computer on and followed the caller's instructions Windows would fix this for me.. I was suspicious so told them to ring me tomorrow. In the meantime I am trying to find out if this is a genuine call from Windows.

  4. Anonymous

    Does anyone know if this is a scam?

  5. Anonymous

    Jeff, I tell people in the class I give on conputer and internet security exactly what you said, they are all shocked.

  6. Anonymous

    Downloading Microsoft and meet a web site that offered driver up dates and install

    turned out to be a face that is all over my computer and installed a tool bar from ???

        Help removing tool bar .Thanks

  7. Anonymous

    I got a call from an Indian person, whom I could not understand he said my computer was in danger of crashing, said he was in India and I should go to Western Union and send him money right away, then gave me his Supervisor who said No he was in California, gave me his name to call this number he gave as soon as I got to Western Union and  he would tell me what to do.  He showed me a lot of red x's on my computer and I was really afraid I would lose everything if I did not send him the money, but I didnot send him any money and have not heard from them since.  I just don't know if they can do something to my computer to disable it, any suggestions how to find out ?????//

  8. Anonymous

    I have a 5 computors. a Indian person said my computor is being used for illegal activities. which one I dont know . he said that today at 12:00 pm my computor  would no longer be supported by microsoft. I loaded spybot and found a program that stopped my computor from send info to microsoft. can you help me

  9. Anonymous

    My latop  was locked up with the ransomware ( I just read about above)and it had Federal Logo and SBC Global. and I should send $300 to pay the fine to get it unlocked.  I couldn't use it at all so had to take it to a repairman to get it off.  Could I have done it myself?

  10. Anonymous

    Received a call from a person with a strong "East Indian" accent.  He said he was calling from "Computer Direct" who is the authorized "something or other" for Microsoft.  His company has noticed a large number of errors coming from my computer and… before we went any further, I told him I was treating his call as "Spam".  He hung up and departed.  Don't know if this is legit or not – but suspect he was not.  Comments back from MS Security?

  11. Anonymous

    I also got a call from a person from a foreign country that said he was with microsoft and people were hacking my computer and that I should get on my computer and I don't know the rest.  That's when I hung up.

  12. Anonymous

    I got a call similar to those who have shared – I called Microsoft's answer desk – and thankfully, I did not give permissions for the Aabbyy.com remote desktop controls.  Thanks Microsoft for not charging me to keep my system clean!

  13. Anonymous

    Security is there for a reason  – it is best to make use of what Microsoft has put out for our use. Microsoft Security Essentials – I find any way –  is a very good anti-virus program –  I use it daily.

    Also Malwarebytes.com is another very good malware program. I run that one weekly.

  14. Anonymous

    Don't be silly.

    If anyone calls you wanting to talk about your computer activity, hang up and block the number if possible.

    They are scam artists in every case.

  15. Anonymous

    these phone call people tell you these red x things in events log are dangerous, THEY ARE NOT DANGEROUS, and do not affect your PC in any way. Just hang up and forget them.

  16. Anonymous

    All you have to do is to restore you're computer to an earlier time, that takes care of the ransomware.

  17. Anonymous

    I get those calls and tell them I don't have a computer and ask why they have called.

    They disconnect.

  18. Anonymous

    Several days ago when accessing ARCAMAX a popup informed me that Microsoft Essentials had spotted several malware programs and that I should run the program shown on the popup in order to get rid of said bad stuff.  I immediately closed IE and ran MS essentials plus Malwarebytes Anti-malware.  Neither one spotted anything wrong, so beware ARCAMAX!!  I looked for a CONTACT US link but found none on ARCAMAX.

  19. Anonymous

    Do NOT ever give anyone your IP address… I have rec'd calls from people with very heavy accents, claiming to be from Microsoft,  and want access to my computer and then money to 'fix a virus' that my Internet Provider has informed them of.  when I ask who is my Provider, they say it's confidential, and I string them along and finally tell them that I am an IT technician at a very large company, and if they don't stop calling, that I wlll report them to the authorities. They hang up very quickly.  there is usually is no call display phone number to report, and if there is, it's bogus.

    Just don't send money or give info to anyone.

  20. Anonymous

    Same  thing.  East Indian said was from Microsoft.  I told him no thanks.w

  21. Anonymous

    Like others I have received calls from a foreigner named John Smith calling from microsoft, he calls all times of day/night even if computer has been off.  I have yelled, threatened to call police, speak to supervisor etc but the calls keep coming.  Called verizon to block but they say they cant block international calls, last number was from canada.

    Had a friend with same problem & he kept guy on phone for an hour before foreigner hung up….

  22. Anonymous

    I don't even answer my phone if I don't recognize the number. Most legit persons will leave me a voicemail and I can return their call if I choose. My phone is for my convenience….I don't pay the bill for the convenience of others to harass me. And I certainly realize that I don't have to pay a third party in order to have use of my computer. It amazes me just how gullible and what pushovers most people are. I don't understand it.

  23. Anonymous

    This happends to me on a regular basis. I have hung up on them but they just phone back. Now I just put the phone down and leave. After 5 to 10 minutes I hang it up. As for the 'Ransomeware', to unlock your screen click the bottom of your screen, then click 'Start task manager' . When it is open you will see the locked screen page. Click to highlite it then click 'end task'.  This will get rid of them.

  24. Anonymous

    I received a similar message.  I shut the computer down.  Rebooted and "recovered" the computer to a time just prior to this "invasion".  I was never annoyed after his episode.

  25. Anonymous

    I got a call just today from an Asian sounding woman saying that she is calling from Microsoft trying to tell me that my computer is sending many errors to Microsoft and I should do what she told me on my computer. I told her that what she wanted was to get control of my computer. Then she hung up.

  26. Anonymous

    I had a man call my house this week scary called me by my first name and said he was from Microsoft and they have been getting reports of viruses on my computer. I told him I would have to have direct paperwork to prove who he said he was in my hand before I would ever believe him. He told me he would send me a email to prove it and hung up. I heard other people in the back ground talking and he was foreign . I then went to Microsoft and it says it never cold calls anyone . beware out there of these scammers .

  27. Anonymous

    Try doing what I did when they called me. First, I acted like I was going to my computer and started putting in the info. Make them wait around 3 minutes and then tell them a message popped up on my computer that I need to read to them. This is what I said to them then "Dear Sir, the info you just had me to type in is linked to the Online Security Center of the FBI of the United States and you are caught". Sorry to say they hung up and have yet to call me back…

  28. Anonymous

    Haha, when the "East Indian" guy called me, and said there was something wrong with my computer and I needed him to help me, I told him "I am so glad you phoned!  I knew there was something wrong!  I keep seeing aliens on my screen, talking to me!"  Then I started to describe them!  He didn't hang around any longer!!!  Hahahahaha…….

  29. Anonymous

    I have had many similar phone calls, mostly from people with Indian accents.  I was foolish enough once to let them get control of my PC and then had all sorts of trouble getting it back to normal.  Now I just hang up when they ring purporting to be from Microsoft, but they must have caught thousands of others in their scams.  Surely there must be some way to stop this sort of illegal activity?

  30. Anonymous

    The man from India has called me dozens of time with all kinds of warnings.

    I finally told him that I beat my computer to pieces with a hammer, because he told me I had a virus in it.

    Boy, did that send him into a loop :-)

    Now when he calls I just tell him that I don't have a computer because it had a virus & died.

  31. Anonymous

    If you don't immediately suspect ANY unsolicited  contact  by email/phone re your p.c. then you don't deserve to own it , give it to your dog instead to chew on .Simple as that.

    Go to the bottom  of the class….FAIL.

    There is a sucker born every minute……..still applies.

  32. Anonymous

    I get calls like this almost weekly, both on my home phone and home business line. It is really annoying!

    I keep yelling at them and hanging up on them but would just like it all to stop. (I have a Do Not Call order on my home phone but it doesn't slow them.)

    You'd think after 40+ calls like these, they would just give up on my number. But the calls keep coming.

  33. Anonymous

    Received a call from a person who said they worked in conjunction with Microsoft.  As computer had been slow sent error messages and said they could fix them up.  So came in by remote control and showed how many errors I had on the system and told me it was much too high and they could fix it up.  After an hour and a half was told there was a fee.  But invoice had disappeared the next day put a stop to payment but still say they have given me software.  Company is 6 months old but no reviews at this stage. Obviously American but unidentified owner lives in Queensland, Australia.  At least I stopped it in time

  34. Anonymous

    My husband got the pop up saying he had been looking at unauthorized pages and that his computer was locked until he paid $300. It had a FBI logo like others have mentioned. He laughed because he knew he had not been anywhere so he hit CTR/ALT/DLT and got out of it that way. Restarted his computer and all has been well.

  35. Anonymous

    I addition to advising for installing proper firewall, AV and anti-malware, people should use their common sense. If I am ever going to be contacted by Microsoft, it would be from their regional team at or around my location, not the MICROSOFT USA.

  36. Anonymous

    I also have received these calls from so called people stating my computer was being used for unregistered activities. I as a Microsoft Partner told them to call my lawyer then I would believe there farce. For Microsoft will not have a 3rd party company do cold calls to you and request money. and Sandy yes you could have repaired the system by your self for little to no money as I have repaired many for people in past few Months. Any time you get this scam ware on your system if you have another pc you can access the web with you can find the fix fast. and these callers to you never should you give them money it as well is a farce and should be dealt with as such.

  37. Anonymous

    We have had repeated calls from people, sometimes claiming that they are from Microsoft, but always claiming that there are problems with my computer. I have not heard their full sales pitch because I have always cut them off and told them I am not interested before putting the phone down.

  38. Anonymous

    I got a call from my mom yesterday, she was yelling i didn't see her for a month. Is this a scam ? Can you help me ?

  39. Anonymous

    When will people learn the basic principle that nobody who is legitimate calls and demands money?    

  40. Anonymous

    I also got a number of these calls from India, on the last call I let him go through his speech and without warning I blew the loudest referees whistle I had down the line. They never called again afterwards.

  41. Anonymous

    If Anyone ever claims to be from Microsoft saying that your computer is infected and you must pay XX amount to have it fixed then Hang Up as it's a scam.

    They are just tyring to scare you into thinking that you have a serious problem.

    Just make sure you are running an Anti Virus (I Use Free Avast) and run malwarebytes (In Safe mode ideally) regularly to get rid of any malware etc.  

  42. Anonymous

    I get a call almost monthly telling me they are from microsoft centre and my computer is giving out error messages which they can resolve. They ask that I sit by my computer and they will give instructions for me to key in. At which point I tell them my computer is working OK and please send me an email. Also which computer is acting maliciously. They cant tell me. No number is given when I dial after the call.

  43. Anonymous

    I get calls from someone who sounds like he is in India telling me he is 'from Windows' and that 'Windows have detected a problem' with my computer and they want to fix it. I always tell them I know its a scam and they should not ring me again. I just wonder how many people fall for this?

    MS service has never been proactive fixing customer machines, so why should they start now? Why are people so gullible?

  44. Anonymous

    I have vipre antivirus will this also work?

  45. Anonymous

    People, just move to Linux, end of problems(most problems)

  46. Anonymous

    I don't work for Microsoft, but I'm an IT professional.  Note that Microsoft will NEVER call you to tell you there is a problem with your computer.  Neither will anyone else.  The phone call is the same as the description e-mail above.  I received a call myself, but the guy on the phone was so computer illeterate himself that he didn't even understand what I meant when I said I am a network administration.

  47. Anonymous

    You'll know when there is illegal activity on your PC. There will be a knock on the door and someone, probably in uniform, will be holding a warrant!

    Until then ignore any claims by phone or whatever that your PC has a problem. These people are preying on the foolish who don't question what they are told.

  48. Anonymous

    People calling you up saying they are from Microsoft are scammers. They usually ask you to look at the events log which is normally full of warnings but htis is normal.  I have had ransom ware on my PC which required  a repair as it corrupted many of my files. From now on ill only be visiting trusted web pages as it circumvented Macafee and firewall. Cost over £100 to get sorted.  

  49. Anonymous

    Come on folks – use some brains.  Install good anti-virus software (No – not the 'make my computer faster' stuff adverstized on TV, and definitly nothing that is advertized in pop ups on your computer).  Keep it updated.

    Microsoft's security essentials is good.  There are others out there that are also good.  

    If you use Microsoft's – keep your windows updates turned on and 'automatically' installed.  That way security essentials stays updated.  

    Do that and you'll not have these problems.

    And no – NO ONE calls you out of the blue to tell you that your computer is 'in danger' or 'infected'.  NO LEGITIMATE COMPANY DOES THAT.  If they call like this, it's guaranteed to be a scam.  Hang up immediately.

    If you think you're at risk – check out Microsoft's security web page AND DO WHAT IT SAYS.

  50. Anonymous

    Ask them if they know your IP-number, if they do not, just hang up!

    Then ask yourself "How do they know which computer is related to a certain phonenumber?".

  51. Anonymous

    They call us once or twice a month. We've taken to acting concerned 'Ooh, I'll just go and turn on my computer…' then leaving them hanging on the phone. They tend to hang up after 10 minutes or so, which is 10 minutes they aren't bothering anybody else.

  52. Anonymous

    The simplest way to handle these calls is to say: "I'm sorry, you must be mistaken.  I don't have a computer."  It stops them cold and they hang up

  53. Anonymous

    Had a phone call several months ago from a guy who said his company was under contract with Microsoft to fix a serious flaw in Windows.  Wanted me to go to my computer and type in some words in the Search box.  Told him my computer had all its Windows Updates, plus if there was a big problem Microsoft would alert everyone by email or through news channels. Told him goodbye and hung up.  He called back a few minutes later and tried again to get me to work with him.  This time I was not courteous and just hung up!.

  54. Anonymous

    Today I had a call on my cell phone telling me that my computer would be shut down and could not be accessed unless I followed their directions. This from a person who could not even speak proper English. I looked at the call in screen and it said the # was from Washington DC. I asked how they got my # as I was on the do not call list, they immediately hung up so people beware!

  55. Anonymous

    Are you people for real?

    Microsoft does not call you unless you call them first.

  56. Anonymous

    What about the FBI ransomware. That one locks you screen till you pay. I found a way to get rid of it but I'm a software engineer.  May Microsoft can come with away to catch it with a virus scan.

  57. Anonymous

    I received 2 calls from someone saying that they ate from a computer company.  Wanted to fix my computer. I politely refused them the 1st time and ob the second call u firmly told them not to ever call my phone!

  58. Anonymous

    Received India sounding call claiming to be from DELL. My computer is a DELL. Saying my warranty had expired, could renew for $20.00. Form popped up looking like DELL, filled in credit card info, they immediately began running up big charges. Received a call from credit card telling of ifraud activity, would send new card in 3 days.

  59. Anonymous

    I received a call not from microsoft but from Windows – PC supportnServices to install a firewall since there were errors and warnings on my computer. I know that I have sent error warnings to windows and I did see 120 of them in the system. I did buy and install the firewall. I hope that this is a legitimate division of Windows.

  60. nohelpno1

    I've had them call me a few times & I just tell them ok what do I need to type? I listen then wait until they ask if I typed it & I reply yes. Then they ask what's on the screen & I tell them nothing is on the screen. So they want me to type something else which I tell them I did. They ask again if anything shows up & I tell them no. Then I ask them if the O/S has anything to do with it? They ask what O/S I'm running & I say Linux & they say that they can't help me & hang up. This whole time I've been sitting on my front porch watch the car's & such. roflmao……at least it keeps them from calling someone else & harassing them or actually getting someone to do what they say. Wish the govt or the phone company could stop them some how!!!!!!!!!!

  61. Anonymous

    For those who wonder if they have been affected by ransomeware, Click the highlighted Find Out What To Do link posted at the end of the answer to John's question at the top. Lots of helpful links to places where you can scan and clean your PC, and optimize your security. In addition, http://www.grc.com/ has Shields Up, which will tell you how secure your PC is. If you are using Microsoft's free Security Essentials, you should do well with Shields Up. You'll find it under the 'Services' tab. Trend Micro's House Call (housecall.trendmicro.com/) is a free virus scanner that you can run. Finally, what Jeff said at the top, you are responsible for security. Please click the link with the Microsoft resources, and make use of them. Places like cNet and Tucows have freeware that will protect you from malware and things like keystroke loggers. Malwarebytes, SuperAntiSpywear, Spywearblaster and Peer Block are all good programs; but you must update them and run them regularly. HTH somebody. PS, I'm not an IT specialist, just a tech saavy DIY'er who has fixed my own and others PC's for over 10 years.  

  62. Anonymous

    I too received a call with an Indian accent and he indicated he represented Microsoft. They company had noticed a large number of errors coming from my computer and they wanted me to type in a website address and to follow the directions. I did not but this sounds just like the comment made by mbo on 214 July of this year.

  63. Anonymous

    If you have anything of value, anything at all, even if you live hand to mouth, I assure you there are an increasingly large number of people in the world who want to steal what you have.  The internet has breeded an entirely new generation of thief and as honest people become more aware they become more clever.  The trick is to stay one scam ahead of them.

  64. lautay7@msn.com

    Re Leon's comment: I completely agree!!!!

  65. Anonymous

    I have had these calls many many times.  I once told the man I did not have a computer (a fib) he said I was telling lies I finally agreed that I did have a comp. He then threatened me for doing that and that when I turned my comp on it would be wiped out.  I asked was he threatening me, he said yes, repeated my name and phone number and said again that when I turned on my comp it would be wiped out then he hung up.  I tell them every time that I know it is a scam and not to ring again.  I think the calls come from all over the place by different groups.  I even think that some of the operators really think there is something wrong with your comp.  They are trying to get control of your comp and if you follow their instructions they will get remote control of your info. I checked out the site they were trying to get me to go to and found all this out. Hang up on them straight away.

  66. Anonymous

    Using an H8  does not scan or e-mail on my problem Doyle Brandt

  67. Anonymous

    A person called me. I was on my computer at the time and it was slow.  The person said they were from my ISP and I had Malware on my computer. Unfortunately I believed him initially and then realized it was a scan when he wanted access to my computer to show me the problem. I called my tech support to check my computer for any problems at a cost but it was worth it to make sure there was no malware or any other bugs on my OS.

  68. Anonymous

    i click on the wrong link and they lock my computer..telling me that its the USA cyber space police and to unlock it i need to send 300 to money gram, and then it will unlock in 48 hours

  69. Anonymous

    how van i unlock my computer . there asking for ransome

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