April Fools! The most popular pranks cybercriminals use to steal your money

To celebrate April Fool’s Day, read about the email, web, social networking, and phone scams that we hear about most often.

Scams that use the Microsoft name or names of other well-known companies. These scams include fake email messages or websites that use the Microsoft name. The email message might claim that you have won a Microsoft contest, that Microsoft needs your logon information or password, or that a Microsoft representative is contacting you to help you with your computer. (These fake tech-support scams are often delivered by phone.) For more information, see Avoid scams that use the Microsoft name fraudulently.

Rogue security software scams. Rogue security software, also known as “scareware,” is software that appears to be beneficial from a security perspective but provides limited or no security, generates erroneous or misleading alerts, or attempts to lure you into participating in fraudulent transactions. These scams can appear in email, online advertisements, your social networking site, search engine results, or even in pop-up windows on your computer that might appear to be part of your operating system, but are not. For more information, see Watch out for fake virus alerts.

Ransomware scams. If you see a pop-up window, webpage, or email message warning you that your computer has been locked because of possible illegal activities, you might be a victim of a criminal extortion scam called ransomware. Ransomware often masquerades as an official-looking warning from a well-known law enforcement agency, such as the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). For more information, see Help! Someone is holding my computer hostage.

Browser hijacking. Browser hijacking is a type of online fraud. Scammers use malicious software to take control of your computer’s Internet browser and change how and what it displays when you’re surfing the web. Many browser hijackings come from add-on software, also known as browser extensions, browser helper objects, or toolbars. Pay attentions to Internet Explorer warnings when you download software and learn the signs of trusted websites. For more information, see Fix your hijacked web browser.

Resources to help you avoid scams

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 »

Join the conversation

  1. Anonymous

    With limited budgets, it's more important than ever to have some kind of security framework that covers our guiding principles, including employee education; increasing the capabilities of our respinse teams; leveraging our system, infrastructure and endpoint protection strategies; and understanding our inventory of data and assets.

  2. Anonymous

    I have received two phone calls this week for a Microsoft Tech that states my computer is not downloading the proper updates.  The person asks if I would go to the computer and let them check my computer.

    I asked for a contact name and number. Would not give a name but the phone number provided wa 800-689-5555

    Be careful

  3. Anonymous

    So is it a scam or is it true that windows are deserting us in our hour of need to try and get more cash out of us poor folks by shutting support on windows 2013 AND XP Exploitation is pretty common – almost as much as scamming

  4. Anonymous

    My father had a similar experience.  He had a pop up from "Microsoft" saying that his computer is running slowly and that there is a new update that he can buy to make it run faster.  Unfortunately, when they called him, he gave them his details, and was sent a confirmation e-mail, but then after contacting Microsoft realised this was a fake, so has had to change his bank details.

  5. Anonymous

    Has anyone heard of Driver Support?  An icon for it appeared on my PC, claiming to be from Microsoft, and I'm really wondering if it is legitimate.  After paying $39 to activate the update, I called and got someone on the phone who I could hardly understand, and he was trying very hard to sell me advanced tech support for $299.  At that point, I hung up.  

  6. Anonymous

    I have been locked out of my Hotmail account.  Received message need a security code and requires I verify my phone number.  The problem there is that I do not have text and my phone does not take recorded messages.  Please verify if this message is actually from Microsoft.  I got a code by having it sent to my gmail account, but feel very insecure about this "security" ploy.

  7. Anonymous

    Micro$oft are the biggest scammers of all. They put out software for the public to test for them.The windows all versions are full of holes when they are released to the public.They are pretty smart they get thousands of testers for free.

  8. Anonymous

    James it is a SCAM.  Just had a client make that mistake and get billed $249 on their credit card.  Senior citizen, but he called his bank and them me, because they crashed his computer, which actually was a good thing, they could not get back in.  I used system restore, back a week, scanned his system with 4 programs, and got rid of what was left.  He now has a NEW credit card, and has changed all his passwords, AND the credit card company reversed the charges on them.

    The other scam, which is what happened to him, is they call up, say they are from Microsoft, and that the MS servers have detected errors on your system, and to fix it, they need to remote in.  Have even had them pull it on me, and I have been an MS partner since 1994.  Can you say GOTCHA.

    Report that number to the FTC, if they get enough complaints they pursue it.

  9. Anonymous

    i cannot open my microsoft office and my norton

    and all my files gone

  10. Anonymous

    My hotmail mail account has been hacked and now blocked by microsoft.  My request to unblock has gone to expedited level but I have been waiting 2 days for a response back from them.  Has anybody else had this problem and how long before microsoft fixes it?

  11. Anonymous

    Got a phone call this AM saying it was Microsoft Security calling to refund $199.00 for a security program I didn't get loaded on my computer.. They asked me to go to a web site named AMMY and download a program to save on my machine. This program called tv.exe was one that my machine gave me a warning on. Seems that opening that program would have potentially given them access to my computer. I did not go there because it seemed too much like a scam for them to get access to my personal information.

Comments are closed.