On January 14, 2020, Microsoft ended its support for Windows 7. Microsoft states, If you continue to use Windows 7 after support has ended, your PC will still work. Still, it will become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses because you will no longer receive software updates, including security updates, from Microsoft.
News that computers are going to be vulnerable to security risks and viruses has understandably been a cause for alarm for many Windows users. This has given criminals an easy opening to defraud those using older versions of windows, resulting in financial scams, ransomware, and breaches of their accounts.
How the Scam Works
There are a couple of different scams involving Microsoft’s recent announcement that support for Windows 7 devices is ending. In each of these scenarios, the criminal preys on the human emotion of fear. This often causes otherwise online savvy individuals to overlook their better judgment and ignore red flags that are present. Here are two ways this scam typically begins:
A criminal may call their victim claiming to be an employee of Microsoft. If asked, the criminal provides falsified information verifying that they work for Microsoft. They explain that you need to upgrade your computer if you want your computer to keep working. In some cases, they’ll say that you need to upgrade to a newer version of Windows, or they’ll explain that your user license has expired.
A victim will receive a popup or an email from someone posing as Microsoft alerting them that they need to upgrade their computer or renew their user license before access to their computer is locked.
This is where the criminal decides how they can best trick their victim.
They may request a one-time payment, stating that it is to cover the cost of the upgrade. If they think they can fool a victim into multiple payments or they may claim to need to withdraw funds monthly for a subscription to the upgraded service. In both of these scenarios, the criminal immediately benefits financially from the payment received from their victim. In the long run, they also benefit from having possession of the victim’s card number. They can then use this to make additional charges to the account, or they can sell the credentials on the deep web to other criminals to use as they please.
In another approach, they may request remote access to a user’s device under the guise that they are helping the victim perform the update. When a victim provides access to their computer, the attacker can do anything they’d like - read important documents, steal photos to use for vicious intents, use the computer as a host to conduct other illegal activities, access social media, banking, and company websites, and so much more. The possibilities are endless. In these cases, attackers often install ransomware so that the victim is required to pay money to restore their own access to their computer, but only after the attacker has already wreaked havoc on their device and accounts.
How can I stay safe?
Anyone can fall victim to the Windows 7 Upgrade scam. However, there are several things you can do to protect yourself and your personal information.
Never trust unsolicited callers. If someone calls claiming to be with a company that you do business with, and requests payment information or personal information about your identity - hang up. Search online or your last bill for the company’s direct customer service number and call directly; do not use the number provided to you in the unsolicited phone call. Explain the phone call to them to determine if it was a legitimate phone call before handling any business related to your account or device.
Install Browser Protection to block scam websites and popups intended to trick you into providing your personal information.
Use an account monitoring service like Guardio so that you can be alerted right away if your information has already been breached or stolen by a criminal.
Never allow a stranger remote access to your computer. If you are unable to upgrade on your own or need other technical support, get help from a reputable company or individual in person.
When it comes to the Windows 7 End of Life Reports, you should indeed update your device to stay safe. However, Microsoft has confirmed that they do not reach out to offer support by phone, email, or popup. All interactions with them involving upgrades are initiated by customers. If you are a Windows 7 user or have a loved one who uses Windows 7, get information on upgrading from Windows 7 here.