Bing brings in blanket ban on online tech support ads

We’ve written about fake technical support scams many times over the years.

Last year, this troublesome topic was #4 in our Advent Tips series in the lead-up to Christmas, where we advised you, “Just hang up.”

In fact, it’s now more than five years since we recorded our popular podcast on this topic, aiming to provide you with somewhere to send your friends and family to help persuade them not to be frightened by these crooks.

We didn’t imagine, back then, that the podcast would still be relevant, let alone current, five years down the line, but it is.

The script

You’re almost certainly familiar with the script.

A call comes out of the blue; there’s a virus on your PC; it’s attacking other people; the nice man/woman who “works with Microsoft” (or some other recognised IT brand) can help you…

By all accounts, any niceties soon evaporate if you continue with the call.

These guys don’t take no for an answer, laying on the pressure, even if they have to call several times over several days, until you give them remote access to your computer and let them “fix” the “threat” for a fee.

If you do agree to pay, they typically fiddle around for a bit, pretend to be “fixing” something, tell you how glad you should be that they were around to save the day, and then clear off with your money.

The damage is typically somewhere from $100 to $1000, depending on how hard they think they can squeeze you.

Fake calls are still commonplace, but with more and more people refusing to take calls from unknown numbers, the crooks have been adapting.

A common technique these days is to use a web ad or popup that simply runs the scam in reverse, so to speak.

Instead of calling you, the crooks display a warning and advise you to call them, typically on a toll-free number.

You’re exercising your choice to make the call, but they’re paying for it, which somehow feels less intrusive than a cold call, and much more believable because you’re guaranteed to be using your computer when the warning appears.

Anyway, desperate times need desperate measures, with the result that Bing announced an advertising policy change this week.

From now on:

Bing Ads disallows the promotion of third party online technical support services to consumers because of serious quality issues that can impact end user safety.

No ifs, and no buts.

Sadly, if you’re a legitimate technical support company that provides remote support over the internet, you won’t be able to pitch your services on Bing any more.

The sheer volume and audacity of the crooks has spoiled it for everyone.

What to do?

  • If you receive a cold call about accepting support, just hang up.
  • If you receive a web popup or ad urging you to call for support, ignore it.
  • If you need help with your computer, ask someone whom you know, and like, and trust.

In this case, when we say “someone you know,” we mean “someone you have met in person before,” rather than an internet friend.

In this globalised world, it’s convenient to be able to jump online and find the products and services you need without even leaving the sofa, let alone going into town.

But we concur with Bing here.

In case of PC technical support, especially to do with malware or any sort of cyberattack, don’t go looking for help online.

The sheer volume and audacity of the crooks has spoiled it for everyone.

DEALING WITH FAKE SUPPORT CALLS

Here’s a short podcast you can recommend to friends and family. We make it clear it clear that these guys are scammers (and why), and offer some practical advice on how to deal with them.

(Originally recorded 05 Nov 2010, duration 6’15”, download size 4.5MB)

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CEO, Author of the #1 Risk to Small Businesses

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