Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Microsoft Removes Gold Certified Partner Over Telephone Scam Claims

As illustrated in this topic on the Microsoft Answers forum, the issue of fake tech support telephone calls has been a problem for over two years.  The scams appeared to have originated in the U.K., spread to Australia, followed by Canada and the United States.

Although reports in various forum topics have pointed fingers at other vendors, in the instant case, the finger was pointing at "Comantra" who was a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. 

Comantra, like other vendors, was said to have cold-called people, implying that they represent Microsoft.  After convincing the call recipients that the errors seen in Event Viewer on Windows are dangerous, the technicians would attempt to convince the people to allow the technicians to have remote access to their computer.  Repairs, of course, required a credit card charge.

About Microsoft Gold Certified and Certified Partners

It is important to understand that being a Microsoft Partner, in any shape, whether Certified or Gold Certified, does not mean that the company represents Microsoft.  Rather, it merely means that the company has met the requisite requirements, has paid the requisite fee and has earned the appropriate Partner Points for the Partner level.  The requirements for both Microsoft Gold Certified and Microsoft Certified Partners are fully described at the references below.

In addition to the above, Microsoft Gold Certified Partners must employ a minimum number of Microsoft certified professionals, meet the certification and sales requirements and submit competency-specific customer referrals.

Microsoft Certified Partners additionally complete one of three requirements (i.e. employ or employ by contract at least two Microsoft Certified Professionals, with three customer references approved by Microsoft or product software that Microsoft has tested and approved or hardware that a Microsoft authorized testing vendor has approved.)

How to handle telephone scams

If you receive a call from someone claiming to be representing Microsoft or Microsoft tech support, just hang up!  Microsoft does not make unsolicited calls.

In the event you have been taken in by one of the fake tech support calls, it is strongly recommended that you take the following steps:
  • Change the passwords or PINs on your computer and your online accounts.
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
  • If you know of any accounts that were accessed or opened fraudulently, close those accounts.
  • Routinely review your bank and credit card statements monthly for unexplained charges or inquiries that were not initiated by you.

People in Australia, Canada, U.K. and U.S. appear to have been hardest hit by telephone tech support scams.  The links below have additional information and resources.


Microsoft References


Articles illustrative of the on-going telephone scam problem:

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Mike Fara said...

Hello there. Well, this may be a surprise for you, but it is Mike Fara from I recently did a video on cold calls and identity theft in IT after my office phone picked up on one of these and recorded it. This is good information and quite newsworthy. I will be looking into this further to possibly annotate that video or add something in the blog about it.

Some time ago, we had issues with members of the "Microsoft Outreach Team" coming to our forums and advising everyone to simply go to the Microsoft knowledgebase or the official MS forums for answers to their support questions. At one point, it got to an issue where they were just telling people to go to

Investigations further revealed that these individuals, while given access to e-mail addresses, were third party contractors based out of India and outside the US. This practice was so repugnant, because this "Outreach Team" had no answers for anyone. They were paid marketeers designed to send people off to Microsoft's website. We can only assume the firms were being paid based on conversions, since they would mask Microsoft URLs with TinyURL and, a practice that we became aware of that Microsoft frowns upon for security reasons. They were tracking their own success/fail ratio and sending it to whoever was the lead contractor for the program. It was a number of firms coming from IPs in India and at least one in the Silicon Valley area. This was very unfortunate, as the e-mail addresses led us to believe they were legitimate employees. The cat got out of the bag when an honest one actually told us what was going on.

It is my contention a great amount of harm is done by these programs.

Mike Fara

Corrine said...

Hi, Mike.

The Windows 7 Forums were not alone in being accosted by the "hit & run" posts by the various "Outreach Teams".

The various teams were indeed quite obnoxious in their referrals to the Microsoft forums. Seldom was a useful response posted. In fact, the majority of the time, their posts & referrals were off topic, completely unresponsive and otherwise useless. Many sites banned members of those teams.

Recommended: Mike's video about false computerized phone calls and identity theft is at How to Prevent Online Identity Theft: An Early Look - YouTube

Anonymous said...

NoNoNo Do not hang up, fight back. I got the event viewer scam call and I played this guy for almost 20 minutes. In fact I was thinking that I wish I could record this and play it back on you tube. Somebody should get a prized for playing a scammer for the longest time. This would really make there lifes miserable.