The Microsoft Refund Scam: What It Is and How to Protect Yourself From It

Microsoft isn't going out of business and isn't giving you any money

The Microsoft refund phone call scam is a common con that targets consumers using Windows computers or other Microsoft products and services such as Office or Xbox. The scammer tries to convince the target that they’re owed a refund for a service or product and attempts to trick them into handing over their financial details or backdoor access to their computer.

What Is the Microsoft Refund Phone Call Scam?

The Microsoft refund call scam typically involves a phone call from someone claiming Microsoft is going out of business and the company has been required by law to pay compensation to everyone who’s recently purchased a Windows operating system, a Microsoft app such as Office, or a Windows laptop or PC. Is Microsoft going out of business? Not at all. But that won’t stop the phone scammer from trying to convince you otherwise.

Woman using Windows 10 in S mode on a Microsoft Surface Laptop

These scammers can also claim official tech support for a Microsoft app or service is ending and they’ve been commanded by the courts to compensate consumers. Targets can be promised hundreds or even thousands of dollars in compensation. All they need to do is follow the caller’s instructions which, unknown to the target, often give the scammer full access to their computer, its data, and any financial information stored on it.

How Does the Microsoft Refund Call Scam Work?

The Microsoft refund scammers call targets from a variety of different phone numbers and have been known to use spoofing to make it appear as if they’re calling from an official Microsoft office or support center. They often pretend to be a representative of the Microsoft Research and Development Team, Microsoft Support, Microsoft Tech Support, the Windows Helpdesk, the Windows Service Center, the Windows Technical Department Support Group, the FTC, or an ambiguous third-party tech support company supposedly tasked with processing refunds. Scammers can also claim to work for the Microsoft Refund Department, which doesn’t actually exist.

Microsoft has actually been known to give refunds on apps, movies, and Xbox One video games have been removed from digital sale due to their rights expiring. These refunds are always given in the form of Microsoft Store account credit, which is automatically deposited into users’ Microsoft accounts, or an Xbox gift card code. Microsoft will never call you about such a refund. Nor will they require you to click on a link in an email or fill in a claim form.

Once the scammers have convinced their target they are who they say they are, they’ll often request the target provide them with personal and financial information to fill in a fictitious refund request form on their end. In reality, the information they collect could be used to access your bank accounts or steal your identity. The people behind the Microsoft refund scam have also been known to ask victims to describe what they see within specific Windows apps and settings or to install an app from a fake website or email link. Both of these strategies can be used to give the scammers full access to your Windows computer, search and browser history, and associated accounts.

How Do the Microsoft Refund Scammers Find Victims?

The parties behind the Microsoft refund scam likely find their targets by crawling public phone number directories and social media profiles. While it would make sense for them to specifically target Windows users, those who don’t use any Microsoft products or services have also received these scam calls which suggests the scammers simply call as many people as possible until they get a match. Given the popularity of Windows and Microsoft services, it’s not as crazy of a strategy as it initially sounds.

Many victims of the Microsoft refund scam have reported receiving robocalls which leave pre-recorded messages instructing the target to call a given number to begin the refund process. This is an automated process which allows the scammers to reach a large number of people at once with very minimal effort.

How Do I Avoid Getting Involved in This Scam?

To avoid falling victim to the Microsoft refund scam, simply refrain from responding to any calls from people claiming to be from Microsoft. If you receive a voice message from a Microsoft or tech support company employee, just delete it and move on with your day.

Microsoft will almost never call you unless you’ve requested a phone support session for a specific time and date time beforehand via the official Microsoft website.

I’m Already a Victim. What Should I Do?

If you’ve been tricked by the scammers into installing software on your computer, you need to uninstall it as quickly as possible, perform a system security scan, and then install the latest Windows 10 updates. You’ll also need to contact your bank and credit card company as your online banking and associated online shopping data and history may have been compromised. Make sure to change all of your email, social media, and other online account passwords as well. 

As with all phone scams, make sure to file a report.

How Do I Avoid Being Targeted for the Microsoft Refund Scam?

To reduce your chances of being targeted by Microsoft refund scam calls, you may want to take measures to block robocalls from calling your smartphone. It can also be worth removing your phone number from showing to the general public on social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.