Microsoft Help Desk Scam

Also Known As: "Microsoft Help Desk" virus
Damage level: Severe

What is "Microsoft Help Desk"?

"Microsoft Help Desk" is a trojan that locks the computer screen and displays a fake error message. Trojans are often distributed along with various potentially unwanted programs (PUPs). Following infiltration, PUPs cause unwanted redirects, deliver various intrusive online advertisements, and continually record various user-system information.

Microsoft Help Desk scam

The "Microsoft Help Desk" error message states that Microsoft Security Essentials has detected five potential threats and, therefore, access to the system is blocked. The malware must be removed immediately. Therefore, victims are encouraged to contact 'certified technicians' a via telephone number ("+1-888-828-6971") provided.

They are then supposedly guided through the removal process. In fact, the "Microsoft Help Desk" error is fake and should not be trusted. This error message is named after a button labelled "Microsoft Help Desk" within the lock screen. Once clicked, this button minimizes the lock screen, opens Internet Explorer browser, and redirects users to a deceptive website (fastsupport.com).

This is a major flaw, which users can exploit to remove the screen lock and the trojan. Be aware that potentially unwanted programs employ a "virtual layer" to generate pop-up, banner, coupon, and other similar ads. The virtual layer is a tool that enables placement of third party graphical content on any site.

Therefore, displayed ads often conceal underlying content of visited websites. Furthermore, some lead to malicious websites and even accidental clicks can result in high-risk adware or malware infections.

By delivering content-concealing advertisements and causing unwanted redirects (for example, to fake search engines), PUPs significantly diminish the Internet browsing experience.

In addition, PUPs continually record IP addresses, geo-locations, Internet service provider, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, URLs visited, pages viewed, search queries, mouse/keyboard activity, and other similar data. This information is shared with third parties (potentially, cyber criminals) who misuse private details to generate revenue.

Therefore, information tracking can result in serious privacy issues or even identity theft. PUPs should, thus, be uninstalled immediately.

Research reveals dozens of fake error messages similar to "Microsoft Help Desk". Windows Activation, Your Windows Has Been Banned, and Your PC Ran Into A Problem - these are just some examples from many. All claim that computer is damaged in some way, however, their only purpose is to generate revenue for the developers.

Potentially unwanted programs also have an identical purpose: by offering various 'useful features', they attempt to give the impression of legitimacy. Rather than providing any value for regular users, however, PUPs cause unwanted redirects, display intrusive ads, and collect various user-system data.

Criminals proliferate this software by employing a deceptive marketing method called "bundling" - stealth installation of third party apps with regular software/apps. Developers hide bundled apps within the "Custom/Advanced" settings of the download or installation processes.

Rushing these procedures often leads to inadvertent installation of rogue apps. These two procedures should never be rushed.

"Microsoft Help Desk" error message:

A problem has been detected and windows has been shutdown to prevent damage to your computer.
Contact your system administrator or technical support group for further assistance.
for Contact us Toll Free +1-888-496-5150
If this is the first time you've seen this stop error screen, restart your computer, If this screen appears again,
follow these steps:
Check to make sure any new hardware or software is properly installed. If this is a new installation,
ask your hardware or software manufacturer for any windows updates you might need.
If problems continue, disable or remove any newly installed hardware or software.
Disable BIOS memory options such as caching or shadowing. If you need to use Safe Mode to remove or disable components,
restart your computer, press F8 to select Advanced Startup Options,
and then select Safe Mode.
Technical information:
*** STOP: 0x00D1 (0x00C,0x002,0x00,0xF86B5A89)
*** gv3.sys - Address F86B5A89 base at F86B5000, DateStamp 3dd9919eb
Beginning dump of physical memory
Physical memory dump complete.
Contact your system administrator or technical support group for further assistance.
for Contact us Toll Free +1-888-828-6971
Microsoft Security Essentials detected 5 potential threats that might compromise your privacy or damage your computer. Microsoft Security Essentials wasn't able to block virus.
Helpline: +1-888-828-6971

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Quick menu:

"Microsoft Help Desk" virus removal:

Step 1

Windows XP and Windows 7 users: Start your computer in Safe Mode. Click Start, click Shut Down, click Restart, click OK. During your computer starting process press the F8 key on your keyboard multiple times until you see the Windows Advanced Option menu, then select Safe Mode with Networking from the list.

Safe Mode with Networking

Video showing how to start Windows 7 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 8 users: Go to the Windows 8 Start Screen, type Advanced, in the search results select Settings. Click on Advanced Startup options, in the opened "General PC Settings" window select Advanced Startup. Click on the "Restart now" button. Your computer will now restart into "Advanced Startup options menu".

Click on the "Troubleshoot" button, then click on "Advanced options" button. In the advanced option screen click on "Startup settings". Click on the "Restart" button. Your PC will restart into the Startup Settings screen. Press "5" to boot in Safe Mode with Networking Prompt.

Windows 8 Safe Mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 8 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 10 users: Click the Windows logo and select the Power icon. In the opened menu click "Restart" while holding "Shift" button on your keyboard. In the "choose an option" window click on the "Troubleshoot", next select "Advanced options". In the advanced options menu select "Startup Settings" and click on the "Restart" button.

In the following window you should click the "F5" button on your keyboard. This will restart your operating system in safe mode with networking.

windows 10 safe mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 10 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Step 2

Log in to the account infected with the "Microsoft Help Desk" virus. Start your Internet browser and download a legitimate anti-spyware program. Update the anti-spyware software and start a full system scan. Remove all entries detected.

If you cannot start your computer in Safe Mode with Networking, try performing a System Restore.

Video showing how to remove viruses using "Safe Mode with Command Prompt" and "System Restore":

1. During your computer starting process, press the F8 key on your keyboard multiple times until the Windows Advanced Options menu appears, and then select Safe Mode with Command Prompt from the list and press ENTER.

Boot your computer in Safe Mode with Command Prompt

2. When Command Prompt Mode loads, enter the following line: cd restore and press ENTER.

system restore using command prompt type cd restore

3. Next, type this line: rstrui.exe and press ENTER.

system restore using command prompt rstrui.exe

4. In the opened window, click "Next".

restore system files and settings

5. Select one of the available Restore Points and click "Next" (this will restore your computer system to an earlier time and date, prior to the "Microsoft Help Desk" virus infiltrating your PC).

select a restore point

6. In the opened window, click "Yes".

run system restore

7. After restoring your computer to a previous date, download and scan your PC with recommended malware removal software to eliminate any remnants of the "Microsoft Help Desk" virus.

If you cannot start your computer in Safe Mode with Networking (or with Command Prompt), boot your computer using a rescue disk. Some viruses disable Safe Mode making it's removal complicated. For this step, you require access to another computer.

After removing "Microsoft Help Desk" virus from your PC, restart your computer and scan it with legitimate anti-spyware software to remove any possible remnants of this security infection.

Other tools known to remove this scam:

▼ Show Discussion

About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

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Microsoft Help Desk virus QR code
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