Data Doctors: Watch out for Windows 10 expiration scams

Q: I’m using Windows 10 that came installed on my computer and got a pop-up saying my windows license is expiring soon. What do I need to do?

A: Windows 10 retail and OEM licenses (those that come preloaded on name brand machines) don’t ever expire. Either your machine received a scam pop-up; your computer has been loaded with a volume license that belongs to a large organization or possibly an Insider Preview version of Windows 10.

Identifying Scam Pop-ups

Scam pop-ups are usually very easy to identify because they include a toll-free phone number to call to get a new license and may even use the misspelled word ‘license’ in the warning.

Microsoft will never include a phone number to call and they certainly wouldn’t use the word ‘license’ either.

Any warning that pops-up with a toll-free number prominently displayed in the warning itself should be considered a huge red flag. Large technology companies do everything they can to avoid having customers call them, so they’ll never lead with a toll-free number to solve your problem.

If you see these obvious signs of a scam, you’ll want to proceed with getting the malware removed from your computer.

Volume Licenses

Unless your computer is part of a large organization, you shouldn’t have a volume license installed. If you’re an individual that purchased a computer that came with a volume license, you’ll need to get in touch with the company that sold you the computer.

To determine whether you have a volume license installed, click on the Start icon and type CMD in the dialogue box but don’t hit Enter. Right-click on CMD and select ‘Run as administrator’, which will bring up a command prompt. Next, type slmgr -dli and hit enter to bring up a Windows Script Host dialogue with your license information.

In the ‘Description:’ line, look for the word ‘VOLUME’ which is an indication that your machine is loaded with a volume license. You should also see a volume activation expiration line that will tell you how much time you have left to activate the license.

A legitimate volume license is managed by the IT department of the organization that obtained it and is generally activated via their internal network. If your computer is part of a corporate volume license, contact your IT department.

Preview Version

Unless you regularly test prerelease versions of Windows, you shouldn’t have this type of OS installed either. If your pop-up refers to ‘a new build’ of Windows, then whoever sold you the computer was being very shady. These versions of Windows will expire and no longer allow you to boot your computer until it’s been updated.

Windows Expiration Phone Scam

A phone-based scam that claims that your Windows license is about to expire is also on the rise. The scammers are trying leverage the news of Windows 7’s upcoming end of life in January and hope consumers running Windows 10 get confused when they call pretending to be a concerned Microsoft support person offering to help.

The scam is designed to convince you that you need to purchase a license renewal so that your computer won’t stop working. If you get this call, just hang up on them or feel free to have some fun with them and waste their time.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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