Software Maniacs charging to install free version

I had a Dell Inspiron 5000 series laptop running Windows 10 x64. One day I got a BSOD with a note to call the included “technical support” toll free number. I was warned not to try and reboot or do anything else before calling the tool free number for help, or I could lose my entire hdd and everything on it because I had a very bad virus infection.

So, I called the number thinking I was talking to a Microsoft technician. I was told this is a very bad infection and it could be repaired remotely but first they had to transfer me to another section for me to buy the protection. They transferred me to Software Maniacs. I was told the software protection would cost for so many years of free help, or I could pay $525 for lifetime support. So, I took the lifetime support.

Once the money was paid, I was transferred back to “tech support” and they had me use the windows key+r so they could get remote control of my machine. After that they told me it would take 25 to 30 minutes and they would have my machine fixed.

I watched the screen to see what all was being done. First 360 Total Security free version was installed and run. Then Glasswire free version was installed and run. Then CCleaner free version was installed and run. And after playing around for the allotted time, I was called back and told to reboot, and my machine would be alright.

Wonder of wonders, they were right.

But I then contacted Microsoft by chat, and they confirmed this was a scam and the number I called during the BSOD was not a Microsoft number. So I began a dispute resolution with Bank of America to try and stop the transaction. But of course they have to wait until the transaction posts before they can begin the dispute process. After a couple days went by after I began the dispute, the machine just crashed and became unusable. I believe this was retaliation for me filing the dispute, and so I would have to call them again to fix my machine. Then they would be able to contest the dispute because I used their service again.

So, anyway, there were no documents, no email confirmation of the transaction, no nothing. I can’t even prove I got the BSOD with the note to place the call. So there is little chance I will get my $525 +$10+ foreign transaction fee back. They use the bank’s regulations against them and me.

Just thought everyone would like to know so you can avoid the trap I fell in to.

Thanks for reading.


Sorry this occurred. The best thing to do if you see a BSOD or any warning that a virus has infected and you must call a phone to get it fixed is to do a forced shutdown – hold the power switch for 5 seconds until the machine shuts off.

It’s not elegant and yes, there are some potential data risks, but the chance at good you will get no adverse problems. If it repeats, and you have to deal with a real problem, then call Microsoft – not the number provided when the issue presents.

I have had this kind of “problem” 4 or 5 times in the past two years. Worst I ever had to do was tell the boot sequence to start as normal. No problems, no infections. (But I always do a full virus scan after such an incident – no problems found.)

@DBarker49 I know other people who have been targeted by this scam. You are not alone. I’m sad to hear they installed GlassWire… because we certainly have no relationship with any companies like this and we made no money from the installation.

Thanks, Ken. I just mainly wanted to warn others about this type of scam, and to beware of Software Maniacs.

or in case you have a reset button or a power switch at the power unit use that, it’s quicker

Of course I felt uneasy. But I was taking it all in together. The BSOD, the note telling me to call tech support, the toll free number, etc. I had no idea a hacker could cause the BSOD and also give the pop-up note to call tech support or risk losing all data on the hdd. Ok, I’m in my 70s is no excuse. I am probably one of those people who should never have a computer. But there was so much irreplacable stuff on the hdd that I was over cautious.

I know what a BSOD is. I’ve had them before. And I also know Windows has a remarkable ability to fix itself with several re-boots. But the note to call tech support said the BSOD was caused by a sinister virus which looks for financial information, and for me to not try a reboot without calling the toll free tech support first to have my situation evaluated and possibly fixed. So whatever happened to the computer could have been designed to destroy the hdd if I didn’t do what the pop-up note said. Consider it ransom ware, if you like. Just on a smaller scale to target end users and not corporations. But I did not think of that at the time, I just wanted the thing to be fixed, and my wife was going bananas because it is a computer I bought for her to use for everything she needed. LOTS of sensitive info and irreplaceable stuff.

After a little while, I acted on my suspicions, and when I found out for sure it was a scam, I filed a dispute for the charge on my cc. I am ok with losing that money along with the foreign transaction fee because I made the decision to pay it in the first place. Totally a “my bad” situation.

A couple days after filing the dispute, the computer became unable to boot, and kept asking for a password to finish booting. No password we used worked. Big surprise!. We knew what happened. They were kicking our shins for filing the dispute. By then I called the computer manufacturer for help. They advised me to reset the hdd to company settings completely wiping the drive. It was then I thought about an Acronis backup I had for a few months before this happened. It was a chore, because the program took several tries to install and get activated. Acronis TI seemingly didn’t recognize the computer and had to transfer the program from the “old” computer to the “new” one. Anyway I finally got that done and restored the backup. The computer works very well again, and not much data was lost. WE are happy with this. Of course all passwords were changed along with the router SSID. So far no more problems. Several hours work.

Sure I got a bad feeling about this at the time. But with all this happening together, I let myself be panicked and paid the money. Totally my fault.

But there could be others out there who might have this happen to them as well. Figuring I might not be the dumbest person on the planet, I wanted to make others think of this because the cc company said they get this kind of complaint every week. So BEWARE of Software Maniacs. They might be a good company other wise, but they are running this scam as well, maybe on the side. I would never give them any business ever in the future. And you shouldn’t either.

(ps.) Of course they could change their name and continue the scam. But keep following them with this knowledge of being hackers/scammers, and maybe they will either go out of business, or be plagued by people being on to them.

Last edited: 12 minutes ago * for spelling*

by the way a BSOD cant get a popup. the text of the bsod is mostly the same all the time except for the error name, the causing file and the addresses, but when a system bsods there iirc CANNOT be any popups.

My1, thanks for adding that tip about turning the machine off at the power unit. I haven’t used one for years, so my first thought is forced power down. But last week, moving furniture required we add a surge protector/power strip. Gives me that option.

I found a BBB rating on these guys, but new members can not post links. I guess I have to wait until I grow up. But anyone interested can search it for themselves. There is an alert on this company.

well I dont know what you call the thing where the cable goes into the PC in english that’s what I mean with “power unit”.
most of them have a switch, or you just pull the cord.

obviously when you have a power cord or extension with a switch that works as well.

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Right! That’s another option. In my case, that power unit/converter/transformer is not easily accessible, but many have right on a desk or table in front of them. As you say, anything to power off quickly so that if the problem is malicious and active, you stop it.

Some will say, but we need to try to correct the issue. From my perspective, minimize the damage (power off), then figure out if it is real and if so, fix it on your terms rather than letting the virus or whatever get firmly entrenched. Some of these things do progressive damage. The longer they run, the more problems and the harder it may be correct things.

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Sorry to hear about that. Just for future reference, this is what a BSOD on Windows 8/10 should look like. The only thing that should change is the all-caps error code, which you should write down. As many others have said, when you see a virus message like that, or one that tells you it is encrypting your files, I recommend that you unplug the computer immediately and seek help from someone else, who could, say, boot into Linux and recover your data before you wipe the computer and restart.

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Thanks, hakr. I’ve never seen the BSOD on Windows 10. The one I got looked just like the one from XP.

I already reset the hdd to manufacturer settings, and restored a fairly recent Acronis 16 backup. Not much lost. When it came right down to it, I didn’t want to open the drive or run any programs without making sure the bad stuff was all gone.

*edited for some content, and mostly spelling.

if someone could cause a real up to win7 bsod and take a pic it would be great so we have a picture to compare especially because the text would vary greatly between real and fake.

Just to let you know, this scam has been going for the last 4 to 5 years, with usually a new number and name at the end of each workday, there are NUMEROUS you tube vid’s of people taking the scammers for a ride by calling them and giving them access to a virtual machine, what they did in your case is fairly typical, they go through the “script” and do all these nonsense tricks such as show you errors in your logs, they also use the tree command to show a LOAD of screen stuff while they type your system has been infected with (insert most common virus name here) virus.if you don’t pay, or give them trouble they run a program called syskey and create a password for your system, that password is USUALLY a swear word in thier native language.
you are definitely not the only one taken by this scam, even a technichan friend of mine got hit, in his case they RANG his home number.
A rule of thumb, if you dont know the person, NEVER give ANYONE access to your system over the internet and if you DO know them and know them well… ALWAYS watch what they are doing you may learn something you didnt know.


If anyone here does not subscribe to any Anti-Virus/Malware company Security blogs, I highly recommend you do so. Malwarebytes is one such company that regularly writes about these
"Tech Support Scams" and other Potential Unwanted Programs “PUP’s” are of special interest for their writing & research team.
( They also have some of the best free tools for cleaning up your system, highly recommended by industry professionals. Almost all Security Vendors have a daily newsletter with the most recent security news. It’s a good way to stay informed, and get help in the forums as many have those too. One of my favorites is ( who has been around for ever, since the 90’s. And lastly, I hit this one every morning: ( is a more comprehensive news provider.

Education is important to keeping up these days. So, stay safe. And I was glad to read that you at least had a recent backup to restore. That’s one of the most important things one can do.


My friend on the other hand didnt, he was locked out of his system for weeks before he told me (they syskeyed him) after i found that it took me all of 5 mins to get him back into his system. so all happy.I try to warn everybody about this scam whenever i find out they have a computer.
what is worse is the windows update crash bug, IF your system has a crash during the update your system will be TOTALLY screwed, the ONLY way to fix it is a totaly clean install onto a new hard drive (it SOMETIMES screws your drive over as well)
this “bug” has been around for at least 6 years and first showed itself in vista, they have NOT fixed the bug and have NO IDEA what causes it. they ALSO have no idea how to fix the problem, as i said a CLEAN install is the only way i got my laptop working again.

Thanks, oneeye. Do you think I should buy some Malwarebytes software? If so what is the best programs to buy from them?

@DBarker49 Did you ever document this event with Microsoft? Microsoft has a form you can fill out a bout your issue.

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I didn’t. But my son is head of the software development department at an online company. He contacted Microsoft on my behalf.

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