Treat The Victim Like A Criminal

In October 2015, I bought myself a copy of Microsoft Office 2013 Professional. From Amazon.

I was doing some Office-related work in my professional life and – despite using Open Source software pretty much exclusively at home – I decided that it would be useful to get some experience – and develop some skills – working with the more arcane features of Microsoft Office.

One month after I installed the product, and my work life changed again, putting the Office activities out of reach for the short term. However, things recently changed again and I returned to the task of installing and configuring Office. Since then, of course, I’d moved from Windows 7 [fast, reliable, safe and relatively privacy-respecting] to Windows 10 [slow, unreliable, sells-your-soul-to-advertisers – and not *remotely* privacy-respecting]. Thus, a new installation of my Office 2013 Pro was called for.

It didn’t work.

Well, it worked, but it refused to activate. I called Microsoft. “Sorry, Sir, but our records show that you have been installing illegal copies of Office. We will not activate that license key.” I tried to explain how that was not the case, how the Microsoft presentation pack, key and DVD had been sitting on a shelf next to my computer since last October. No dice. I offered to bring them all the original materials for them to verify authenticity. Nope. I offered to prepare and send a screen-shot of my Amazon account, showing the purchase. Not interested.

Eventually, I got on the phone to a guy in the UK who explained to me that shortly after my first installation back last year, Microsoft had registered another 25 activations from my license key, from IP addresses all across the UK. This was why they decided to revoke my license. When I explained that I had made a legitimate purchase and had *never* shared my key, I was told, “Yes, Sir. Except that you purchased that software from an Amazon Reseller, not Amazon direct. Likely the reseller stole and then re-used the key.”

“But I received original Microsoft packaging, sealed in cellophane. With a hologram. I come to London quite regularly – if you have an office in town I can bring the media in for someone to inspect if you like…”

“No good Sir. What has happened is that the reseller, a criminal, has purchased a legitimate copy of Office 2013. They have then split open the pack, copied the DVD and the license key, and then re-sealed the pack using a commercial wrapping machine. We cannot help you. Next time, can I suggest that you purchase your software direct from the Microsoft Store? Have a nice day…”

At this point I decided to challenge… “Hang on. If you know that this happens, why don’t you ship your license key information in a tamper-proof form? My bank uses tamper-proof, peel-off labels any time it has to send me a Credit Card PIN Number. Why don’t you do that?”

No answer.

“OK. How about this reseller business? If you know that some resellers are criminals, why don’t you stop using the reseller channel completely?”

No answer.

So I got in touch with the reseller. Explained my predicament…

The reseller was prompt and helpful – and sent me an email that basically tried to get me to go to a “tinyurl.com” address and download an office binary, which I was then required to unpack using WinRAR. The same email then included a new Product Key… In other words, the reseller was definitely a criminal. Legitimate providers simply don’t host “downloads” behind a tinyurl – and most absolutely definitely don’t send license keys in unprotected emails…

Back to Microsoft…

“Can you help… This is what I’ve got… I was hoping that in exchange for information leading you to the identification and apprehension of a software thief – someone actively duplicating your product – you might be inclined to re-activate my license key, or give me a new one?”

“No.”

Way to go, Microsoft. Thanks for treating this victim like a criminal. Thanks for leaving me out of pocket to the tune of £235. Thanks for refusing to help even when I went out of my way to help you identify someone who is clearly defrauding you.

Bastards.