The script

Imagine the scenario: You bought Microsoft Office from a website that looked good. After all, it was plastered with trust seals. You paid with PayPal. You download and installed the software without a problem. The product key they emailed to you worked like a charm.

Eight months later the product key stops working. Not to worry. The site had a one-year warranty on product keys. You contact them and they email you another. That too works. For six months. You go back to the website. But the site no longer exists. You phone PayPal. They can't do anything to help you get your money back. So you phone Microsoft. They confirm what you suspected. The product key is illegal. You have been scammed.

With so many sites now selling fake Microsoft Office what does one do?

Well, here are 7 tips for telling the genuine from the fake, the legal from the illegal, the authentic from the counterfeit. So you don't get ripped off buying illegal Microsoft software, such as Microsoft Office or Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Access or Microsoft Windows or... Well, you get the picture.

When you buy Microsoft software online that is delivered to you by download, you are in fact getting a package. This package should include the following:

1. A Microsoft online account.
2. A Microsoft license.
3. A product key.
4. The software.

If you don't get all four, the likelihood is that what you have bought is not a genuine Microsoft product.

Buying Microsoft Sofware Online 1 Jigsaw Piece1. A Microsoft online account. Your Microsoft account is the combination of an email address and password that you use to sign in to services like Hotmail, OneDrive, Windows Phone, Xbox LIVE, and Outlook.com.

When you buy genuine Microsoft software online, Microsoft will update your Microsoft online account with that software. For example, if you bought 2 copies of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2016 online, your Microsoft online account will then list 2 x Microsoft Office Home and Student 2016.

There are two points to take away from this:

(i) If it is legal Microsoft software, you will get a Microsoft online account.
(ii) If it is legal Microsoft software, you will find that your Microsoft online account has been updated with details of the software you have bought.

How you can use this

So if you don't get a Microsoft online account, or if your Microsoft online account does not include any information about the software you have purchased online, then the likelihood is that it is illegal.

What we offer

We provide you with a Microsoft online account when you buy Microsoft software from us. Microsoft will update it for you with software download links, license information, and (if they are needed for product activation) product keys.

Buying Microsoft Sofware Online 2 Jigsaw Pieces2. License information about the software you have bought. The license is the most important part of the software package as it grants you the right to use the software. Without a Microsoft license you cannot legally use the software.

Product keys or, as they are sometimes called, license keys, do not allow you to legally use the software. Only the license has that power. By the way, calling them license keys is a ruse to make you believe that the software you are buying is legitimate and hide the fact that you are not getting a license.

How you can use this

If you don't get a license when you buy Microsoft software online, then you cannot legally use the software. This means you can tell that the software is legal or not.

What we offer

Not only do we provide you with a Microsoft license, the license we provide is created especially for you. The license will tell you:
(i) That we are the company that sold you the software;
(ii) Your name and address so there is no doubt that the license is for you;
(iii) The name of the Microsoft software that the license grants you the right to use;
(iv) The license number.

This means that license we provide you with is very useful for software audits. And as Microsoft will update your Microsoft online account with the license information, it can never get lost.

Even better, the license you get when you buy software from us is what Microsoft calls a perpetual license. This means that it does not end. Ever. In other words, it is not a subscription license. You only pay once for the license.

Buying Microsoft Sofware Online 3 Jigsaw Pieces3. A product key. To activate a Microsoft program you have to enter a product key. A product key is an anti-piracy device.

The technology of Microsoft Product Activation has been criticised by some experts because it is not good enough to stop piracy. There are many illegal product keys out there.

How you can use this

Some product keys only work for a few months before Microsoft voids them. Those selling illegal product keys are therefore:

(i) Likely to operate as a new company, no more than 2 years old. After a year or two they will probably disappear and start a new company.
(ii) Likely to give you a year's warranty or some such warranty on the product key. For example, they will say they will replace the product key if it fails within the year. That is said to give you confidence. But only illegal product keys are likely to fail.

By the way, you won't find legitimate companies offering such warranties because legal product keys fail very, very rarely and so there is no need for it. In the many, many years that we have sold Microsoft software, we have never ever had a product key fail.

What we offer

We provide you with a product key. And you will know that it is a genuine product key. How? Because you don't get the product key from us. You get the product key from Microsoft. Microsoft will email you about the product key. It will be held for you in your Microsoft online account so that you can never lose it. Plus you can access it whenever you want.

Even better, the product key you get when you buy software from us is a special type of product key, called a Multiple Activation product key. Why is it special? Well, if your computer dies or you replace it, you can install your software on a new one and activate it again using this Multiple Activation product key.

Buying Microsoft Sofware Online 4 Jigsaw Pieces4. The software. Buying software online that you are expected to download can be risky. To quote Microsoft:

"Buying illegal software, as well as being a waste of your money, can turn out to be a nightmare:

"You could end up being watched.
"Your data could be deleted.
"Your money could be stolen.
"Your PC could be vulnerable.
"Your warranty could be voided.
"You could be spreading viruses."

How you can use this

Be careful. Make sure you get all 4 parts of the software package when you buy Microsoft software online, as covered above.

What we offer

With most Microsoft Office software you can only install the software on only one computer. No more than one. Just the one. This is also true with most Microsoft Access, Microsoft Outlook, and Microsoft Publisher software.

With the Microsoft Office software we sell, you can install the software on two computers so long as you are the main user of both computers and as long as at least one of the computers is a laptop. This also applies to the Microsoft Access, Microsoft Outlook, and Microsoft Publisher software that we sell.

Other things you should be aware of

5. OEM software

OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer. OEM software is meant for computer builders. They install OEM software on computers they build.

A Microsoft OEM license is the most restrictive type of license. For example, OEM software cannot be sold without the hardware (the computer). When the hardware dies, the OEM software dies with it. In other words, OEM software cannot legally be transferred to another computer.

How you can use this

If you are not a computer builder and someone sells you Microsoft OEM software without the hardware, you will be using the software illegally.

What we offer

As a rule, we don't sell OEM software. You won't find it on our website. We have to verify you as a computer builder before we will sell it to you.

6. Trust seals

Trust seals are images on a website that are designed to build trust in the customer so that the customer is more likely to buy. For example: "100% Warranty", "Lowest Price Guarantee", "Shop with Confidence". They sometimes use brand names such as Norton and Microsoft.

How you can use this

There is no relationship between the trust seals on a website and the Microsoft software it happens to be selling. No relationship whatsoever.

So don't think that because a site has some trust seals on it that any Microsoft software it happens to be selling must be legitimate. Because that would be an incorrect assumption. The software may be legal. It may be illegal. Either way, the trust seals won't tell you.

So, as far as the legitimacy of the software goes, ignore trust seals.

7. The line "We are cheap because we sell large volumes"

This is untrue. As a general rule Microsoft only offers very small discounts. For example, if you buy in volume, you are looking at a discount of a pound on a product like Microsoft Outlook, a couple of pounds on something like Microsoft Office.

You see, Microsoft has no need to offer large discounts. Besides, Microsoft did not become the rich company it is today by offering large discounts.

There may be some exceptions to this rule. Companies like Dell and HP may get better discounts than everybody else. But they are in a different league. Dell's turnover in 2016, for example, was $54 billion. But for the smaller fish, no chance.

How you can use this

Compare the price you are being offered with what PC World is offering. If it is a lot cheaper, it is likely to be illegal.

What we offer

On some software we are permitted by Microsoft to offer an academic rate to schools, charities and churches which is attractively priced.

This means we can offer attractive prices on software like Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Office as well as more esoteric software like Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Windows.

However, you have to meet the Microsoft criteria on academic rate to get these attractive prices. If you are interested, you can either search our website for the software you want or contact us about it.

8. One other point. Be careful when buying Microsoft Office Home and Student. Not because it may be illegal. But because it has a very restrictive license that makes Office Home and Student unsuitable for any work activities.

If you read the license that comes with Office Home and Student, it says that it  cannot be used for commercial, non-profit, or revenue-generating activities.

How you can use this

If you need to use Microsoft Office for charity work, church work (or similar non-profit activities), or you need to use Microsoft Office for commercial work, avoid buying Microsoft Office Home and Student.

What we offer

Because Microsoft Office Home and Student is limited to home and student activities, we don't offer Microsoft Office Home and Student. You won't find it on our website. Instead we offer, and recommend, Microsoft Office Standard and Microsoft Office Professional Plus.

By the way, the last one, Office Professional Plus, is the most powerful suite in Microsoft's Office range and is the most popular version of Office we sell. It is rich in programs, including Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Publisher and Microsoft Access.