There’s no denying the legitimate fears associated with the idea of contracting a computer virus. No one wants to lose their files or have their data become compromised. We want to know that our devices are safe.
Unfortunately, there are people out there who prey on those fears by posing as tech support specialists.
The fraudsters behind such scams seek to exploit our anxieties and take advantage of the resulting vulnerability. They do this by tricking their victims into believing that their computer, smartphone, or other device is infected. Then, they offer to help.
Types of Tech Support Scams
According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are several types of scams that involve technical support.
In some cases, a scam caller will claim to be connected with a well-known entity like Microsoft or Apple. Sometimes, they’ll pretend to be from a familiar anti-virus or security software company like McAfee or Norton.
Other scams may involve pop-ups or warning messages that appear on websites. Sometimes these impress a sense of urgency by displaying elements such as a countdown clock. They threaten the loss of one’s hard drive if an action isn’t taken. Sometimes this may also suggest calling a toll-free number to receive assistance. (Don’t!)
Seeking Remote Access
Regardless of how the scam begins, most of the time, the scammers will seek remote access to your computer. They tell you they need this access in order to fix or deactivate the threat.
Once they have this, they’ll run fake diagnostics and tell you there are things that need repairing.
They may then try to pressure you into spending money on unnecessary repairs, software, or other services. Additionally, they also now have access to install actual, real malware.
Sadly, many people fall for these scams. Microsoft even estimates the number of victims to be around 3.3 million people a year. With an annual cost of $1.5 billion, that means there’s an average loss of $450 or more per victim. And that may not even be accurate, as plenty of victims never even realize they’ve been duped.
Look Out for These Red Flags
Most major companies will not contact customers out of the blue. If you receive an unsolicited call or email, even if it claims to be from Microsoft, treat it with skepticism. They will not reach out without prior contact being initiated by the customer.
Pop-up warnings that warn of an infection or security breach should also be regarded dubiously. If they offer a number you can call for help, do not call it.
You should never be asked to pay for tech support services using a wire transfer, gift card, or cash-reload card. If you are, decline those services, as no reputable company would require such payment methods.
Things to Remember
Never give remote access to your computer to someone who has called you out of the blue. Also, don’t trust that caller ID will reveal whether someone is a scammer or not. Many con artists have ways to make it appear as if they’re calling from a legitimate number.
Don’t give out any login or password information to anyone over the phone either.
If someone calls to ask if you’re satisfied with a tech or tech support purchase, be wary. There is such thing as a “refund scam.” The caller may ask for financial information claiming it’s for the purpose of issuing a refund. It’s not. Do not give them your bank or credit card information.
Have you been approached by a tech support scammer? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.