Tech Support Scams Are On The Rise

August 24, 2016

For the past several years, scammers have been selling fake security software. They go so far as to set up websites, which they use to market free computer scans. There is usually no scan performed at all but they issue a warning message at the end of the fake scan to convince visitors that their computer has a virus. They then introduce their own software as a solution. In most cases, the software has no security capabilities. Several scam artists who are even more malicious provide malware instead of worthless software. Malware is designed to give the software creator access to the computer, and this is how criminals steal information from unsuspecting consumers.

Phone Scams
A new version of security scam starts with an unsolicited phone call. Using public records, scammers find phone numbers, names and even addresses to make themselves sound legitimate. They may try to guess the type of security software or operating system used by their potential victims. These scammers gain the trust of people by claiming to be associated with major reputable companies such as Norton or AVG. They use technical jargon to confuse people, and that confusion mixed with high-pressure urgency to fix security risks causes panic.

One of the most common ways to execute a security scam is to gain remote access to a computer. Scammers will walk their victims through the steps to receive an applet that lets the caller see all of the files. By remotely controlling the victim's mouse, they change the settings to leave the computer vulnerable through remote access. Some scammers also require a monthly or one-time fee for their fake services.

What To Do When Scammers Call
If someone calls and claims to be from a reputable company, hang up and call the company directly. Callers who use high-pressure tactics or create a sense of urgency are likely scammers. Here are some additional tips to follow:

  • Do not give a caller remote access to a computer.
  • Since criminals can spoof numbers, do not rely on caller ID to verify a number.
  • Beware of online ads for tech support companies that are similar to major reputable names.
  • Do not provide financial information to any unexpected caller who claims to be from tech support.
  • Do not purchase security software over the phone if the caller requires a subscription fee.
  • Register any home or cell phone number on the national "Do Not Call" list.
  • Do not give out passwords or a personal email address over the phone.


After Responding To A Scam
After responding to a scam and downloading malware, follow these steps:

  • Download legitimate malware removal software to run on the computer.
  • Change passwords for all online accounts.
  • Notify the credit card company if a card was used to pay for bogus services.
  • Contact the FTC about identity theft prevention if financial and personal information may have been compromised.

Refund Scam Identification
After paying for tech support services with a new computer purchase, some buyers receive a call several months later about a refund. Scammers either guess or are able to find information about people who buy warranties with computers, and they use the tactic of offering free money to get financial data. For example, the caller may say that a refund is available but a bank account number is needed to deposit the money. Callers may cite one of several reasons for issuing a refund. Keep in mind that warranty registration means submitting a mailing address. Ask the caller to use the mailing address provided to mail a check. Never provide financial information, a home address or any other personal details.

When receiving these types of calls, report the scammers to the FTC at FTC.gov. For answers to any other questions, discuss your concerns with an agent.


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