Tech Support Scams: How to Spot and Avoid a Tech Support Scam
You receive an email, phone call, or pop-up message letting you know that there is something wrong with your computer. Like many people, you will likely open the message and follow the instructions that tell you how to protect your computer. Unfortunately, it is highly likely that you have just followed the instructions of a scammer; tech support scams are becoming increasingly popular and the scammers behind them use various techniques to get people to pay for "fixing" the problems that they are experiencing with their computer. To protect your personal and business computers from actual harm, here is how you can spot tech support scams and avoid getting hurt.
How Do Tech Support Scams work?
In most tech support scam stories, the scammers contact their victims with a phone call, pretending to represent a software company. To make their story even more believable, the scammers will spoof the phone call to make it seem as if it originates from a known company.
Once they have your ear, the tech support scam artists will ask you one of the following:
- Give them remote access to your computer: this access gives scammers access to your personal or business information, as well as data about any network that is connected to your computer.
- Sell software: tech support scammers will try to sell you repair services or software to resolve the problems with your computer. These services are often useless or available at no charge in other places. By selling you services and software, scammers steal your money without providing an actual service.
- Install malware: the malware gives scammers access to sensitive information (passwords, user names, etc.) by allowing the scammers to hack into your computer.
- Ask credit card info: scammers will ask you to provide them with your credit card information to pay for the services they provided. Some ask for money wires for services that are futile or free of charge in other places.
- Redirect to other websites: scammers will redirect you to another website where you will be required to provide your bank account information, credit card details, personal information, etc.
How to Spot a Tech Support Scam?
If you receive a call or a message letting you know that your computer is at risk, do not be tempted to provide your personal information; when you get a tech support call that you did not request, hang up the phone – it is a scam. Large software companies, like Microsoft, do not make unsolicited calls to clients to let them know of problems with their service. You are the one who is expected to report problems and not the other way around.
If you suspect a tech support scam, you can use ProPeopleSearch's reverse phone number lookup service; by entering a phone number that you suspect into the directory, you will be able to see if it belongs to a trustworthy company or if it is a spoofed number that belongs to a scammer.
If you get an email or a pop-up message that notify you of a software issue, do not click on any link. If you are concerned that your computer has problems or a virus, contact your software company directly with their official number on their official website. Do not call phone numbers that appear in emails or pop-up ads, they could be from a tech support scammer.
Also, do not provide your passwords or other personal information to someone who has contacted you without request. Avoid giving remote access to those who call you unexpectedly and hang up any suspicious tech support calls.
I Got Scammed – What Can I Do?
If you got scammed by a tech support scammer, here is what you should do:
1. Change all the passwords on all your accounts, especially the password that you gave the "tech support representative".
2. Consult a specialist to find out what to do to get rid of malware on your computer and other computers that are connected to your network.
3. If you gave remote access to a tech support scammer, update your computer's security software, run it, and delete any item that the software recognizes as a threat.
4. Contact your credit card company to stop any bogus charges that a scammer got you to pay
5. Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission; the information that you provide helps the FTC to gather information about scammers, build a database of scammers' information, and to build a case against those who perform tech support scams and other scams.
Tech support scams are a clever way to get people to provide access to their personal information or to take their money for unnecessary services. You can protect yourself and your personal data by getting familiar with tech support scams, and remember – always be a bit suspicious. It will only help you in a world where scammers evolve daily.