7 Steps to Avoid Tech Support Scams

Don’t Fall for a Tech Support Scam

What should you do if your phone rings, and a person who says she’s a Microsoft tech support specialist warns you that something isn’t right with your computer? First, ask yourself if Microsoft has the time to personally call you out of the blue because it detected a problem with your PC. (Answer: No.) Then hang up. This type of tech support scam is older than the hills, but it still works. In March, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported having received 11,000 complaints about tech support fraud in 2017.  Altogether, the victims claimed losses of nearly $15 million, up 86 percent from 2016.  Microsoft said it received “153,000 reports from customers who encountered or fell victim to tech support scams” from 183 countries in 2017, up 24 percent from 2016.

Not all of these scams were cold calls from fake tech support representatives; some started at random websites that had a pop-up warning about detecting fake threats or fake error message pop-ups. Other attacks started in email campaigns that asked the user to click on a URL or open a malicious attachment; once malware is on a computer, it can make system changes or flash fake error messages with a number to call to fix the problem.

IC3 warns that in addition to posing as tech specialists offering to resolve such issues as a compromised email or bank account, a virus, or software license renewal, scammers might pretend to be representatives for GPS, printer, or cable companies, or virtual currency exchangers.

7 steps for avoiding these kinds of scams:

  1. Remember that legitimate companies will not initiate unsolicited technical support contact with individuals.
  2. Install ad blocking software that eliminates or reduces pop-ups.
  3. Be cautious of customer support numbers listed in a “sponsored” results section when you search the internet. It’s better to look for assistance via the official website of the company you wish to contact.
  4. When you recognize fraudulent attempts, cease all communication with the caller.
  5. Resist the pressure to act quickly. Criminals will urge the victim to act fast to protect their device, creating a sense of urgency to produce fear.
  6. Never give unknown, unverified people remote access to your devices or accounts.
  7. Update all your antivirus, security and malware protection.

What if you realize you’ve been scammed?

  1. If you receive a pop-up or locked screen, shut down the device immediately. Ignore any pop-ups instructing you not to power off or restart the computer. Victims who reported shutting down the device and waiting a short time to restart usually found the pop-up or screen lock disappeared.
  2. Do not try to re-contact fraudulent tech scam companies.
  3. Take immediate precautions to protect your identity. Contact financial institutions to place protection on your accounts, change your account passwords, and actively monitor accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.




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