Technology has made our lives easier in so many ways, but it has also created opportunities for scammers. They take advantage of unsuspecting people using a technical support scam. In this article, we’ll discuss twelve tech support scams you should be aware of. Knowing about them can help you protect yourself, and your computer, and help keep you from getting scammed online. Let’s get started!
What are Technical Support Scams, and How Do They Work?
Technical support scams have been around for years, and are meant to steal your personal or financial information. Here’s how they work: tech support scammers contact you and claim to be from a well-known tech company like Microsoft or Apple. They say there’s a problem with your computer, and they need your help to fix it.
They might ask you to install malicious software that will give them access to your system, or they might try to get your credit or debit card information. Either way, they’re trying to steal your money. Don’t fall for it! Hang up the phone and report the scam to the proper authorities.
Common Tech Support Scams Businesses Face
Businesses that both offer and use technical support services are often the targets of scammers. Let’s take a look at some common scams businesses face and should be aware of.
1. Online Ads & Listings in SERPS
Scammers will place online ads and listings on search engine results pages (SERPS), often using the name of a legitimate company. They may also create a fake website that looks like the real company’s site.
Small Business Deals
When potential customers click on the ad or listing, they’re taken to the scammer’s site or given a fake phone number to call. The scammer then tries to sell the customer unnecessary support services or software, or convince them to give up their personal or financial information.
2. Scam Programs
Scammers will create fake versions of legitimate software programs and offer them for download. These programs may contain malware that can infect your system, or they may be completely useless. Either way, the scammer is trying to get you to install their software so they can either steal your information or sell you unnecessary support services.
3. Suspicious or Unknown Pop-up Window
You’re browsing the web and a pop-up window appears, asking you to call a phone number for tech support. The message may say that your computer is infected with a virus or that there’s a problem with your account.
Don’t call the number! These fake alerts are a scam designed to get you to give up your personal or financial information.
4. Phishing Emails or Text Messages
Scammers will send a phishing email or text message that appears to be from a legitimate company. They may say there’s a problem with your account or that you need to update your information. The message will often include a link to a fake website that looks like the real company’s site.
Don’t click on the link! If you do, you may be taken to a site that will ask you for your personal or financial information. Or, the link may download malware onto your computer.
5. Scam Websites
Scammers will create fake websites that look like the real thing. They may use a similar domain name to the legitimate website or a slight misspelling. Or, they may create a subdomain of the real site (for example, support.example.com). When you visit the site, you may be asked to enter your personal or financial information. Or, you may be offered fake support services or software for download. Either way, the scammer is trying to steal your information.
6. Tech Support Phone Scams
This scam works by the scammer placing unsolicited phone calls to a business and pretending to be a computer technician from a tech support company. The scammer will then tell the business that they are experiencing problems with their operating system and that they need to take action immediately.
The scammer then provides the business with one of the scam phone numbers to call. The business calls the number and reaches a person also pretending to be from tech support. The person on the other end of the line will then tell the business that they need to pay for tech support in order to fix the problem. The business will then be scammed out of money.
7. Remote Desktop Software Scams
Scammers often ask victims to download and install remote desktop software under the guise of resolving a computer issue. Once installed, the scammer gains full access to the victim’s computer, potentially stealing sensitive information or installing malware. They may also demand payment for the “service” they provided.
8. Social Media Tech Support Impersonation
Scammers are increasingly using social media platforms to impersonate tech support from well-known companies. They respond to your tech queries or complaints on social media and then direct you to fraudulent websites or phone numbers. Through these channels, they might offer to fix nonexistent problems for a fee or install malware on your device.
9. Fake Tech Support Job Scams
These scams target individuals looking for tech support jobs. Scammers post fake job listings and when applicants respond, they are asked to pay for training, certification, or a startup kit. The job doesn’t exist, and the scammer walks away with the money and personal information provided during the application process.
10. Voicemail Phishing (Vishing)
In this scam, victims receive a voicemail purportedly from a legitimate tech support company, warning them about a security breach or software issue. The voicemail includes a callback number, and when the victim calls, they’re pressured into providing sensitive information or allowing remote access to their computer.
11. Overpayment Tech Support Scam
In this scenario, a scammer posing as a customer contacts a tech support service provider, seeking assistance. After receiving the service, they intentionally overpay, often by a significant amount, using a fraudulent account or stolen credit card. They then ask the service provider to refund the excess amount, usually to a different account, effectively laundering money through the business.
12. Fake Antivirus Software Alerts
Scammers use pop-up alerts on websites that warn you about viruses supposedly found on your computer. These alerts look legitimate and prompt you to download antivirus software, which is actually malware. Alternatively, they may direct you to a fraudulent website where you’re asked to input credit card information to purchase the fake antivirus software.
How Bad is the Problem?
Tech support scams are a problem that is growing more and more each year. Elderly adults are especially vulnerable to these scams, as they are often targeted by tech support scammers who pose as legitimate tech support staff. Victims of tech support fraud lose an average of $200, though some have lost thousands of dollars.
Tips for Avoiding Tech Support Scams
Here are four tips to help you avoid tech support scams:
- Initiate Communication Caution: Remember that legitimate tech companies never initiate unsolicited calls for tech support. If an unknown caller claims to be from tech support, it’s wise to hang up. Scammers often employ this tactic to catch you off guard, so remain vigilant and skeptical of uninvited communications.
- Research Reputable Companies: Go the extra mile by conducting research before engaging with a tech support provider. Visit the official company website to identify authorized phone numbers. In the digital age, caller ID can also aid in verifying the authenticity of incoming “tech support” calls. This diligence ensures you deal exclusively with trusted entities.
- Guard Your Personal Information: A cardinal rule in navigating tech support is never sharing sensitive data like passwords or credit card numbers. Genuine tech support will never request such information. Exercise caution when divulging personal or financial details to unfamiliar individuals, thereby mitigating potential risks.
- Fortify with Updated Antivirus Software: Staying one step ahead is paramount. Regularly update your antivirus software and perform routine scans. This proactive approach guards your system against malware that scammers may attempt to implant. By maintaining an active line of defense, you enhance your computer’s resilience against cyber threats.
|Initiate Communication Caution
|Legitimate tech companies never initiate unsolicited calls. Beware of unknown callers claiming to be tech support. Hang up on suspicious calls to protect yourself from scammers using surprise tactics. Stay vigilant and skeptical of unsolicited communications.
|Research Reputable Companies
|Conduct thorough research before engaging with a tech support provider. Visit official websites to find authorized phone numbers. Utilize caller ID to verify the authenticity of incoming "tech support" calls. Ensure interactions only with trusted entities.
|Guard Your Personal Information
|Never share sensitive data like passwords or credit card numbers with tech support. Authentic providers will never ask for such information. Be cautious when disclosing personal or financial details to unknown individuals.
|Fortify with Updated Antivirus Software
|Proactively protect your system by keeping antivirus software up-to-date and performing regular scans. This approach thwarts attempts by scammers to implant malware. Strengthen your computer's defenses against cyber threats.
Incorporating these expanded insights into your cybersecurity practices equips you with the knowledge and tools to thwart tech support scams. By nurturing a culture of caution, diligence, and continuous learning, you empower yourself to navigate the digital landscape with confidence and security.
How Do You Tell if it’s a Tech Support Scammer?
Knowing what legitimate tech companies do versus what scammers do is very important in avoiding becoming a victim of financial fraud. Be aware of requests for payment by cash reload card or wire transfer.
These are both red flags that you’re dealing with a scammer. Also, remember that you can always proactively seek out tech support from a reputable company rather than waiting for someone to contact you.
What To Do if You’ve Already Been Scammed?
If you’ve already been scammed, the first thing you should do is call your credit card company. Explain the situation to the financial institution and ask them to cancel the charges. You should also change any passwords that you may have given out. Finally, be sure to run a scan of your computer with antivirus software to remove any malware that may have been installed.
How Do You Report a Tech Support Scam?
Reporting tech support scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is one way to help put a stop to these fraudulent activities. You can also report tech support scams to your state attorney general’s office.
How Do You Recover from a Remote Access Scam?
If you’ve been the victim of a remote access scam, recovering from the experience can be a challenge. The first thing you should do is change all of your passwords. You should also run a scan of your computer with antivirus software to remove any malware that may have been installed. Finally, be sure to contact your financial institution and explain the situation. They may be able to help you recover any money that was stolen from you.
Technology’s transformative power has revolutionized the way we live, but it has also opened doors for scammers to exploit unsuspecting individuals through technical support scams. In the digital age, it’s crucial to be well-informed about the various schemes these fraudsters employ to protect both yourself and your computer.
Understanding the mechanics of technical support scams and their operational tactics is paramount to safeguarding your personal and financial information. Recognizing that these scams often involve impersonating reputable tech companies like Microsoft or Apple, and falsely claiming computer issues, is a critical first step in avoiding falling victim.
The growth of tech support scams, particularly among vulnerable demographics, underscores the urgency of awareness. As these scams continue to evolve, it’s imperative to stay informed and educate family and friends about the risks, particularly targeting elderly adults.
This article has provided insights into some of the common tech support scams, including online ad and listing scams, phishing emails, suspicious pop-ups, and scam websites. Armed with knowledge, you’re better equipped to recognize the red flags and protect yourself from falling prey to these malicious tactics.
Staying proactive is key: initiate communication with tech support rather than responding to unsolicited calls, verify the legitimacy of companies, refrain from sharing personal information, and keep your antivirus software updated. These practices collectively serve as a robust defense against potential threats.
In the unfortunate event that you do encounter a tech support scam, remember that taking swift action is crucial. Contact your financial institution, cancel unauthorized charges, change passwords, and use antivirus software to rid your system of any malware.
By reporting tech support scams to authorities like the Federal Trade Commission and your state attorney general’s office, you contribute to the collective effort in curbing these fraudulent activities. Combining vigilance, education, and proactive measures, you can navigate the digital landscape with confidence, ensuring your safety and security online.
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