Beware of Tech Support Scams: Don't Fall for the 'Quick Fix' Trap

July 17th · 9 min read

Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|
Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|

Tech support uncovered

Imagine this - you’re cruising the web looking for a b’day gift for your partner. You’ve narrowed it down to either a cheese-making kit or Exploding Kittens (card game). As you're pondering playing cards while eating cheese and sipping wine, you think to yourself, you know what, I’ll get both! They deserve it, I deserve it! All of a sudden, a pop-up window appears on your screen “WARNING - your computer has been infected by a virus”. The message seems legit and urges you to call a support number.

A minute ago, you were dreaming about cheese and wine, but now you’re stressing about a potential threat lurking on your computer. Although the scenario of this tale can vary from: your computer has a virus, you’ve downloaded malware, or your data is compromised - the intention remains the same - to get you to contact the number on the screen. What makes the message even more convincing is that it seems to be coming from a reliable source like your credit card company, Microsoft or Apple.

And just like that, you've been lured into a tech support scam, one of the most shocking, nastiest forms of cybercrime out there.

|In 2021 alone, more than 14,000 seniors were scammed out of nearly $240 million via tech support scams.

In this article, we’ll unveil the nasty reality of tech support scams and give you some tips on how to avoid them. We highly recommend using security software like Guardio as your first line of defense… But more on that later. Let’s dive in!

What are tech support scams?

Have you ever seen a sudden pop-up when browsing, saying that there’s a potential virus on your computer? Or did you get a call from someone claiming to be from a well-known company like Apple or Microsoft? If you answered yes, then there’s a chance you’ve encountered a tech support scam firsthand.

The scam usually starts off with a pop-up warning on your computer, stating that there’s a problem, urging you to call the tech support phone number on the screen. Once they have you on the line, they’ll try to convince you that you need to update or purchase something urgently, or your computer will explode (figuratively, but you get the drift). Their main goal, just like other scams, is to get your cash.

They’ll either ask you to pay for repair services, sell you bogus software, or persuade you to sign up for a monthly warranty, all of which you definitely don’t need. Scammers can also take tech support scams to a whole new level of nasty by introducing a close but slightly more evil relative - the remote access scam.


Remote access scams

Remote access scams are a type of tech support scam where cybercriminals pose as technical support experts, or employees of well-known companies like Microsoft and Apple. The big twist here is that they’ll get you to download and install remote access software, claiming it’s necessary to troubleshoot the supposed issue on your computer. Basically, remote access software lets them access your computer from their computer, and gives them total control. You can see where this is leading…

Once you’ve given them access, it’s game over! They basically have the keys to your house. Every online account you have - bank, credit card, medical insurance, Social Security number, online shopping, you name it - and they’ll drain it. And that’s not all… They'll leave an open back door somewhere, meaing they can come back anytime, and raid your accounts all over again.

How does a tech support scam work?

The scammers employ a combination of charm and politeness, creating an atmosphere of urgency and pressure. They deliberately prevent you from asking questions or taking time to consider the situation, making you feel as if you’ve made a mistake and need an immediate fix.

They’ll say anything to get you to:

  • Sign up for a computer maintenance or warranty program, which is basically a quick way for them to steal your credit card information.

  • Go to other websites in order to get your credit card, SSN, or any other personal and private information.

  • They may take it up a notch and ask you to download remote access software and then install malware that enables them to have access to your confidential information, such as usernames, passwords, and other details.

  • Give them access to your laptop or PC remotely so they can steal all the data on the device or even on the network linked to it.

Have you been exposed to a tech support scam?

One of the saddest things about tech support scams is that they target the older adult population. In 2021 alone, more than 14,000 seniors were scammed out of nearly $240 million via tech support scams. Don Holmes from West Arizona, for example, says that he was initially ashamed to speak out about being conned by tech support scammers. But once he did, he soon discovered he wasn’t alone and that similar attacks had also happened to his close friends.

Are you really safe from online tech support scams?

Use Guardio to enhance your security. Start Your Free Trial and Stay Protected.

How to avoid tech support scams?

Don't be afraid to just hang up the phone A crucial thing that many users aren’t aware of is that tech companies like Apple and Microsoft will never send you pop-up messages or call you. They simply know that if their customers have an issue with their computers, hardware, or software, they’ll contact them directly.

So, if you get a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or any other company, you should immediately hang up the call.

Identify phishing emails Due to their relatively low cost, and mass reach, phishing emails are one of the most common ways scammers try to lure you into technical support scams.

The email presents a problem, similar to the pop-up window, but at the same time, provides you with a way to resolve it instantly. For example, you might get an email from Microsoft saying your subscription to Office has expired, and you need to update your payment information in order to continue using it.

The email won't ask you to contact Microsoft directly, oh no, scammers are way smarter than that. Instead, it’ll provide you with a link to update your payment information. When you click the link, you’ll be taken to a fake Microsoft page where you can update your credit card details. Once you do that, the scammers steal that information and can now go on a wild shopping spree with your credit card.

So if you get an email with a message stating that any of your accounts are expiring or payment information needs updating, avoid using the links in the email. When in doubt, it’s best to contact your bank directly.

Don't fall for pop-ups Typically, fake pop-up advertisements will say that there’s a problem on your computer when in fact, there isn’t. There’s no doubt that these ads can be captivating and generate a lot of traffic for marketing purposes. Sadly they also work well for cyber criminals who make a large amount of money using pop-up ads for scamming purposes.

A good way to know if a pop-up is indeed an ad is by ensuring that they don’t contain any numbers or links. How to protect yourself from tech support scams

What to do if you fall for a scam?

If you’ve fallen victim to a tech support scam, don't panic. It can happen to anyone, and there's a huge chance you may be able to fix it. With that being said, you do need to take some necessary measures to mitigate the damage.

Step 1 – Change your passwords The first thing you need to do is change the passwords for every online account you use. Make sure you use different passwords for each account.

Step 2 - Contact your bank and credit card company If you’ve shared personal information, like your credit card number or bank account details, you need to contact your account providers directly.

It’s also a good idea to check your bank and credit card statements and go through all the transactions. Look for any charges that seem odd and that you know you didn’t make. Fun fact: usually credit cards and banks have insurance exactly for situatoins like this, and you can ask them to reverse the charges.

Step 3 – Check your computer for any malware The last step is to check your computer for any malware the tech scammer might have installed. You can use a trusted antivirus to scan your computer for any issues.

It’s also a good idea to get browser protection, that way, you can stop tech support scams at the door - Before they even happen. Guardio’s Chrome extension monitors suspicious activity, alerts you about phishing emails, and blocks malicious pop-ups.

Here's what Guardio can do for you:

  • 24/7 scam protection
  • Blocks annoying pop-ups with malicious code
  • Cross-platform protection
  • Scans your device for malware
  • Real-time identity theft protection
  • Makes sure there are no browsing interruptions
  • Family protection (up to 5 family members)
  • Protect your online identity and inform you of any information leaks
Are you really safe from online tech support scams?

Use Guardio to enhance your security. Start Your Free Trial and Stay Protected.

A tech support (remote access) scam with a happy ending

Along with protection tools, more and more scams are being exposed by scam baiters. Just as Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor, scam baiters aim to scam the scammers. They draw them in and expose them in order to gather information about their operations, waste their time, and raise awareness about scams.

The Deeveeaar YouTube channel live streams baiting scammers, making them hate their job and demoralizing illegitimate call centers. The channel recently decided to scam bait a cyber criminal by pretending to be an elderly lady falling for a scam. Not only was the video hilariously funny, but it also shed light on how scammers operate. The full video reveals how deceptive and persistent these scammers are - If you’re looking for some insight and laughs, check out the full video below.

Deeveeaar and his team provided the perfect payback by beating scammers at their own game. Well done, guys!

Luckily, these scams can be avoided

Tech support scammers, pretending to be helpful, create an atmosphere of urgency and pressure, luring you into giving them access to your computer. Once they have control, they can wreak havoc on your online accounts, steal your identity, and leave you in financial ruin.

You’d never let a stranger into your house, would you? Why would you let them into your computer? Just like a lock on your front door protects you from burglars breaking in, using security software can block pop-ups and scam messages before they even get to your (virtual) door.

Avoid falling victim to tech support scams by hanging up on suspicious calls, identifying phishing emails, and being wary of pop-up ads. Remember, staying informed and taking preventive measures is the key to keeping yourself safe. Take control of your online security and add an extra layer of security with Guardio's Chrome extension.

Are you really safe from online tech support scams?

Use Guardio to enhance your security. Start Your Free Trial and Stay Protected.

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