Tech Support Scam
Have you ever seen a sudden pop up when browsing, saying that there is a potential virus on your computer? Or did you get a call from someone claiming to be calling from a reputable company like Apple, Microsoft? If yes, then there are chances these may be tech support scams.
Rapid digitalization is making our lives easier. We can now pay our bills online, buy different products online from the comfort of our home, and access our favorite shows without any hassle. However, it is also the reason why tech support scams are rising. Consumers become prey to these traps set by tech scammers.
As per a report by the Federal Trade Commission, senior citizens are most likely to be hit by these tech support scams. Nevertheless, it does not make people in other age groups less vulnerable. They are on the same threat level as older people falling for a scams.
Tech scammers usually take out personal information from you in multiple ways. One of the common scams is that they will pretend to call you from Microsoft or Apple and tell you that there is a virus in your computers. These technical support scams entail the idea of getting a credit card or bank account details from you to fix those problems. So, if you are wondering how to save yourself from the tech support scams or what to do if you fall prey to these scams, then you have come to the right place.
We will let you know the nitty-gritty of the tech support scams and how you can save yourself and your loved ones from them. Let's start by knowing more about the mastermind of these scams.
A Tech scammer is someone who pretends to be a representative of a big company that can help you fix the issues with your computer. They can contact you in multiple ways, such as online ads or pop-ups, calls, and emails. Usually, they convince you that there is a problem with your computer which is why it's not working properly. The tech scammers' main aim is to get access to your personal information or data.
They orchestrate a scenario that lets you believe that there is a problem with your computer. If you don't fix the problem, the damage can spread to the entire computer. Thus, they rip off consumers through tech support scams.
Tech scammers may ask you to run a couple of tests or open up some files on your computer. When you open them, it will show there is a virus on your PC. Then, the scammer will use the file's findings as an excuse to ask you for personal details. They can:
Request you to give them access to your laptop or PC remotely to get all the data on the device or even on the network linked to it
Get you to sign up for computer maintenance or warranty program, which is useless and will give your computer no coverage in any case
Ask you or directly install malware that enables them to have access to your confidential details, such as username, passwords, and other details
Convince you to buy a service for repairing your computer or software that are completely useless
Ask you for your bank account details or credit card information to charge you for the services to repair your computer, which is available for free
May refer or direct to other websites to get your credit card, SSN, or any other personal and private information
In addition to these, tech scammers can have many new ways to take out money from your pockets. Americans had lost more than US $19.7 billion in 2020 due to tech support scams. That figure is significantly high from 2014, where people lost approximately $8.6 billion in tech support scams.
The figure for the money lost in 2020 is worrisome since it had almost doubled from what it was in 2019. As per the stat, the tech support scams caused Americans around $8.6 billion in 2019.
All in all, these high numbers make it imperative for you to know the methods to spot these tech scammers beforehand. So, to help you out, we will discuss some methods to spot tech support scams before they can cause you any harm.
If you want to spot a tech support scam, you must know how the scammers will try to manipulate you. Tech scammers usually create a sense of urgency that your computer needs immediate repairs, or else it can have a devastating impact.
Generally, they will portray themselves calling on behalf of a well-known tech company like Apple or Microsoft. Tech support scams don't allow you to take a lot of time to think.
They ask you to download software or share your personal financial information for the repair services. Regardless, by knowing their strategies, you can spot tech support scams with ease. It will help you not to make a hasty decision and let you think.
Once you are out of that panic situation, you can then think about the ways to protect your computer from these tech scammers. So, here are a few common strategies that they use.
One of the common tech support scams happens over the phone. You can get a phone call from a tech scammer who shows that they are calling on behalf of a well-known tech company. In addition, they can also pretend to be calling from an antivirus provider installed on your computer.
Next, they will tell you that they have identified some problem with your PC. This problem can wreak havoc on the software and damage integral programs of your computer. Therefore, the tech scammers will ask you to give access to your computer remotely for them to fix the problem.
After gaining access, they will show that they are running some sort of diagnostic test to identify the problems. Once having access to your computer, the tech scammers might do any one of the following three things:
They can tell you that they have run the test and everything is in working order now. Unbeknownst, the tech scammer will install the malware on your computer that will allow them to access it in the future. They can monitor the movement and the activity to record all the private and confidential information.
The tech scammers can lock you out of the computer and then ask you to make a payment. They will hold the control and keep you locked out of the device until you pay them the ransom amount.
The tech support scam can also involve taking payments from you for repair services. The tech scammers will run more tests and show that there are some security threats, and if you want to fix them, you will have to make a payment. The threats are not real and don't exist on your computer.
One thing you need to keep in mind to spot this technical support scam is no one will call you. If there is a problem with your computer, you can call the relevant company on their customer support number.
You can find the number on their verified website, which will take you to a legitimate computer technician. These companies will only call you back if you request them to call you. Otherwise, major tech companies do not contact their consumers directly.
Therefore, if you receive any phone call regarding a call for your computer issues without making any request for a callback, don't talk to them. Simply hang up the call and give them no information whatsoever.
Microsoft identifies tech support scams as a growing concern globally. Besides phone calls, tech scammers are coming up with new ways. Therefore, it is imperative to know about the tactics to spot a tech support scam that leads to any problem.
And with that, another common tactic to subdue people into a tech support scam is a pop-up warning. You might be browsing on your computer and, all of a sudden, you see a pop-up window. It displays a message from antivirus software regarding a potential virus in your computer.
To make the pop-up warning more legitimate, these scammers may put logos of big names in the tech industry. All in all, it will divert your attention towards it and display the pop-up as a serious problem. It will display a message with a security issue and can ask you to do the following things:
If you either call on that number or download the program, the tech scammer will infect your computer with malware. They can then lock you out of your computer or show you an issue on your computer that does not exist. Then, they will demand payment to give you access to your computer or to fix the issue.
In a nutshell, if you want to avoid this type of technical support scam, you must ignore these pop-up warnings. Actual problems and issues with your computer will not show up in this manner. So don't call any number or download any program showing in the pop-up warnings.
One of the easiest ways for tech scammers to target consumers is through online listings and ads. The majority of the people go online to find out about the problem with their computer. That is where they fall into the trap for a tech support scam.
With the Search Engine Optimization technique, these scammers can get their website on the top. They can use tools and even pay to get their ads on the top of Google ranking. People tend to believe that the websites in the search results are legitimate.
However, that is not the case, and this is how tech scammers take advantage of it. Similar to other tech support scams above, the main aim of these scammers is to:
Get access to your personal information via your computer
Install malware on your PC
Lock you out of your computer or create a nonexistent issue and ask you for payment to fix it
The best approach to deal with this problem is to contact a company that you know. Avoid trusting any other company on the internet before researching them.
The key thing about the tech support scam is playing with the fear of the people. Tech scammers might intimidate you into believing that your computer has a serious problem. As a result, you might become a victim of a tech support scam. Therefore, here are a few things you need to do to save yourself.
A crucial thing that many users are not aware of is that tech companies like Apple and Microsoft will never contact you. These companies know that their customers will come to them if they face any issues with their computers, hardware, or software.
The same goes for your internet service providers, printers, and every other company. Therefore, if you get a call from someone calling from Microsoft or any other company, you should instantly hang up the call.
Even though your caller ID shows the company's name, you can hang up in case you feel it's coming from a call center. You can always contact the company's customer support to check and report this technical support scam.
One of the most common tricks in the books for technical support scams is phishing emails. It is because it is cost-effective for tech scammers, and it often does the job for them. The goal of these emails is to create a sense of urgency or create panic.
At the same time, it gives you a resolution to instantly solve the problem. For instance, you might get an email that your bank account details have been compromised. It will give you a story about how a cyber attack at the bank led to this issue.
Now the email won't ask you to contact the bank, instead, they will give you a link to change your password. The tech scammers will ask you to click the link to log in to your bank account for changing your password. Once you do that, the scammers will know about your bank account details.
In addition, they could have downloaded malware on your computer that can lead to further issues. Therefore, it is wise for you to identify these phishing emails to save yourself from any tech support scams. And the only way to do this is by increasing your understanding to identify such emails.
If you get an email with messages that your bank account details are at risk, you should avoid using the links in the email. It is best to go to a different browser to check your bank account just like you do. If you feel there is any problem, you can change your bank account password and login details.
But make sure to do it through the bank's app or website and not through the link in the email. Also, check the email address from where you got the email. If its domain does not match the bank's official website, it is likely a phishing email.
Many people use the same passwords for their bank accounts and other financial applications. As per a survey, only 20% of respondents use different passwords for online logins. A significant number of internet users in the US rely on a single password for all of their online accounts.
It can be dangerous if you fall victim to tech support scams. It will make the job of a tech scammer easy since they have to find a single password to access your personal information. In the worst-case scenario, they can use your social media accounts as they want.
All of this necessitates for you to have a password manager. A password manager is helpful for you in keeping records for each of your sites.
There are a plethora of password managers available for you to choose from. However, it is wise to look for reviews and select the best. Many password managers have the feature to let you know if you have a weak or common password.
Pop-up ads can be intriguing and do a fantastic job for marketers in getting traffic for their site. The same is the case for tech scammers who can get a large chunk of their revenues from pop-ads. Since these pop-up ads look convincing enough, you can easily become prey to these types of tech support scams.
The tech scammers will install malware into your computer. It will send multiple pop-ups on your screen telling you about nonexistent problems. The best way to distinguish between legitimate and these fake pop-ups is that the real ones do not include any number or link.
Companies like Microsoft or Apple only display warning signs to notify you about the potential problem with your computer. If you want their help, you can contact their customer support team using the number on their websites.
When on the call, it can be difficult for individuals to comprehend if it is a tech scammer or a technician behind the phone. Tech scammers present an urgent situation that requires you to think quickly on your feet. It will help you avoid tech support scams if you can gather your thoughts in a peaceful setting.
Therefore, whenever you get a call or email from a tech scammer, there are a few things you need to do and some things you should avoid.
Let's start by knowing what to do when a tech scammer contacts you. Below are some things you should do if you get a phone call, email, or a pop-up on your computer for a potential tech support scam:
Get rid of the fake alert by restarting your computer. You can Control-Alt-Delete keys for a Windows computer, and for Mac, you can use the Option, Command, and Esc (Escape) keys to remove the pop-up ad from your computer. In addition, if you are using a Mac, you can go to the Apple menu and utilize the Force Quit command.
Call your credit company or the bank to see if there has been any transaction through your accounts. If yes, then request them to take action for the payment reversal. It is best to check all the previous charges, which you think can be from the tech scammers and not approved by you.
If anyone calls you for the problem on your computer, tell them you will contact the customer support team directly for a resolution and hang up the call.
Ensure that all the safety measures are up to date and there is no possible breach for the tech scammer to access your computer and the personal information in it.
Install the best antivirus software to run tests from time to time for checking and identifying any malware on your computers. It is best to run a scan if there is any pop-up you get regarding a problem with your device.
Check that you are using the latest version of your browser and operating system, and try installing a pop-up blocker in all of your browsers.
If you see a genuine problem with your computer, you can call a reputable computer technician that you trust. The computer technician must know how to deal with the issues in your device.
Now that you are aware of the few things you need to do; let's look at key points that you should avoid:
One of the first things that you tech scammers would want to do is allow them to access your computer remotely. That is where you need to stop them and not allow them to control your computer.
Don't download or go to any websites that the scammers tell you to. As a result, you won't let them install any malware on your computer.
A common mistake that many people make is that they rely on caller ID to check if the call is coming from an authentic source.
The thing is that tech scammers now use multiple techniques, such as spoofing, to play with your caller ID. Therefore, don't trust the caller ID for checking if it is a tech support scam call or not.
No matter what the scammer tells you to scare you, you don't have to reveal any information or personal details to them. It includes:
First and last name Contact number Home address Bank account details Credit card information Social Security Number Anything else relating to your confidential data
In addition, even if the scammer asks you to confirm all the above details, you must avoid doing that. Furthermore, if you brought any software or tech support item recently and you get a call for the service quality, there is a chance it is a refund scam.
So, don't give them any information if they tell you that they will refund you for the services due to your dissatisfaction.
As we have mentioned before, genuine pop-ups for real issues don't ask you to click on a link or give you a number to a call. So, if you ever see any ad with that information, it is best to ignore it.
Legitimate alerts from your operating system or antivirus application will not require you to contact the third party for assistance.
Also, avoid clicking on the link as it can automatically install malware on your computer. The tech scammer can get access to your computer and, through it, to your personal information quickly.
Another way for scammers to enter your computer is by selling you an antivirus program or software. These programs are unsafe and can open your computer to tech scammers. Therefore, before purchasing any security software, you must do thorough research about it.
Besides the few types of tech support scams mentioned above, another tactic that many tech scammers use is through tech support refund scams. Unlike other tech support scams, it does not show you any problem with your computer or ask your money for the services but, they will offer you money back.
If you get any call claiming to give you a refund for the services, it is probably a tech support refund scam.
You might wonder how this type of tech support scam works. Typically you will receive a call from a tech scammer asking about your satisfaction with the services. They will ask you some questions if the services are up to your expectations or not.
If you respond to them that you are not happy with the services, they will offer you a refund. It is one of the ways this scam works. In another case, you might receive a call from the tech scammer saying that the company is going out of business. Therefore, they are giving out refunds for their services to their loyal customers.
There can be other fake stories that the scammers can come up with to convince you they will refund you for their services. However, they are trying to get your credit card information or bank details to charge you later. So, the best way to deal with this issue is by not giving them any details.
If you have fallen victim to a tech support scam, then you don't have to worry about it. Humans make mistakes, so there is nothing you need to take stress for. But you must take some steps after the scam to mitigate the damages.
Step 1 – Change your Passwords
The first thing you need to do is change the password for every online account that you use. Make sure you use different devices as the tech scammer can have access to your computer. Think of a new password for every account and financial service you use.
Step 2 - Contact your Bank and Credit Card Company
If you have shared personal information, such as credit card numbers or bank account details, you need to contact relevant companies. You need to ensure that the scammer does not charge you anything or take out money from your bank accounts.
Therefore, you can ask the company to reserve all the charges for the fake services. It is best to take out your bank and credit card statement to go through all the transactions. You can look for any charges you did not authorize and process a request for their reversal.
Moreover, you need to check your statements regularly to identify any amount that the scammer is taking from your account.
Step 3 – Check your Computer for Any Malware
The next step is to check your computer for any malware the tech scammer might have installed. You can use antivirus software that is trustable to scan your computer for any issues. Once the scan is complete, you need to remove everything the software considers a problem.
You can take the help of a security professional if you are facing any troubles. Also, if any network has a link with your computer, you can check the network for any intrusions. If you don't have the technical knowledge to check it, you can get help from a technician.
As the world is rapidly moving towards digitalization, we can expect more cyber issues, such as tech support scams. Nevertheless, by keeping a few things in mind, you can save your personal information from a tech scammer. To summarize, you must not heed any pop-ups, calls regarding your numbers, or suspicious emails.
If you face a problem with your computer, it is better to call a technician you trust. Also, you can contact the service provider or any other company directly through the legitimate customer support number available on their site. Simply following these steps will keep you safe from any tech support scams.
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John Robert Fleming