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How to recognize tech support scams and protect yourself.

Updated: May 23



Tech support scams are an increasingly popular issue. Scammers use scare tactics to trick you into paying for unnecessary technical support. There are three main types of scams – phone calls, pop-up messages and malicious search engine results. I have had multiple new and old customers hit with these scams in the last month. I hope this article can educate you enough to stay safe online.


Phone Scams – Individuals will call claiming they are from reputable companies (e.g., Microsoft, Apple, DIRECTV, and Charter etc) stating they have found an issue with your computer. The person from this "reputable company" will then ask to install a remote desktop software under the false claim they with fix the said issue. After connecting to the your computer they will either install real malware, encrypt your hard drive, or lock you out of your computer. Often these scammers will give you a time limit to send them gift cards or money orders.


Pop-up Scams – These types of pop-ups are usually seen when browsing the web. They contain links to related content and when the user clicks on one of those links it will redirect them to a website hosting the pop-ups. These pop-ups will be intrusive and make it almost impossible to close the window. A message will display stating your computer is infected with malware. The pop-ups can even play a voice recording saying you are infected. What is usually displayed is a pop-up stating "call now 1-800-xxx-xxxx". These pop-ups may appear to be legitimate source; however, they are not. WARING: Clicking the X button on these pop up can potentially run malicious code.


Search engine results – Malicious companies pay to advertise their services on search engines. There are a lot of search engines out there to choose from. You will likely get different search results depending on your choice of search engine. Be careful and do your research. A good way to stay safe is to use locally owned and operated services.



Other Forms of Support Scams


  • Malware: These display fake error notifications directly on your computer. Since the malware is installed on the computer scammers can use them to perform other malicious actions. Example: steal data, install other malware, or control your computer.

  • Email or Chat: Scammers email you links pointing to phishing sites designed to steal credentials.


How to Avoid Tech Support Scams:


  • You will never receive an unsolicited call from any company to fix your computer. If you receive a call like this, simply hang up.

  • Anyone asking for payment (Gift cards and Money orders) through the mail or over the phone is a scam. This includes other scams for e.g. IRS, electric companies, and water companies.

  • The only time a company will call you for repair is when you have specifically requested the service.

  • Do not provide any personal information.

  • Do not allow them to remote into your computer.

  • Things to look for: bad grammar, fake blue screen errors, various other fake errors and fake 1-800 numbers.

  • Audio saying you're infected or continuously displaying pop-up windows.

  • No reputable company will have a pop-up display on your computer stating you are infected with malware.

  • Make sure to research do proper research on the company.

  • Use layered malware/virus protection. Check out Malwarebytes Premium! It is my recommended and trusted protection of choice along side Window Defender Antivirus. Malwarebytes can block malicious known pages before you visit them. (Affiliate link is located at the bottom of the page).


What to do if you already gave information to a tech support person


  • Contact your bank to report that you have been hit with a tech support scam.

  • Call your credit card provider to reverse the charges, if you have already paid.

  • Change your passwords: to your computer, banking, and every other website that you visit.

  • Run a full system scan with Windows Defender Antivirus to remove any malware.

  • Use layered malware/virus protection. Check out Malwarebytes Premium! It is my recommend and trusted protection of choice to be used along with Window Defender Antivirus. Malwarebytes can block malicious known pages before you visit them. (Affiliate link is located at the bottom of the page)

  • File a complaint with Federal Trade Commission

Sources:

  • https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/wdsi/threats/support-scams

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_support_scam

  • https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0346-tech-support-scams#How

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