Federal Trade Commission - HOW TO SPOT A TECH SUPPORT SCAM:
Learn how to spot and report Tech Support Scams:
FTC - Tech Support Scams
Some scammers call and claim to be computer techs associated with well-known companies like Microsoft or Apple. Other scammers send pop-up messages that warn about computer problems. They say they’ve detected viruses or other malware on your computer. They claim to be “tech support” and will ask you to give them remote access to your computer. Eventually, they’ll diagnose a non-existent problem and ask you to pay for unnecessary – or even harmful – services.
If you get an unexpected pop-up, call, spam email or other urgent message about problems with your computer, stop. Don’t click on any links, don’t give control of your computer and don’t send any money.
How the Scam Works
Scammers may call, place alarming pop-up messages on your computer, offer free “security” scans, or set up fake websites – all to convince you that your computer is infected. The scammers try to get you on the phone, and then work to convince you there’s a problem. Finally, they ask you to pay them to fix that non-existent problem.
To convince you that both the scammers and the problems are real, the scammers may:
- pretend to be from a well-known company – like Microsoft or Apple
- use lots of technical terms
- ask you to get on your computer and open some files – and then tell you those files show a problem (when they don’t)
Then, once they've convinced you that your computer has a problem, the scammers might:
- ask you to give them remote access to your computer – which lets them change your computer settings so your computer is vulnerable to attack
- trick you into installing malware that gives them access to your computer and sensitive data, like user names and passwords
- try to sell you software that’s worthless, or that you could get elsewhere for free
- try to enroll you in a worthless computer maintenance or warranty program
- ask for credit card information so they can bill you for phony services, or services you could get elsewhere for free
- direct you to websites and ask you to enter your credit card number and other personal information
These scammers want to get your money, access to your computer, or both. But there are things you can do to stop them.
If You Get a Call or Pop-Up
- If you get an unexpected or urgent call from someone who claims to be tech support, hang up. It’s not a real call. And don’t rely on caller ID to prove who a caller is. Criminals can make caller ID seem like they’re calling from a legitimate company or a local number.
- If you get a pop-up message that tells you to call tech support, ignore it. There are legitimate pop-ups from your security software to do things like update your operating system. But do not call a number that pops up on your screen in a warning about a computer problem.
- If you’re concerned about your computer, call your security software company directly – but don’t use the phone number in the pop-up or on caller ID. Instead, look for the company’s contact information online, or on a software package or your receipt.
- Never share passwords or give control of your computer to anyone who contacts you.
- Get rid of malware. Update or download legitimate security software and scan your computer. Delete anything the software says is a problem.
- Change any passwords that you shared with someone. Change the passwords on every account that uses passwords you shared.
- If you paid for bogus services with a credit card, call your credit card company and ask to reverse the charges. Check your statements for any charges you didn’t make, and ask to reverse those, too. Report it to ftc.gov/complaint.
The IC3 has produced Scam Alerts in the past advising the public of an ongoing telephone scam in which callers purport to be an employee of a major software company. The callers have strong foreign accents. The callers report the user’s computer is sending error messages and numerous viruses have been detected. The caller convinces the user to give them permission to run a program allowing the caller to gain remote access. The caller advises the virus can be removed for a fee.
- Full IC3 Warning - https://www.ic3.gov/media/2014/141113.aspx
- Full FTC Warning - https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/official-sounding-calls-about-email-hack
Here are few things to remember if you get any kind of tech-support call, no matter who they say they are:
- Don’t give control of your computer to anyone who calls you offering to “fix” your computer.
- Never give out or confirm your financial or sensitive information to anyone who contacts you.
- Getting pressure to act immediately? That’s a sure sign of a scam. Hang up.
- If you have concerns, contact your security software company directly. Use contact information you know is right, not what the caller gives you.
- FTC cracks down on tech support scams - https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/ftc-cracks-down-tech-support-scams
“Your computer is damaged ... we’ll help you fix it.” It’s the latest twist on tech support scams: Scammers sell software online that claims to increase your computer’s performance. They lure you to their websites with pop-up ads or web searches. Then, they tell you to call a phone number to activate or register the software. On the phone, they ask for remote access to your computer and then tell you that your computer has many errors that need to be fixed immediately.
It’s all part of their plan to sell you bogus “security” or “technical support” products or services. Really, your computer is fine. They want to charge you – possibly hundreds of dollars – for software and services that you don’t need and that doesn’t help.
What can you do to avoid similar tech support scams?
- Don’t give control of your computer to someone who says they need to activate software. Instead, look carefully at the software instructions to learn how to activate the software yourself.
- Don’t give control of your computer to someone who calls you out of the blue claiming to be from tech support. Instead, hang up and call the company at a number you know to be correct.
- Never provide your credit card information, financial information, or passwords to someone who claims to be from tech support.
- Learn how to protect your computer from malware.