How not to get scammed by “tech support scams”

Tech support scams are increasingly common and if you don’t know what to look for, you could easily get taken for a ride.

These types of scams work in different ways but all generally involve the same thing: Someone will call and claim to be a computer tech associated with well-known companies like Microsoft or Apple. You might also hear them say they’re with a tech support company — one you’ve never heard of.

Other scammers will send pop-up messages that warn you about computer problems. As the Federal Trade Commission’s website notes, they’ll often “say they’ve detected viruses or other malware on your computer.”

These tech support scammers usually ask for remote access to your computer; for you to fire up your device and let them “diagnose” the problem. Usually, they’re looking to diagnose what amounts to a non-existent problem and will then ask you to pay up for a remedy.

Here’s some additional information from the FTC:

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.

So what should you do?

If you get an unexpected pop-up, call, spam email or other urgent message about problems with your computer… don’t do anything. Don’t click on any links, don’t give control of your computer to the person calling and above all, don’t give away any of your credit card or personal information.

If you’re concerned your computer may have a virus or be infected, take it to a trusted computer repair shop for a diagnostic evaluation. It’s always wise to have a good malware/anti-virus on your device as well. Make sure to keep it updated and running.