Scammers are nothing new, scams have existed since people have walked this planet. And while computer scams have been around for awhile, the frequency and sophistication of these scams have only grown. While we all think were savvy enough not to me caught up in one of these scams, the reality tells us otherwise. Just last year nearly 150,000 of these scams have been reported and thats not counting the large amount that go unreported. Its a pretty regular occurrence that I receive calls from clients about issues with their computers and finding out that some “tech support person” conned them into thinking they had an issue when they really didnt.
So how do I prevent myself from being scammed?
In instances like these, usually a bit of common sense and critical thinking goes a long way. Here are some things to help protect yourself.
- Real tech support will NEVER cold call you. Apple, Microsoft, Netgear,Linksys, etc will never ever call you to tell you that you have a problem or that your computer is causing issues for them. Ever. Full stop. If someone calls you saying they are from a reputable brand, they are lying.
- Popups that say you have a virus or some other computer issue and to call the company “I.E Microsoft”, are not real. Ever. Tech companies have never and will never do this. These are just ads that attempt to get you to call the number listed on the popup. Once you do, they will get you to install software to get access to your computer which will allow them to steal information, put keyloggers on, or install other malicious content. They will also show you a bunch of “fancy” technical things to show you all the issues with your computer and that for a fee they will fix it. Its all gibberish and just looks technical since most people are not computer experts. Usually they will pull up a screen like below to show you all the evil connections being made to your computer. Except this is a normal capture of open connections.
- In the event you do need to call Microsoft, etc, use a device other than your computer to look up the number. Scammers are getting pretty good at making fake websites that appear to be be legit. I’ve seen a few people look up what they thought was a legit Microsoft phone number only to be fooled, ending up calling the scammers phone. Perfect device for this is your cell phone, using your carriers data network. Make sure you disconnect WiFi and use your carriers data.
What do I do if I’ve already fallen victim?
In the event that you’ve given them money, there isnt much you can do to get it back. Report it to your local police and FTC at the very least. Your computer at this point can NOT be trusted. Its almost a guarantee that they have installed malicious software on your computer. You need to be very diligent in saving files that you need, and scanning them to ensure nothing malicious comes with them. Then you need to completely wipe your computers hard drive and start from scratch. That is the only way to be sure you are no longer exposed.
If you’ve been the victim of a tech support scam or think might have please give us a call so we can be sure that your computer and data are secure.
The FTC also has a very good doc that goes into this particular scam as well.