Fake Tech Support Scams
A Fake Tech Support Scam involves a scammer calling you at home or work and requesting access to your computer. They’ll say your computer is infected with a virus or a myriad of other claims. These types of scams have been around for several years now, but recently there has been an uptick in activity. Have you received a call from “Microsoft” or other “Tech Departments” stating that your computer is infected or “sending out errors”? Please let us know about it in the comments below.
How It works
Here’s how it works. You receive a call from a vendor, usually it is claimed to be Microsoft, your Internet Service Provider, or a security software vendor. The caller states that they’ve detected errors on your computer or problems with an account.
The caller may ask you to check Event Viewer logs for errors (FYI, there will always be warnings and errors in Event Viewer) or ask if your computer has crashed recently. Chances are you will answer in the affirmative.
Once they have you believing there is a problem, they will offer to connect to your computer to fix the issue. At this point you will be directed to a website to initialize the connection. The scammers often use legitimate remote support channels such as TeamViewer, GoToAssist, LogMeIn, or Join.Me. These software companies are not involved in the scam in anyway, the scammers are simply using these services to create the connection back to your computer.
Once the scammers are connected to your computer a number of things can happen.
- The scammers may install Malware used to steal personal information such as passwords and banking information
- They may find a “big problem” that needs to be fixed at a high cost. In reality there is no problem and they won’t be fixing anything.
- You may be told that you’ll need expensive software to clean up your computer or to fix the problem they have concocted.
- They will often try to sell you “firewall protection” for 1 year, 3, years, or 5 years and ask for payment via PayPal or another processor.
How To Avoid
Simply put, without prior contact, Microsoft (or any other vendor) will never initiate a call requesting personal information and/or access to your computer. Occasionally, Internet Service Providers will call users to (legitimately) inform them that a computer on their network is sending out large volumes of spam (due to an actual virus or malware), these cases are few and far between. In those cases, the Internet Service Provider typically blocks the computer from accessing their network until the infection is dealt with.
What happens if you do have a Tech Support ticket open with a service provider or vendor? How do you respond in these cases? It is wise to verify that the caller is who they say they are. This can be done by checking (and verifying) Caller ID or asking for your existing Ticket # to compare with your notes. If you are still skeptical, simply ask if you can call back into the support center to continue the call.
Just Hang Up
If you do get a call that sounds like a scam, the best advice is to simply hang up. If the call is legitimate, the vendor will get in touch with you another way. Finally, never give out your credit card or personal information unless you initiated the call and have verified who you are talking with.
Or….Have Some Fun With Them!
While we would never recommend this, there are videos spreading around the internet of people trolling the scammers and they are hilarious! Here are some of the best that we found (Caution: there may be some colorful language).