Tech support scams are a continuing threat to consumers, especially with so many people working from home. Here’s how to avoid them, and how to find real tech support.
A tech support scam usually starts with a fake phone call, phishing email, or pop-up ad. Phone calls are an especially popular choice for reaching consumers who might not be tech-savvy. Cybercriminals like to prey on people’s confusion about computers.
The scammers will claim to be calling from a well-known tech company like Apple or Microsoft. They’ll spoof the phone number so the call looks valid, and make their phishing emails look realistic down to the logo and fonts. They pretend that they’ve been scanning the Internet to detect problems with consumer computers, and—lucky you!—they’re giving you a random courtesy call to offer tech support.
Everyone has computer problems, right? So it’s entirely possible you’ve been experiencing some kind of issue, which lends credibility to the scam. Next comes the big sell. Again preying upon potential lack of knowledge, they’ll claim that the routine messages in your computer logs are indications of Big Urgent Problems. And of course, they can fix said Big Urgent Problems for a low, low fee.
Cybercriminals love tech support scams because it gives them so many ways to fleece people. They can charge you for the phony tech support. They can charge you again for their supposedly awesome antivirus software which is either useless or malware in disguise. And how about some fake monthly maintenance, too? Not only will they charge you for their services, they’ll also take the opportunity to steal your credit card information. Why not? They’ve got you at their mercy.
Oh, but it gets better for the scammers. Not only have they tricked you into buying their fake services and revealing your credit card information, but they’ve also conned you into granting them remote access to your computer. And with remote access to one computer, they can gain access to everything else on your network. It’s like jimmying open a cracked window.
Once inside, they can use other hacking techniques to break into the rest of your computers and mobile devices. Now they can steal everything: usernames, passwords, documents, the works. Account access they can sell on the dark web. Documents could be used for identity theft or financial fraud. And, if you don’t happen to notice—if you’re still thinking their tech support was legit—they can keep the scam running for months or even years.
Meanwhile, as a final insult, they’re also using your commandeered computers to spew their scams at other unwary consumers. And all of this happens right under your nose.
How can you avoid tech support scams? Never respond to unsolicited offers of computer help from unknown sources. Hang up on phone calls or let them go to voicemail, and delete phishing emails without clicking on them. Remember, big-name tech companies don’t contact consumers out of the blue. If you need help from Microsoft, Apple, or another company, your best bet is to contact them directly through the support resources on their web sites. Don’t grant remote access to your computer unless you’re absolutely certain you trust the other party, and be sure to disable it immediately afterwards.
Please share this article with your family and friends, so they can learn how to avoid tech support scams too.
How do you find real tech support? Well, you’re reading my Simple Tech Tips blog, so you’ve definitely got the right idea! 🙂 You’ll find links to reliable tech support resources here, and you’re always welcome to contact me with your questions. If you sign up for Simple Tech Tips by email, you’ll also receive weekly tech news that will help you avoid scams like these.
Here’s a collection of my best Simple Tech Tips to help you solve your computer problems:
- Tech Tips: Ten Computer Troubleshooting Tips For When You’re Working From Home
- Tech Tips: Remote Learning: How to Solve Computer Problems and Keep Your Kids Safe Online
- Tech Tips: Ten Ways to Tell If Your Computer Has a Virus (And What to Do About It)
- Tech Tips: A Home User’s Guide to Mobile Device Internet Security
- Tech Tips: Avoid Computer Problems By Updating Your Apps
- Tech Tips: How To Create Strong Passwords (2020 Edition)
And here’s what to do if you’ve been a victim of a tech support scam.
- FTC: How to Spot, Avoid, and Report Tech Support Scams
- FTC: Tech Support Scams (Small Business)
- Microsoft: Protect Yourself From Tech Support Scams
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