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What You Should Know About Tech Support Scams

By Lisa Schifferle – 

During the pandemic, we’re doing more online – working, connecting with family and friends, shopping, and banking. So, if something goes wrong with your device, you want to fix it right away. Scammers are preying on this, offering phony tech support services. Here’s what you should know about tech support scams.

How to spot tech support scams

Scammers take advantage of your reasonable concerns about viruses and other threats, but their real goal isn’t to protect your computer. Instead, they want to sell you useless services, steal your credit card number, or install malware, which lets them see everything on your computer.

How do you know if you’re being scammed? Here are three common scenarios:

Scenario #1: Unsolicited call from tech support

You get a call from someone who says he’s a computer technician. Maybe he claims to be from a well-known company. He says there are viruses or other malware on your computer to trick you into giving him remote access to your computer or buying software you don’t need. He may ask you to pay by gift card or wire transfer.

Scenario #2: Unknown pop-up appears on your screen

A pop-up window appears on your computer screen with a message warning of a security issue on your computer and tells you to call a phone number to get help. The person who answers may pretend to run a diagnostic test and claim to identify more problems.

Scenario #3: Unsolicited email about a suspended account

You get an email saying your account has been suspended. In a recent twist, scammers are sending emails saying your Zoom account has been suspended or you missed a meeting. If you click on the link, it will install malware allowing the scammers to see what’s on your computer.

How to avoid tech support scams

Here are four tips to protect against tech support scams:

  • Never give control of your computer to someone who contacts you out of the blue. Criminals can spoof phone numbers, so you can’t rely on Caller ID. Avoid giving anyone you don’t know access to your computer, or your credit card information.
  • Don’t click links in unsolicited pop-ups or emails. If an unknown pop-up appears on your screen, avoid clicking on any links. The same is true for unsolicited emails. Instead, navigate to the company’s site by typing in their URL.
  • Maintain your anti-virus software. Use trusted anti-virus security software and make sure to update it regularly.
  • Recognize legitimate tech companies. Legitimate companies won’t contact you by phone, email or text message to say there’s a problem with your computer. Security pop-up warnings from real tech companies won’t ask you to call a phone number.

Act quickly if you’ve been scammed

If you’ve been scammed and you paid by credit or debit card, contact your credit card company or bank to ask them to stop the transaction. If you paid with a gift card, immediately contact the company that issued the card , and tell them you paid a scammer and ask if they can refund your money.

You should also report any tech support scams to the Federal Trade Commission at reportfraud.ftc.gov .

For more information on fraud and scams, download the CFPB and FDIC’s Money Smart for Older Adults resource guide.

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