Every month or two, we get a call from someone who describes what turns out to be some kind of tech support scam. And once we get a look at the machine involved, there's usually some kind of nefarious software installed and there's quite a lot of work to be done to clean-up the mess. These scams almost always start with an unsolicisted phone call or email. We don't make those kinds of calls. To the best of our knowledge neither do the other local service shops. If someone from any tech support organization contacts you that you don't know or work with regularly, don't respond. Call us or other service organization you trust.
Tech support scams, which get people to pay for fake computer help or steal their personal information, are convincing. You might already know the signs of a tech support scam, but do your friends and family? Here’s what they need to know now:
- Companies like Microsoft don’t call and ask for access to your computer. If you get a call like that, it’s a scam.
- Real companies also won’t ask for your account passwords. Only scammers do.
- Tech support scammers try to convince you they’re legitimate. They’ll pretend to know about a problem on your computer. They’ll ask you to open normal files that look alarming to make you think you need help.
- If you do need computer help, go directly to a person, business, or website you know you can trust. General online searches are risky because they might pull up another scam.
If people you know were already scammed, here’s what to tell them:
- If you paid with a credit or debit card, call your credit card company or bank immediately and tell them what happened.
- If you paid with a gift card, contact the gift card company (iTunes, Amazon, etc.) ASAP to see if the funds are still on the card and can be frozen before it’s too late.
- A tech support scammer who has access to your computer can install malware. Update your computer’s security software, scan your computer, and delete anything it identifies as a problem. Restart your computer to be sure the changes take effect. Going forward, download security updates as soon as they are available. Most operating systems have a setting to download and install security updates automatically. Use it. And install updates for your other software, including apps.
- If the scammer got your password for a financial account, or a site like Amazon, change the password immediately. Contact the company directly to make sure nobody has broken into your account.
Report your experience to ftc.gov/complaint. You’re not alone, and reporting these scams helps law enforcement go after the people behind tech support scams.