Despite recent scrutiny from U.S. and international law enforcement figures, tech support fraud continues to impact innocent people worldwide.
To garner trust from their victims, tech support scammers may claim to work for reputable technology companies such as Microsoft, Norton, or Apple. Those who fall prey to their scheme are told that their computer has been infected. And they’re told the ‘technician’ can help save their data and other personal information from the virus, or malware, that’s running rampant on their system.
In fact, what these tech support scammers are really after is access to your personal computer to 1) make their fallacy more believable, 2) receive payment for their ‘services’ and 3) gain access to other sensitive information.
What to look for
Scammers will go to great lengths to make their schemes appear legitimate. They have no problem falsely representing affiliations with real brands or reputable services. How is one to know whether the alleged partnership is legitimate? Furthermore, they may impersonate a trusted company by using logos and other branding to garner trust. These simple acts can lend a lot of credibility to the scam. And they can be easily achieved using what is already available online. Although the tactics often change, the common elements of tech support schemes remain the same. So, learn what to look for.
Oftentimes, tech support victims are just looking for assistance with a legitimate computer issue. If the unscrupulous scammers get you on the phone, they will regularly act helpful and knowledgeable. They might even claim to know about a specific problem with your computer. Although, it is much more likely that they created the problem in the first place as pretext for their service. Or they are only giving the appearance of an issue that is not actually there. So, it’s always better to get in touch with the legitimate technical support staff for a product or software than to trust your information with third parties who may have no experience with your issue and no intention of helping.
Suspect you’re a victim? Here’s what to do:
File a complaint
If you believe you’re a victim of one of these online scams, you can file a complaint with your local law enforcement, the FBI IC3, or the Federal Trade Commission regardless of the dollar amount paid.
Report the scam
Always report a scam that happened with an online seller or a payment transfer system to the company’s fraud department. If you used your credit card or bank account to pay the tech support scammers, report it to the card issuer or bank. Also report scams to the major credit reporting agencies. These reports help financial institutions to “follow the money” and shut down sources of illegitimate funding for scammers.
Place a fraud alert
Placing a fraud alert on your credit report can prevent someone from opening credit accounts or loans in your name, without your knowledge. Scammers often share or sell data on their victims to other bad actors. So, its important to take all steps possible to notify the proper authorities and protect yourself from becoming another victim.
If you have been, or think you may have been scammed, here are several additional steps to take to ensure you are protected:
- Notify your bank or credit card company of potential fraud if you provided the scammers with your financial details. You may need new bank cards.
- Gather any evidence regarding the scam including phone numbers, emails, or payment details. This information can help law enforcement track down the culprits.
- Run virus scans on your personal computer. If the scammer requested access to “fix an issue,” there’s no telling what software may have been maliciously installed.
- If you provided any passwords or usernames, make sure to change those wherever they are used to prevent unauthorized access, possibly even by a different scammer!
- Make a list of reputable contacts in the event of a real technical issue impacting your system.
- Remember not to click on links or download files from untrusted sources.
According to the latest Global Tech Support Scam report by Microsoft, consumers have reduced their exposure and losses from scam activities. This is due to the increased use of ad blockers along with continuous efforts being made by both software vendors and authorities to raise awareness and fight online fraud. However, scammers are always changing tactics. Many have chosen to capitalize on the global pandemic to target employees working from home. This change in tactics shows an ability to quickly adapt to changing circumstances. Increasingly, scammers are tailoring their approach for maximum impact.
Becoming a victim of online scams or tech support fraud can have a lasting impact on your finances and experiences online. Scammers may use your stolen information to charge you for fraudulent services, commit identity theft with your information, or take over your computer to further their crimes. Remember to be cautious when contacting people found online. Always take pause before sharing sensitive information with anyone you do not know and trust.
By following the steps outlined here, you can protect yourself from tech support scammers and raise awareness to reduce the effectiveness and prevalence of these attacks on the online community.
If you are, or have been, a victim of tech support fraud, IP Services Inc. may be able to help. We’ll work to get you in touch with the right authorities and collect potential evidence that can aid in the tracking and stopping of these criminals. We can also act as a liaison between you and the compromised company. Please reach out to [email protected] to get started.
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