Avoiding Tech Support Scams

By Elvis Huff on August 16, 2018
4 minute read

Imagine you are working on your computer when a popup appears claiming that you have a virus and need to take immediate action. You ask yourself, “What should I do?”

The best thing to do is stop, before clicking anything. Legitimate tech support businesses do not operate that way. They simply do not imbed software on your computer requiring you to reach out to them.

It’s a scam

Companies that reach out to you first, requiring you to do something immediately, are running a scam. The scammers know that by alerting you and arousing fear, while also offering you a solution to the problem (their fix), you are more apt to pay them. Some tactics the scammers use are:

  • Phone calls
  • Emails
  • Popups
  • Text Messages
  • Computer Freezing
  • Restrict access to certain files and programs
  • Have you purchase software – again and again
  • Having you open up a command prompt (DOS screen) and type in some commands

When you respond, they may ask you to provide them with remote access, download software, or perform some other task. All of this is designed for the scammers to get access to your computer. Once they have access, they can do ANYTHING with it. Remote access is like letting them in your home, the same as if they were sitting in front of your computer screen and typing on your keyboard. They can get the computer to do anything they want.

What should you do?

Be on guard against unsolicited tech help. If you did not call someone for help, and you get a popup, email, phone call, etc., IGNORE IT. It is highly likely these unsolicited attempts are a scam.

If you are concerned about your computer, call your computer security company directly, using a number you already know. Do not use any of the information that came from the scammers. If you don’t have a computer security company, take your computer to a reputable firm.  Check references and ask around. Be careful when searching the Internet for reputable security companies, because scammers often go to great lengths to look legitimate, creating websites, etc., that serve as other ways to lure you in.

Have you been victimized?

If you have already been a victim, you need to do several things.

  1. Stop all contact with the scammers.
  2. Disconnect your computer from any networks and take it to a computer security firm/repair center. Be sure to bring any backups you may have.
  3. File a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov This last step is crucial to reporting the incident to the authorities and helping to prevent future victims. Remember, any information is important, so please report it!

Finally, here is a great video provided by the Federal Trade Commission explaining tech support scams.

Have another thought, tip or suggestion? Leave it in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!

Posted by Elvis Huff

Elvis Huff worked as an officer and network administrator for 12 years with the Lebanon Police Department and has also served as an adjunct professor in information systems at Cumberland University. Read More »

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