Tech Support Scams – by Ron Benvenisti

First, I want to offer my special thanks to the New Jersey State Police Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Cell (NJCCIC) and the Atlantic County Office of Emergency Management for their generous sponsorship for my training to complete the DHS and FEMA “Community Preparedness for Cyber Incidents” and “Essentials of Community Cybersecurity Awareness” certifications. The trainings were conducted by DHS, FEMA and NSA instructors associated with the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), Texas A&M University in San Antonio, a member of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC) in conjunction with DHS and FEMA including some pretty scary real life scenarios held at the NJ Office of Emergency Preparedness Canale Training Center in Egg Harbor Township.

These new official certifications further expand my abilities to continue to assist the community in its growing concerns for cybersecurity awareness and emergency response across all sectors. So now, on to the latest text support scams and how to handle them.

It’s important to bear in mind that if one of these scammers is successful, you not only put yourself at risk but any other person or entity that you connect with including your bank, your employer, business associates and your friends and family. Here’s how it works:

Callers impersonate legitimate technical support companies to fool computer users into handing over their personal information or sending money.

Some scammers call and claim to be computer techs associated with well-known companies like Microsoft or Apple. Other scammers send pop-up messages that warn about computer problems. They say they’ve detected viruses or other malware on your computer. They claim to be “tech support” and will ask you to give them remote access to your computer. Eventually, they’ll diagnose a non-existent problem and ask you to pay for unnecessary – or even harmful – services.

If you get an unexpected pop-up, call, spam email or other urgent message about problems with your computer, stop. Don’t click on any links, don’t give control of your computer and don’t send any money.

How the Scam Works:

Scammers may call, place alarming pop-up messages on your computer, offer free “security” scans, or set up fake websites – all to convince you that your computer is infected. The scammers try to get you on the phone, and then work to convince you there’s a problem. Finally, they ask you to pay them to fix that non-existent problem.

To convince you that both the scammers and the problems are real, the scammers may:

  • pretend to be from a well-known company – like Microsoft or Apple
  • use lots of technical terms
  • ask you to get on your computer and open some files – and then tell you those files show a problem (when they don’t)

Then, once they’ve convinced you that your computer has a problem, the scammers might:

  • ask you to give them remote access to your computer – which lets them change your computer settings so your computer is vulnerable to attack
  • trick you into installing malware that gives them access to your computer and sensitive data, like user names and passwords
  • try to sell you software that’s worthless, or that you could get elsewhere for free
  • try to enroll you in a worthless computer maintenance or warranty program
  • ask for credit card information so they can bill you for phony services, or services you could get elsewhere for free
  • direct you to websites and ask you to enter your credit card number and other personal information

These scammers want to get your money, access to your computer, or both. But there are things you can do to stop them.

If You Get a Call or Pop-Up:

  • If you get an unexpected or urgent call from someone who claims to be tech support, hang up. It’s not a real call. And don’t rely on caller ID to prove who a caller is. Criminals can make caller ID seem like they’re calling from a legitimate company or a local number.
  • If you get a pop-up message that tells you to call tech support, ignore it. There are legitimate pop-ups from your security software to do things like update your operating system. But do not call a number that pops up on your screen in a warning about a computer problem.
  • If you’re concerned about your computer, call your security software company directly – but don’t use the phone number in the pop-up or on caller ID. Instead, look for the company’s contact information online, or on a software package or your receipt.
  • Never share passwords or give control of your computer to anyone who contacts you.
  • Get rid of malware. Update or download legitimate security software and scan your computer. Delete anything the software says is a problem.
  • Change any passwords that you shared with someone. Change the passwords on every account that uses passwords you shared.
  • If you paid for bogus services with a credit card, call your credit card company and ask to reverse the charges. Check your statements for any charges you didn’t make, and ask to reverse those, too. Report it to ftc.gov/complaint.
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3 COMMENTS

  1. If you have time and a scammer calls you talk to them sound concerned and play along. I had a Windows scam tech call me and I kept him talking for almost half an hour. I sat on the couch and pretended to do what he asked. When I finally decided to go I told him that I figured out why he couldn’t get my computer to work I told him I use Linux. He hung up.

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