Ever heard of a tech support scam? Well, a very smart, savvy member of my family fell victim to one this week.My family member, who we will refer to as Sherry, was working on her laptop when she clicked on an ad. Clicking on that ad ending up installing malware on her computer, which then put up warning messages on her screen telling her that her computer was infected. A helpline phone number was displayed—appearing to be Microsoft tech support. Sherry, in a panic, called the phone number, which was actually a scammer. Unbeknownst to Sherry, she allowed him to remotely access her computer while she was on the phone with him. The scammer led Sherry to believe he was running a scan for viruses, but he was really scanning her computer’s information and possibly attempting to damage her hard drive so that Sherry would have to pay him money to “fix” it. Sherry’s computer, just like all of ours, is full of important work data, personal contact information, financial documentation, and more that we wouldn’t want anyone else to have access to. Before Sherry committed to giving this man her credit card information, a friend advised her to hang up with the scammer, shut her computer down, and disconnect it from the Internet.
In a recent twist, scam artists are using the phone to try to break into your computer. They call, claiming to be computer techs associated with well-known companies like Microsoft. They say that they’ve detected viruses or other malware on your computer to trick you into giving them remote access or paying for software you don’t need.
These scammers take advantage of your reasonable concerns about viruses and other threats. They know that computer users have heard time and again that it’s important to install security software. But the purpose behind their elaborate scheme isn’t to protect your computer; it’s to make money.
This is exactly what Sherry experienced. Her scammer assured her that he was fixing her computer issues, while she asked several times if he was being honest. He responded, “You have to trust me.” Two days later, Sherry has been told not connect her computer to the Internet, which is vital to her work. She’s also waiting for the other shoe to drop – what happens when her friends start getting solicitations to help Sherry out of a travel jam and wire money to some phony address? Or who knows what other damage these scammers have done to her personal information linked to the laptop? There are many implications to this type of scam that can be very detrimental to one’s financial, work, and personal life.
So consumers, please, sign up for Fraud Alerts, which will warn you and your family on the latest scams. Read this Fraud Alert for more information on tech support scams. The more consumers know what to look for, the less likely you are to get duped. NCL’s Fraud.org is here to help! Microsoft also provides tips on how to avoid tech support phone scams here.