Computers and technical devices are great, when they work. It is when they are not working properly that we wish we knew more about them or had a tech person in the family. Lack of knowledge and frustration makes us vulnerable for a tech support phone scam.
HOW DOES IT WORK
You receive a call from a scammer claiming to be from Microsoft or Apple. The scammer says that they have detected an issue with your computer and that they need to help you fix the problem. If you are having computer issues or if your computer is running slow you might take them up on their offer. The scammer will direct you to a website where you click on a link to download a program enabling them to remotely access your computer.
Now for the show. The scammer will move the cursor around on your computer monitor so it looks like he is scanning your computer. Then, images appear on your screen showing your computer has more than 50 viruses and other bad stuff. At this point, you begin to panic. The scammer tells you everything will be okay because he can remove the viruses and such, for a fee. The fee ranges from $100 to $800.
You eagerly agree to pay the fee and provide the caller with your credit card information. Depending on how eager you are, the scammer may say that they are having trouble processing your credit card and asks you if you have another one. Then the scammer will tell you that they are having trouble processing credit cards, but they could auto-deduct the fee from your bank account. If you comply,
the scammer now has information on two of your credit cards and your bank account. Don’t forget, he still has remote access to your computer.
WHY IT WORKS
If the scammers call 200 people a day, the odds are relatively high that many of them are having an issue with their computer. The IC3 report revealed that in 2018 Americans lost over $38.6 million to tech support scams.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Hang up the telephone. It really is just that simple. Do not engage with these people. The phone number displayed on your caller ID is not the scammers phone number. Scammers can make the display show whatever they want it to display.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE ALREADY A VICTIM
If you have already fallen for this scam, don’t beat yourself up. People from all walks of life have fallen
for this scam.
1. Disconnect your device from the internet until you have a professional scan it to remove the remote access software and anything else that may have been installed.
2. Contact your financial institution (credit card or bank or both) and report the scam.
3. Confirm that there are no additional autopayments deductions scheduled from your bank
or credit card account.
4. Tell everyone you know. You could help prevent them from becoming the next victim.
5. Speak with your CPA about possibly writing off the fraud loss.
Companies like Microsoft and Apple have no idea who you are except that you and a million other people bought devices from them. These companies will not call you out-of-the-blue to tell you there is a problem with your computer. If you do need tech support, you will be the one to initiate the call. Depending on if your warranty has expired or if you pre-purchased a service plan, you may be charged a fee for the tech support. Either way, you are the one that is initiating the call, not the other way around.