You’re on your computer when suddenly a pop-up message comes on the screen alerting you of a damaging computer virus. Moments later, the telephone rings and an individual informs you your computer has been hacked, but for a small fee, the caller will help you fix it. All you have to do is pay him or her and follow a few simple prompts to give the caller access to your computer. It seems like an efficient way to get rid of the virus, but the real problems have only just begun.
Tech support scams have been impacting people for years. Not only can scammers obtain your documents and personal information, they are also able to obtain your financial information and withdraw funds or hack into your credit. Scammers often install malicious malware into your system causing additional damage.
This isn’t a problem that is happening somewhere else. It’s happening in our own communities. Recently, a Fairborn woman reported receiving a phone call from one of these bogus tech support agencies and was informed her computer had been hacked. Upon agreeing to services, the scammers took her Social Security number, photos, personal and financial information. She also reported the scammers were quite forceful with her and were angry when she wouldn’t cooperate. In total, she lost more than $550.
In 2018, the Better Business Bureau received 2,536 nationwide reports from people about tech support scams through BBB Scam Tracker, an online tool that enables people to report scams in an effort to prevent others from falling prey to similar cons. The easy-to-use tool collects and presents scam data in a searchable online “heat map,” showing users the number and types of scams and hoaxes reported in their communities.
According to Microsoft, more than 11,000 complaints come in monthly from people who have been the victims of tech support scams. Microsoft receives high numbers of reports because their name as a reputable tech company is often used by the scammers to gain trust and credibility.
Here are some tips to protect yourself from tech support scams:
• Ignore unexpected, urgent calls, emails or pop-up messages about tech support. This could cause additional pop-ups, malware and invalid phone numbers to flood your device. Instead, close your browser and restart your computer.
• Protect your computer by using antivirus software and a firewall from a reputable company and run updates regularly.
• Enable pop-up blockers. Pop-ups are regularly used by scammers to spread malware. Always backup content on your computer.
• Avoid calling the phone numbers or clicking on links provided with tech support messages. These numbers will connect you directly to the scammer.
• Don’t trust calls from a familiar number. Scammers often spoof local numbers and area codes to appear trustworthy and legitimate.
• Be wary if you paid for technical support services and later receive a call about a refund; this could also be a scam.
• Never share passwords or give remote control to your computer to anyone who contacts you. Remember, legitimate tech support companies don’t call out of the blue.
• Research the company. Use trusted, third-party resources, such as your Better Business Bureau. Visit www.bbb.org or call 800-776-5301 to get lists of Better Business Bureau-accredited businesses in specific industries, business profiles of companies you’re considering doing business with, as well as check out customer reviews of businesses.
John North, president & CEO of Better Business Bureau serving the Dayton/Miami Valley, said, “Be cautious of pop-ups on your devices. If you feel your device has been compromised, call the BBB to find a reputable computer repair business that will help you resolve your problem. It’s important to take the time to work with a legitimate company, like a BBB-accredited business. It could save you hundreds of dollars.”
These messages can be scary and pressure you into calling the phone number for help. But be assured, these scammers are not there to help. But, the BBB is there for you 24/7 to help you navigate the marketplace and avoid scams.
The writer is the president and CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Dayton and Miami Valley.