Tech support scams are some of the most nefarious forms of hacks.
In these scams, fraudsters contact victims and attempt to trick them into granting access to their computers. The crooks may reach out to people through a fear-mongering phone call or by sending a popup to the victim’s computer, warning of an impending or existing virus that can be “fixed” by clicking on a link.
There are several outcomes of tech support scams. Sometimes, you’ll be tricked into installing malware on your computer, or into purchasing expensive “software” to supposedly heal your computer. The scammer might direct you to a bogus tech support website where you’ll be asked to input sensitive information.
Oftentimes they’ll simply help themselves to the data they find on your computer.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Scams
Tech support scams are nothing new, but a recent wave of these scams has taken on an ironic twist. The very organization that leads the battle in taking down scammers is being exploited for a particularly heinous hack.
Scammers posing as FTC employees are calling victims and asking for remote access to their computers. They assure victims they can restore affected devices to their previous working conditions. Many of them claim to represent the FTC’s Advanced Tech Support Refund program, which helps victims of scams collect their refund money.
The scammers will convince victims that they are just moments away from receiving their money – they only need to grant the alleged FTC employee remote access to their device. They also may ask for an upfront payment before the refund can be issued, or for checking account information, claiming it’s necessary for the refund to clear.
Of course, none of this is true; the FTC will never request remote access to your device or ask you to pay to receive a refund. Also, their refunds are sent in check form via snail mail, and do not require any checking account information.
The FTC has alerted the public that the only number to call for information about the Advanced Tech Support Refund program is 877-793-0908. If someone calls you on their own, end the call immediately and alert the FTC.
Recognizing Tech Support Scams
The FTC tech support scams are easy to spot if you know the FTC will never request remote access to your computer, ask for payment in exchange for a refund, or reach out to you on the phone.
Here’s how to prevent other variations of tech support scams:
- Never click on a pop-up box that claims your computer has a virus and offers to clean it
- Always call tech support on your own
- Never purchase expensive software online to fix an alleged virus
If you think you’ve been scammed, alert the FTC. Do your part to put those crooks out of business.