Perhaps you’ve received one of these calls. A friendly computer technician informs you that your infected PC is attacking their network. They won’t sue you, and they’ll even help you stop the attack for free; they just need you to install this “security” program first. For someone who isn’t tech-savvy, this can be a confusing and sometimes an even frightening experience, which is exactly what these scammers are hoping for.
We’ve even known some otherwise tech-savvy people who’ve fallen for these scams. Why? Because they’re not actually targeting technology, they’re targeting people using fear tactics. The IT security field calls this “social engineering.” As many variations on this scam exist as the scammers doing them, but you can recognize a scam by looking for some important clues:
Signs You Might Be Facing a Scam
- You’re pressured to act immediately: This is a sign that the caller doesn’t want you to think through what they’re asking of you.
- The caller asks you to provide account passwords: If the caller were really from the company they claim to be from, then they would already have access to your account information with them.
- You’re asked for financial, personal or otherwise sensitive information: Similar to passwords, if a company representative contacting you needed information from your account, they would already have access to it.
- They ask to connect to your PC: Never grant an unexpected caller access to your computer. There are many legitimate needs for granting remote access for support, but you should always be the one initiating those requests with a company with whom you have an existing relationship.
- They ask to resolve the issue for a fee or promise to waive fines: Bringing up money is a way to scare callers into making an emotional reaction.
What You Can Do
- Hang up immediately: As soon as you suspect that the call is a scam, simply hang up. On the oft chance that you’re mistaken, and the call was from a legitimate company about a real technical issue, they will make the effort to contact you again. Scammers usually just move onto the next target.
- Contact your ISP: If you’re still not sure whether the issue was real, report the matter to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Their contact information should be available on your account statements or other correspondence with them. Never rely on the contact information provided by someone calling you out of the blue.
- Contact your security software vendor: The FTC recommends that if you have paid for security software from a reputable vendor, contact that company directly to confirm your PC is safe.
- Report the scam: You can report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This is the federal agency tasked with preventing unfair and deceptive business practices. They want to know about these scams.
- Use the National Do Not Call List: Add your phone number to the Do Not Call registry. Be warned: Scammers are always looking for loopholes that let them call you, but having your phone number on the registry will eliminate a large amount of telemarketing and scam calls. The last federal economic report to examine the effectiveness of the Do Not Call registry found that 91 percent of Americans (PDF) reported some degree of reduction in their unwanted phone calls.
Get Further Advice on Avoiding Tech Support Scams
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