What are Tech Support Scams?
Tech support scams involve scammers using scare tactics to trick you into unnecessary technical support services that are, supposedly, going to repair device or software problems- but those problems do not actually exist. Their objectives are largely financial; they may try to scam money from you by asking you to wire money, put money on a gift card, cash reload a card, put money on a prepaid card, use a money transfer app, use cryptocurrency, and more. If you grant remote access to a tech support scammer, they can also do a number of other malicious actions such as:
Crawling. Scammers may crawl your hard drive for sensitive data, passwords, and photos. They will collect anything information that they can use to withdraw money from bank accounts, steal your identity, or extort you for money.
Installing. Scammers may install invasive malware or spyware that allows them to establish ongoing access to your computer where they can continue to steal sensitive information, undetected.
Stealing. Scammers can steal your identity with all of the personal information that they find on your computer.
Hostage-taking. Scammers can hold your sensitive information hostage by downloading ransomware on your machine that locks your files until you pay the ransom that they demand.
Selling. Scammers can sell your information on the Dark Web, the hidden illegal marketplace where sensitive data is bought and sold by cyberattackers.
Some common tech support scams1:
Unsolicited call from tech support. Someone calls explaining that they are a computer technician from a well-known company, and they tell you that there are viruses or malware on your computer that he can eliminate through remote access or purchasing software.
Unknown pop-up. A pop-up window appears on your screen with a message warning that your machine has a security issue and if you call the provided phone number, they can help you.
Unsolicited email. You receive an email that says your account has been suspended or you missed a meeting, and it directs you to click on a link to address this.
In order to protect yourself from tech support scams:
- Never provide remote access to your computer to someone who contacts you unexpectedly or someone you don’t know
- Do not provide money or card numbers to unsolicited tech support agents
- Do not click on unsolicited pop-ups or emails
- Recognize legitimate tech support agencies and how they communicate with customers
- Keep antivirus software up to date
1 Schifferle, 2021, “What you should know about tech support scams”