How to avoid tech support scams
If you fall for it and download whatever software the crooks give you, they can then secretly track everything you do on that device — just waiting for you to enter any password or payment information that they can steal.
On top of that, once you give the scammers remote access to your computer, they can then hold it ransom until you pay them a large sum of money — which may or may not actually get you your device back.
These scams have become such a big threat that the FTC now has a page on its site dedicated specifically to informing consumers about tech support scams. And since it can be difficult to determine whether an update or alert is legitimate, the FTC has provided some tips on how to spot this type of scam, how to avoid it and what to do if you think you’ve been a victim.
Here are some common tactics a scammer may use to try to get money and/or sensitive information from you:
- ask you to give them remote access to your computer and then make changes to your settings that could leave your computer vulnerable
- try to enroll you in a worthless computer maintenance or warranty program
- ask for credit card information so they can bill you for phony services — or services you could get elsewhere for free
- trick you into installing malware that could steal sensitive data, like user names and passwords
- direct you to websites and ask you to enter your credit card number and other personal information
What to do if you get a call from someone claiming to be from tech support:
- Don’t give control of your computer to a third party who calls you out of the blue.
- Do not rely on caller ID alone to authenticate a caller. Criminals spoof caller ID numbers. They may appear to be calling from a legitimate company or a local number, when they’re not even in the same country as you.
- Online search results might not be the best way to find technical support or get a company’s contact information. Scammers sometimes place online ads to convince you to call them. They pay to boost their ranking in search results so their websites and phone numbers appear above those of legitimate companies. If you want tech support, look for a company’s contact information on their software package or on your receipt.
- Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone who calls and claims to be from tech support.
- If a caller pressures you to buy a computer security product or says there is a subscription fee associated with the call, hang up. If you’re concerned about your computer, call your security software company directly and ask for help.
- Never give your password on the phone. No legitimate organization calls you and asks for your password.
- Put your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry, and then report illegal sales calls.