Most consumers have gotten calls from people claiming to be from a tech support company. The callers tell the consumer that his computer has been infected with some kind of malware and that the consumer must immediately work with the caller to eliminate the malware — of course, at a cost.

What consumers find out is that this just a scam — there’s no infected computer and the consumer has spent unnecessary money and given scammers access to his computer.

There is a variation on these scam calls which the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and its Federal, State and international law enforcement partners are combating. In a May 12th announcement, the FTC outlined the results already achieved through”Operation Tech Trap”. In the last year, there have been 29 law enforcement actions brought by Tech Trap partners against operators of tech support scams (www.ftc.gov).

How do these scams work? The general approach is the same: scammers cause ads to pop up on consumers’ computers; the ads look very much like the security alerts consumers might get from, for example, Apple or Microsoft or similar companies. The fake alert says the computer’s been infected and that the consumer should call a toll-free number. If they call, the consumer is connected to a telemarketer who claims to be affiliated with one of these well-known companies.  After giving the telemarketer access to his computer, the consumer’s told by the telemarketer that a serious problem exists. A problem which can, of course, be corrected by having one of their alleged certified technicians take over.

The phony technical expert then “corrects” the non-existent problem for which the consumer pays. The phony technical expert will also try to sell the consumer any number of unneeded services or anti-virus software.

Don’t fall for these scams. If a consumer gets one of these calls, he should contact one of the technology companies to see if a legitimate security alert’s been issued. Consumers should also notify the FTC about these scams; the FTC website has information on how to do so.