Archives for posts with tag: tech support scams

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.

There are probably very few people who haven’t had to call tech support for one or more of their electronic devices. Scammers have now come up with ways to use consumers need for those numbers for their own gain.

How do they do this?  By creating and advertising fake tech support “800” numbers.  Antoine Gonsalves has written a very informative article about this scam and what industry companies are doing about it (www.cssonline.com; “Google, Facebook Unmask Tech Support Scams”; May 16).  The scammers are even using the names of legitimate companies along with the fake “800” numbers.

As Mr. Gonsalves reports, consumers who call the numbers risk providing their personal information to the scammers and downloading malicious software.

He also wrote that information about this tech support scam was included in the first report by a new non-profit called TrustinAds. TrustinAds has been  launched by AOL, Facebook, Google and Twitter to help combat these types of fake online ads.  I went to the TrustinAds website (TrustinAds.org) and read the May 8th press release about these fake tech support numbers (“Internet Industry Leaders Offer Tips for Consumers to Avoid Tech Support Advertising Scams”).  The scope of the scam is startling — the press release included the fact that Facebook and Google have found at least 4,000 tech support scams using the names of 2,400 legitimate companies.

The TrustinAds press release is worth reading to learn how to try and avoid these tech support scams.