How many times have you been surfing the web when out of nowhere, you get a strange popup telling you that your computer is infected? If you have seen these popups, then you have been the victim of one of the millions of tech support scams that are all over the Internet. In my job as IT Director, I get tech calls about these frequently. Usually, the person has freaked out worried that their computer has a virus. I then spend a few minutes explaining that it is a scam and what they can do to get out of it.
How to Recognize a Tech Support Scam
The tech support scam has become a very popular scam. It is easier for the scammers to pull off because they do not have to find a way to initially infect the device. To pull the scam off, they try to make the user think that they are the “good guys” trying to help them. This is how it happens. You can be searching from something on the web and then all of a sudden, you get a popup. The popup may even play some kind of alert sound to really get your attention. The popup says your device is infected and usually says it is critical that you call a telephone number to fix it. It might even say that it has detected that sensitive information is being stolen. Some of them will say that the popup message is from Windows or Microsoft Tech Support. Some of these popups will lock your browser so that you cannot navigate away from or close the popup. This leads some users to believe that the only way to get rid of it is to call the “tech support” phone number in the popup.
What Happens if You Call the Number
If the user calls the phone number listed in the popup, most likely the “tech support” on the other end is going to ask for a credit card number to charge the user for cleaning up the fake virus or spyware. They will probably use lots of technical terms in hopes that the user will not understand them all. They may offer the user a free security scan that then finds fake “dangerous viruses” that they then talk the user into letting them “fix”. The crook may try to get the user to install some type of remote access program saying it is necessary to “fix” the computer. But after the remote access program is installed, then they can take control of the computer and either steal sensitive information or plant a real virus or spyware. Or they could just walk the user through installing an actual virus or spyware while telling them that it is a program that will “fix” their computer. Or it could be that they just sell the user some useless software or get their credit card number for payment and then take out much more than was discussed.
How to Protect Yourself from a Tech Support Scam
If you get one of these popups, know that Microsoft, Apple, Google
What to Do if You Fell for the Scam
First off, if you gave them your credit card number, call your credit card company and explain what has happened so they can try to help you. Second, run a scan with some anti-virus, anti-malware software to look for viruses and malware that could have been planted. Third, change passwords incase any were compromised. And finally, make sure you keep your anti-virus program and your computer up to date.
Anytime you come across these tech support popup scams, it is a good idea to report them. You can report them to Microsoft at microsoft.com/en-US/concern/scam. You can also report them to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
Have you ever seen the tech support popup scam? Let us know about it in the comments below.