Technical Support Scams
Out of the blue you receive a phone call, and the person on the other end says they are support staff for a technical company like Microsoft or Windows. They have detected errors on your computer and would like to log into your computer to fix them. Concerned about your information and ability to check online accounts, you allow this person to remote into the computer and take control. They run scans and find numerous errors. Now they expect you to pay to have these removed. Maybe they even offer a service contract for a year or a lifetime of support. And the question is, to pay or not to pay? Am I at risk, or is this one of those technical support scams?
Or perhaps you were the one to initiate a call to a company you thought was Microsoft. Using a search engine, you typed in “computer support” and clicked on one of the first search results to locate a contact number and call for immediate assistance to address your computer problem. Once you got on the phone, the same scenario ensued, starting with scans and leading to request for payment.
Unfortunately, not all the search results link to reliable companies, and no legitimate business will ever call customers out of the blue to check up on their computers and correct problems. The customer must always initiate contact. Fake support companies may trick you into giving them your credit card number, plant malicious software on your computer, or lock you into bogus support contracts that bring more harm than good.
Tips to Avoid Technical Support Scams:
- Assume that any individual calling you unexpectedly, without you having initiated contact, is not from a legitimate company and decline support from them.
- Never let anyone you don’t know or trust remote into your computer. That is an all-access pass to any information stored there.
- Tech support will not rush into a remote session or other immediate action. Scammers try to pressure you into rush decisions, calling you in the evening or other inconvenient times so you let them take control and fix a situation quickly, without giving you time to verify anything.
- There is no way to know for sure that your computer has viruses unless someone remotes in. If you receive a call claiming there are viruses/errors, that person is lying.
- If you search for support online, check the web address for the results you click. Most major companies have a simple address containing the company name, and contact information usually does not appear on the home page. You have to search to find support numbers. (E.g. Microsoft.com; Dell.com)
- When contacting any company for support, make sure you verify that they are legitimate. Reliable companies, especially major computer brands, will first have an automated system pick up to better direct your call, not an immediate answer from a live representative.
- Get the representative’s name and number, and ask “Are you the actual Microsoft [or other brand] company, or a third-party?” If they say “Yes, I do support for Dell,” ask again if they are the actual Dell company, not just that they support Dell computers.
- If you think your computer has viruses or errors, or if you’ve been taken advantage of by one of these technical support scams, contact a local computer services business for support.