What You Should Know About Tech Support Scams
Some cybercriminals are eager to help themselves to your hard-earned cash and private financial data by pretending to fix your electronic devices. But you can avoid becoming their next victim when you learn to recognize a tech support scam. Here's what you need to know to keep your devices and your bank accounts safe.
What is a tech support scam?
A tech support scam occurs when someone impersonates a legitimate technical support representative for their own financial gain. Scammers initiate contact with victims and pretend to have the solution to a common technology problem. Thieves promise to provide the solution if you first pay for "repair services" or provide personal information.
How does a tech support scam work?
Most tech support scams start with an email, phone call, or computer pop-up message claiming a virus was detected on your personal computer or other electronic device. Scammers will say they represent a well-known technology company, like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Norton, McAfee, Dell, or Samsung.
It's important to know that legitimate companies won't know when you're experiencing issues until you call and ask them for assistance. If you receive unsolicited communication claiming they know about your tech problem, it's likely the beginning of a tech support scam.
Another version of the scam has the fraudster contacting you to return an overpayment on a computer warranty, prior tech support services, or claim they are giving refunds because they are going out of business. They often ask for credit or debit card details and falsely claim they need your full account number, CVV number, and expiration date to process the refund. The scammer will use your account information to make fraudulent purchases, or they'll sell your data on the black market.
Tech Support Scam Red Flags
Most tech support scams are easy to spot, but only if you already know the types of communication common to this nasty scheme. Be wary of:
- Unsolicited emails or telephone calls about computer issues you didn't know you had
- Texts or email alerts about computer viruses spreading in your area
- Emails subject lines that include the name of a well-known tech company plus the word "Refund"
- Urgent pop-up messages on your device, such as: “Your computer may have a serious problem. Please call us NOW to resolve the issue.”
In almost every instance, the scammer will claim immediate action is necessary, or you risk losing valuable data stored on your device.
Protect Yourself Against Tech Support Scams
Use these tips to avoid the tech support scam:
- Click on hyperlinks within an unsolicited email or text message
- Call phone numbers provided in a message or computer pop-up
- Allow remote access to your computer to anyone
- Give out personal information, such as your name, Social Security number, or date of birth
- Share banking information, such as your account's routing number, account number, online username, or password
- Trust caller ID, as phone numbers can be spoofed
- Send cash, wire money, or use gift cards to pay for repair services
- Delete suspicious unsolicited messages and block the emails/text messages
- Look up the correct support phone number or find a local reputable business if you do need technical support
- Turn off your device immediately if you receive suspicious messages
- Disconnect phone calls that request personal or banking information
- Block dubious callers from your phone
What should I do if I suspect the tech support scam?
If you fall victim to a tech support scam, you were probably convinced that you had to give control of your device to another person. The scammer may now have banking details or other personal information, so you will need to act quickly to reduce your financial loss.
Call us immediately! We may be able to assist with disputing or reversing certain transactions. We can also block your account to prevent withdrawals. A new account will be required if scammers obtained any of your banking information.
If you gave the scammer your personal information, you also need to protect your identity. Refer to the Fraud Checklist for a detailed explanation of the additional steps you should take to recover the security of your account and/or identity.
We also recommend that you:
- Take your device to a licensed professional to have it scrubbed for any possible malware. You will need to change your username and passwords after this is done to ensure your device is secure.
- Continue to monitor your accounts for any fraud-related transactions.
- Report your case to the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.