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Watch For Scams Newsletter. Tech Support Fraud
April 27, 2018
Tech Support Fraud
Watch For Scams is dedicated to helping you avoid becoming a victim of fraud.
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Tech Support FraudCriminals may pose as a security, customer, or technical support representative offering to resolve such issues as a compromised e-mail or bank account, a virus on a computer, or to assist with a software license renewal. Some recent complaints involve criminals posing as technical support representatives for GPS, printer, or cable companies, or support for virtual currency exchangers.
As this type of fraud has become more commonplace, criminals have started to pose as government agents, even offering to recover supposed losses related to tech support fraud schemes or to request financial assistance with “apprehending” criminals.
How the Fraud Occurs
Initial contact with the victim typically occurs through the following methods:
Telephone: A victim receives an unsolicited telephone call from an individual claiming the victim’s device or computer is infected with a virus or is sending error messages to the caller. Callers are generally reported to have strong, foreign accents.
Search Engine Advertising: Individuals in need of tech support may use online search engines to find technical support companies. Criminals pay to have their fraudulent tech support company’s link show higher in search results hoping victims will choose one of the top links in search results.
Pop-up message: The victim receives an on-screen pop-up message claiming a virus has been found on their computer. In order to receive assistance, the message requests the victim call a phone number associated with the fraudulent tech support company.
Locked screen on a device: The victim’s device displays a frozen, locked screen with a phone number and instructions to contact a fraudulent tech support company. Some victims have reported being redirected to alternate Web sites before the locked screen occurs.
Phishing e-mail warning: The victim receives a phishing e-mail warning of a possible intrusion to their computer or an e-mail warning of a fraudulent account charge to their bank accounts or credit cards. The e-mail provides a phone number for the recipient to contact the fraudulent tech support.
Once the fraudulent tech support company representative makes verbal contact with the victim, the criminal tries to convince the victim to provide remote access to the victim’s device. If the device is a tablet or smart phone, the criminal often instructs the victim to connect the device to a computer.
Once remotely connected, the criminal claims to find expired licenses, viruses, malware, or scareware. The criminal will inform the victim the issue can be removed for a fee. Criminals usually request payment through personal/electronic check, bank/wire transfer, debit/credit card, prepaid card, or virtual currency.
Suggestions for Protection
• Remember that legitimate customer, security, or tech support companies will not initiate unsolicited contact with individuals
• Install ad-blocking software that eliminates or reduces pop-ups and malvertising (online advertising to spread malware)
• Be cautious of customer support numbers obtained via open source searching. Phone numbers listed in a “sponsored” results section are likely boosted as a result of Search Engine Advertising
• Recognize fraudulent attempts and cease all communication with the criminal
• Resist the pressure to act quickly. Criminals will urge the victim to act fast to protect their device. The criminals create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure the victim into immediate action
• Do not give unknown, unverified persons remote access to devices or accounts
• Ensure all computer anti-virus, security, and malware protection is up to date. Some victims report their anti-virus software provided warnings prior to attempt.
If you are a Victim
• Individuals who receive a pop-up or locked screen, should shut down the device immediately. Ignore any pop-ups instructing to not power off or restart the computer. Victims who reported shutting down the device and waiting a short time to restart usually find the pop-up or screen lock has disappeared
• Do not re-contact fraudulent tech scam companies. Expect additional fraudulent calls as these companies often share their customer database information
• Should a criminal gain access to a device or an account, individuals should take precautions to protect their identity. Immediately contact financial institutions to place protection on accounts as well as change passwords and actively monitor accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.
If you believe you have been a victim of this type of scam you should promptly report it to the IC3's website at www.IC3.gov. The IC3's complaint database links complaints together to refer them to the appropriate law enforcement agency for case consideration.
Remember - always watch for scams!
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