Online tech support is becoming a very lucrative business for scammers. According to Microsoft, tech support scams are the #1 consumer complaint from their customers, especially from the older generation. At Boxaid, our IT support experts unfortunately see the impact of these tech support scams first hand. We often get calls from customers AFTER they have been scammed. Unfortunately, at that point the damage has already been done and the scammers have often completed their objective which is making money from unsuspecting users. The scammers have devised several tactics and tricks they use to lure unsuspecting online users. So how can you avoid being a victim of these all too common, tech support scams? This article gives you a comprehensive guide on what to watch out for and what you can do to avoid falling victim to these scams.
Common Tech Support Scam Story lines
Generally, all tech support scams have similar story lines. The end goal is to convince the user that something on their computer is broken and they need to fix it. The reality is that nothing is wrong with your computer but they need to convince the user that something IS indeed broken. Their goal is to “fix” that broken thing and scaring the user into believing something horrible is going to happen if you don’t fix it. This could be your data being erased or your private files being destroyed or any of these “scary” scenarios.
They try to convince the user by using any facts about the situation that will make their story more believable. This includes using simple things like your full name or asking you if you have been seeing error messages on your computer lately or asking if your computer has been running slower over the last few weeks. These are all things that could be true of any computer.
How the Scammers Find their Targets
The scammers will use many techniques to find unsuspecting victims. They have to use as many techniques as possible so they can maximize their time. Some methods will be automated like having fake websites that you accidentally visit and you get a scary popup that tells you must call a special toll free number to fix the problem. Sometimes they just pick up the phone and just dial phone numbers until they find someone who is willing to listen to them. Below are the most common techniques they use to find their targets.
Picking up the Phone and Calling
Scammers can change their Caller ID to make it appear as if the call is coming from Microsoft, Apple, or another major company you can trust. This might seem obvious, but not everyone knows that this is possible or how they do it. What’s worse, some people might fall for it if they see that call is coming from Microsoft itself. Microsoft or Apple do NOT go around calling customers randomly telling them they have problems. It’s not realistic. These companies are huge and can barely handle their inbound customers calling them. They definitely don’t have time to call anyone. IGNORE ANY calls that show a caller id of big box company like Microsoft, Apple, Dell, HP, etc.
Sending Text Messages
Text messages can ALSO be easily faked. Scammers can send thousands of text messages in an automated fashion to random phone numbers and they only need one person to respond. Do not be that one person who responds. Text messages can be well written and look official to make people respond to the text message or pick up the phone and call the number they are asking you to call. DO NOT fall for it. This is extremely common and once they see you have responded they will not let it go. They will keep calling you or texting you with different tactics to scare you even further. In addition, the topics can range significantly when it comes to text messages. It will not always be about your computer. Some common text message topics include:
Pop-Up Warnings On Your Computer
If you see a pop-up window on your screen instructing you to call Microsoft or Apple, close the window immediately and do not interact with it. This is another method that online scammers are using to take advantage of unsuspecting users. When a pop-up window appears on your screen with a fake warning message about an issue with your device, don’t call the number. This will occasionally happen if you visit a website in your search engine results from Google. The scammers are able to inject their results into Google by creating fake websites that look very convincing. Eventually Google catches on to these fake websites and removes them from their search results. Our technical experts see this one all the time at Boxaid.