12 Sep Spot, avoid and report tech support scams
Tech support scammers want you to believe you have a serious problem with your computer, like a virus. They want you to pay for tech support services you don’t need, to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. They often ask you to pay by wiring money, putting money on a gift card, prepaid card or cash reload card, or using a money transfer app because they know those types of payments can be hard to reverse.
Tech support scammers use many different tactics to trick people. Spotting these tactics will help you avoid falling for the scam.
Tech support scammers may call and pretend to be computer technicians from a recognized company. They may say they’ve found a problem with your computer and often will ask for you to provide them with remote access to your computer so that they can run a ‘diagnostic test’. Ultimately they try to make you pay to fix a problem that doesn’t even exist.
If you get a phone call that you aren’t expecting from someone who says there is a problem with your computer or mobile device, hang up.
Tech support scammers may try to lure individuals with a pop-up window that can appear on their computer screen. It might look like an error message from the operating system or antivirus software, and it might use logos from trusted companies or websites. The message in the window warns of a security issue on your computer and tells you to call a phone number for help.
If a pop-up window displays on your computer, don’t call the number. Real security warnings and messages will never ask you to call a phone number.
ONLINE ADS & SEARCH RESULT LISTINGS
Tech support scammers try to get their websites to show up in online search results for tech support. Or they might run their own ads online. The scammers hope that people will call their phone number to get help. If needing tech support, go to a company you know and trust.
Legitimate tech companies will not contact people by phone, email or text message to relay messages saying there’s a problem with your computer. In addition, security pop-up warnings from real tech companies will never ask people to call a phone number.
If there actually is a problem with your computer, first update your computer’s security software and then run a scan. After, if you still need help fixing a problem, go to someone you know and trust. Many software companies offer support online or by phone. Stores that sell computer equipment also offer technical support in person.
WHAT TO DO IF SCAMMED
If you paid a tech support scammer with a credit or debit card, you may be able to stop the transaction. Contact your credit company or bank right away. Explain to them what happened and ask if they can reverse the charges. If you paid a tech support scammer with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card right away. Tell them you paid a scammer with the gift card and ask if they can refund your money.
If you gave a scammer remote access to your computer, update your computer’s security software. Then run a scan and delete anything it identifies as a problem.
If you give your username and password to a tech support scammer, change your password immediately. If you use the same password for other accounts or sites, change it there as well. Create a new password that is strong… better yet, create a passphrase as your password.
If someone calls to offer a refund for tech support services you paid for, it is likely a fake refund scam. How does the scam work? The caller will ask if you were happy with the services provided. If you say, “No,” they’ll offer you a refund. In another variation, the caller says the company is giving out refunds because it is going out of business. No matter the story, they’re not giving refunds. They’re attempting to steal your money. Never give your bank account, credit card or other payment information.
For additional security tips, tricks and information, check out our Security Tips page.