Tech support scams have been around since about 2008, but it seems like there has been a uptick in the frequency that they are happening these days. In today’s post I will go over what these scams are, how to spot them, and what to do about them.
What are tech support scams?
Tech support scams are essentially the same as IRS scams, but instead of telling you that you owe money to the IRS, they get money from you to provide a fake service on your computer. These scams are started in one of two ways. The first way is that you will get a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft, or a Microsoft Certified Partner. They will typically tell you that they have detected a virus on your computer or network and that you need to have them fix it as soon as possible. The second way is from a popup message while you are browsing the internet. These popups will usually sound very scary and imply that your hard drive is about to be erased and that you need to call the toll free number on the screen so that they can fix it. Some of the messages are even accompanied by alert sounds or someone talking.
Once these companies have made contact with you they will offer a free remote session to diagnose the problem. Once they are connected to your computer they will proceed to do several fake scans to show you the fake infections. Once they are done with all of their fake scans, they will tell you that for a low price they can connect you to a technician who will fix the problem. This price is anywhere from $99 on up to several hundred dollars. If you pay them the money they will then install some software, usually freely available software, and tell you that you are secured.
How to spot tech support scams
Here are just a couple of examples of tech support scams. There are hundreds of variations of these messages out there. Basically any message that says you are infected, and that you need to call a toll free number for support, is a scam.
Another classic tactic that scammers use is to show you the event log built into Windows. The event log shows a list of all logged events that happen on the computer. The scammers will filter the log to show you errors and warnings and claim that those are all issues that have been caused by a virus or by hackers. In reality those errors, for the most part, are perfectly normal. In the example to the left you can see hundreds of errors and warnings. Those are all perfectly normal and are reported on a perfectly clean, normally functioning, computer.
What you should do.
If you get a call from someone telling you that they have detected a virus on your computer, just hang up on them, it is a scam. If you get a popup on your computer about a virus and to call tech support, don’t click on anything or try to close the popup, just restart the computer. Right now, this is the best way to get rid of those popups without potentially causing other problems.
If you have already been the victim of one of these scams and paid the scammers money, I would recommend calling your credit card company and see if they can reverse the charges. The second thing I would recommend is contacting us so that we can check out your computer to make sure they didn’t cause any real damage.
What if you have been the victim of one of these scams and allowed someone to connect to your computer but you did not pay them? In that case, I would recommend contacting us so that we can check out your computer to make sure they didn’t leave any malware or spyware behind.
Worst Case Scenario
In a worst case scenario, the scammer may run a program called “syskey”. Syskey is a program that password protects Windows and you will not be able to use your computer without the password.
If this happens there is a good chance that you will have to reinstall Windows and all of your software. Fortunately, you should be able to recover most of, if not all, of your personal information such as documents, pictures, and music.
If you have been a victim of this scam, please contact us to see if we can help you recover your data.
“Remember, Microsoft will never proactively reach out to you to provide unsolicited PC or technical support. Any communication we have with you must be initiated by you.”
Source: Microsoft Corporation