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Fraud Watch Network
Learn how to protect yourself from scammers
Have you gotten a call or a pop-up message that says your computer has a virus? And then you're told you need to hand over remote access to your computer to fix it? You're not alone. Americans lost an estimated $1.5 billion to scammers posing as tech company employees. No matter what tactic they use, scammers have one purpose: to take your money.
According to Microsoft, the majority of people losing money to tech scams are millennials. By contrast, only 3% of users who listed their age as 55-65, or users who listed their age as 66+ years old, had lost money by continuing with a scam. Regardless of age – and regardless of your level of computer proficiency – everyone needs to know what to watch out for.
What it is:
Scammers try to gain your trust by pretending to be associated with well-known companies or confusing you with a barrage of technical terms.
Once they've gained your trust, they may:
- Ask you to give them remote access to your computer and then make changes to your settings that could leave your computer vulnerable;
- Try to enroll you in a worthless computer maintenance or warranty program;
- Ask for credit card information so they can bill you for phony services – or services you could get elsewhere for free;
- Trick you into installing malware that could steal sensitive data, like user names and passwords; and
- Direct you to websites and ask you to enter your credit card number and other personal information.
- Don't stay on the phone with someone who claims to be a tech support person. Hang up and call the company yourself.
- Don't give control of your computer to a third party who calls you out of the blue, or give your password on the phone. No legitimate organization calls you to ask for that info.
- Don't rely on caller ID alone to authenticate a caller. Criminals spoof caller ID numbers. They may appear to be calling from a legitimate company or a local number, when they may not even be in the same country as you.
- Don't provide your credit card or financial information to someone who calls and claims to be from tech support.
- Don't panic if you see a pop up alert that appears to freeze your computer, and don't follow any of the posted instructions. Just shut off your computer and restart to get rid of the phony ad.
- Don't use online search results to verify contact information or to look for technical support. Scammers sometimes place online ads to convince you to call them. They pay to boost their ranking in search results so their websites and phone numbers appear above those of legitimate companies. If you want tech support, look for a company's contact information on their software package or on your receipt.
- Don't buy a computer security product or pay a subscription fee. If you're concerned about your computer, call your security software company directly and ask for help.
- Don't assume you're immune to this scam! Even tech savvy consumers can get caught up in this one.