July 12, 2024

Trusting someone with your tech issues is a lot like handing them the keys to your digital home. Just as you wouldn’t let a complete stranger walk through your front door, it’s crucial to discern whom to welcome into your online space. Someone who appears to be a knowledgeable professional offering tech help could actually be a crafty “locksmith” trying to access your personal information.


What is a Tech Support Scam?

A tech support scam occurs when a con artist poses as a technical support representative offering to resolve a bogus computer issue. Crooks use various methods to unlock sensitive computer files, financial data, or both. They’ll use the stolen information to make fraudulent purchases or sell it to another scammer on the dark web.


Signs of a Tech Support Scam

Recognizing common tech support scam tactics could be as effective as installing a deadbolt on your electronic devices. Here are some clues:

  1. Virus warning pop-ups appear on your device screen. Most tech support scams begin with cybercriminals tossing out emotional bait, hoping to hook unsuspecting victims. Computer, tablet, and cell phone users unable to remove the false message are directed to a phone number or chatbot for help in resolving the matter.
  2. Failed software license renewal notifications arrive via text or email. This version of the tech support scam takes aim at antivirus software licenses. The deceptive communication will claim that the company could not process a payment for the renewal. You must provide an updated payment method immediately, typically a debit or credit card, or risk exposing your device to online hackers.
  3. Hefty fees must be paid using nontraditional payment methods. While legitimate tech support might indeed cost quite a bit, cyber crooks often claim that payment must be made via wire transfer or gift cards. Some might even encourage you to give them direct access to your bank account so they can withdraw the funds.
  4. Big-name tech companies are trying to reach you. Criminals want you to believe they work at Microsoft, Apple, or another tech company. In reality, they are not associated with these trusted brands. Large organizations typically do not call consumers out of the blue with offers of tech support help.
  5. You must download a remote desktop application. While legitimate tech companies might use such tools to resolve specific computer issues, scammers use them to gain access to electronic files. Once connected to your device, they can install malware that runs in the background and extracts sensitive data without your knowledge. If you did not initiate the call, think twice before agreeing to download the application.

How to Protect Your Sensitive Data

Don’t let fear convince you to give someone access to your digital domain. Cyber thieves commonly apply pressure through emotional manipulation. They will make scary claims to get you to act without thinking. For example, scammers have been known to falsely state that:

  • Someone has placed child pornography on your computer in an effort to blackmail you.
  • A computer hacker is monitoring your conversation with the tech support representative in real-time.
  • You must give them access to your bank account for faster payment processing.
  • Giving them remote access to your computer is necessary to resolve the issue.

If you suspect a tech support scam, do not click any hyperlinks or initiate contact. If you believe the person you’re speaking with is a scammer, hang up or end the chat. Report the interaction to the Federal Trade Commission. If you have already disclosed any bank account information to a scammer, contact your bank or credit union immediately. You can slam the virtual door on tech support scams by staying alert to common red flags.