Tech Support Scams
You are on your computer, using it like you normally do. Doing some shopping, banking, checking your email and looking up recipes. Suddenly, you get a pop up window. It says there are viruses and other issues with your machine. It has a Microsoft Logo in the bottom right corner. It says in order to correct these issues, you will need to call Microsoft ASAP. They provide you with a 1-800 number.
What do you do?
(Insert Jeopardy Music)
The correct answer is ignore it, close it, shut down your computer, call someone you know and trust (We recommend… us!). Whatever you do, do NOT call the number in that pop-up.
But if you said you would have called that number, you aren’t alone. In 2018, the FTC received 143,000 reports of Tech Support Scams. That is only the reports they actually received, so the actual number of these scams in the wild is much higher.
We get calls from our customers multiple times a week about these pop ups. I'd like to dig into these a little deeper to hopefully prevent some of you from being scammed out of your hard earned money. Please forward this to friends and family to help them prevent the same.
But first, long story short. If you get any kind of pop-up or phone call from someone claiming there are issues with your computer and they claim to be from Microsoft, it is a scam. 100% of the time. Microsoft doesn’t offer this kind of service. None of the big tech companies do. Hang up immediately. Close the pop-up. Call someone you trust.
Technical Support Scams come in three forms. Pop-Ups, Emails and Phone Calls. Let’s take a look at how these three flavors of scams work to get you on the phone. Once you are talking to someone they operate basically the same.
Pop-Up Scams will be like the example I provided at the beginning. You will be on the internet and a pop-up will take over your screen. It will claim that there are issues on your machine. It might say you have viruses, or a hacker in your machine, or your personal information is at risk. It might even claim that there is illegal material on your computer. The pop-up will claim to be from Microsoft, Dell, HP or even the FBI. It will have a phone number for you to call.
Some of these pop-ups can “lock down” your computer in such a way that it seems like you can’t close it or do anything else on your machine which force a lot of people into calling that number to get it off their screen. If this happens to you, just give us a shout and we can close it for you relatively quickly.
These pop-ups can come from an advertisement that is clicked on in facebook, google or any other site that sells ad space. They can also come from completely legitimate websites that have been compromised and the pop-up has been left as a nasty surprise for visitors to the page.
The best way to avoid these is by being careful what you click on and being very skeptical of links marked with “Ad” or “Sponsored”. The content behind these links just goes to the highest bidder. An Ad-Blocker can also help prevent these ads from showing up. If you’d like us to install one for you, just give us a shout.
Email Scams will operate in a similar fashion, but instead of a random Pop-Up, it will just be an email in your inbox. Spam filters have gotten pretty good about catching these, but some will still slip through. It will claim some of the same information as the Pop-Up, or may be disguised as a shipping notification, an invoice, or other vague attachment. If you don’t know the sender and aren’t expecting anything, don’t open it!
Phone Scams skip the bait and just call you directly. You will answer and someone on the other end will claim to be from Microsoft and tell you that you have the same issues as above with your computer.
Now that all three of these scammers have us on the phone, let’s look at their process so you might recognize it if they slip past your initial defenses.
Almost all of these scammers operate outside of the U.S. (and it’s jurisdiction in many cases) so a heavy accent is to be expected. They will tell you they work for Microsoft and they have seen some issues with your machine. A good tip here is to ask them questions that lead them in the wrong direction. Be skeptical of everything they say.
I once had a scammer call my cell phone. At the time I only owned one laptop. He said they had received a report of a virus on my machine. I asked him “I have 15 computers (which was a lie), which one is the virus on?” He said “Unfortunately all of them have been infected”. Uh huh.
Again, the issue they claim to see is a fabrication and might vary call to call. Don’t believe any of it, no matter how scary they make it sound.
Once they have the victim convinced there IS a problem, they will ask for remote access into the computer. Once inside they will generally show them a list of serious problems or viruses or run a command to show IP addresses that they will claim are hackers connected to the computer.
The victim will now be worried because clearly they have problems, the Microsoft technician just proved it! Now the “technician” will them that they are the only ones properly trained to correct these issues and ask for payment. This can range from $300 to Thousands. A customer told us last week that scammers asked them for $3,000.
Once they process the payment, they might just disconnect the call. Some of them act like they are fixing issues. They aren’t.
If you refuse to pay them, they tend to get hostile, and you have already given them remote control of your machine. Generally a bad combination. They might hide or delete files or put a different password on your machine to lock you out. Last week a customer allowed a scammer remote access, refused to pay them, and they rotated their monitor orientation so it was upside down on their end and harder for them to see what the scammers were doing.
Here’s the good news. These scammers generally aren’t super savvy beyond the script they have been provided. They want to;
1. Make Contact and Scare You
2. Get Remote Access
3. Show you false issues
4. Collect Payment.
They generally aren’t after personal information, bank information, and aren’t “hackers” that know how to do that even if they wanted to. Their end goal is a credit card transaction. And they unfortunately get enough of them every day to make a lot of money. If they can’t get you, it’s more profitable to just move on to the next mark. I have never seen a situation where they have left behind a virus, stolen bank information or done anything that wasn’t reversible.
If you think a scammer has been in your computer, give us a call. The remote control software they used could possibly still be installed which would give them access to your machine at any time.
If you get a call, pop-up or email you aren’t sure about, call us and we can quickly tell you whether it is a scam or legitimate.
Please share this with your friends, family and co-workers. Since these scammers are usually operating outside of legal and civil jurisdiction, the best way to shut them down is through education.
Final note, we will never outsource any of our work. Our staff is all located in our Lubbock office. The same faces you see when you come into the shop are the ones you will talk to on the phone so you can be sure the SuperGeeks you are talking to are the real deal.
Give us a call or come by if you have any questions or concerns!
806 722 0770