Tech support scams happen when a criminal claims to provide customer or technical support to defraud someone. Scammers sometimes pose as a security, customer, or technical support representative and offer to help resolve issues such as a compromised email or bank account, a virus on a computer, or to help with renewing a software license.
Some recent complaints involving tech support scams also involve criminals posing as technical support representatives for GPS companies, printer companies, cable companies, or virtual currency exchanges. Criminals are even now sometimes posing as government agents, offering to recover supposed losses related to tech support fraud schemes or to request financial assistance with catching those committing the crimes.
How Tech Support Scams Happen
The FBI reports that victims initially are contacted through the following methods in cases of tech support fraud:
Unsolicited phone call claims the victim's computer, phone or tablet is infected with a virus and is sending an error message. There are various phone scams that attempt to trick victims into giving up personal information or sending money.
Phishing emails are common, often indicating a sense of urgency and linking to sites disguised to look legit.
- Pop-up Message or Locked Screen
An on-screen pop-up message claims there's a virus on the victim's computer and that you need to call a number. But the phone number is for a fake company, set up to get access to your computer or more personal information. These may also be accompanied by an incoming call to ask you for more information.
- Search Results Online
When you search for help online, be on the lookout for ads that may be disguising themselves as resources for you. Some scammers pose as legit companies in search ads to trick you into clicking on their site.
Protecting Yourself Against Tech Support Scams (And Other Scams, Too)
If you think you're the target of a tech support scam or one of the thousands of other scams reported every year, there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself from becoming a victim:
- Just Hang Up
If you answer a call and feel like you're being pressured to share personal information or send money, don't worry about being polite. Tech support services don't initiate calls—usually you call them when you have an issue.
You can always hang up immediately. Or better yet, don't feel obligated to answer calls from numbers you don't recognize. They can always leave a message and you can get back to them.
- Examine Links Before Clicking Them in Emails
With scammers getting more advanced—they often use companies and even logos of major companies you'll recognize to pose as legit companies. You can always contact the customer service number or visit the official company website and login there if you're truly concerned about urgent account information you need to address.
- Monitor Your Personal Information Online
You can use an online identity protection product like Farmers State Bank’s ID TheftSmart to keep an eye on your credit reports. Talk to one of our Tellers for more information about ID TheftSmart.
- Stay Vigilant
Read about the top scams popping up so you know what to look out for and learn tips for how to protect yourself from identity theft.
- Keep Antivirus Software Current and Ensure Your Devices Are Updated
By using an antivirus software, you can help protect yourself against ransomware or malware that can compromise your computer. You will want to make sure you review any security notifications and download updates on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and computers.
Computer manufacturers release updates to address security issues or concerns, so by staying current you can help better protect your device and your personal information.
What to Do If You're the Victim of a Tech Support Scam
Here are some steps to take if you think you're the victim of tech support fraud:
- Turn It Off
The FBI recommends, if you get a pop-up message about a virus, it's best to shut down your computer or device immediately, so no one can access it remotely. You can restart after a bit and check to see if it's still there (many times victims report the pop up is gone after waiting a while to reboot).
If you do need tech support, contact a trusted tech support consultant, or use a well-known company by contacting them directly via their official company website.
- Don't Contact the Company Again
If you got a call or were contacted and think the company is fraudulent, don't call them back. Cut off communication immediately and if you do think you owe money for a past service, look through your emails, past bank or credit card statements, or contact the company you did previously use for legitimate tech support.
- Contact Your Bank or Credit Card Company
If you did share any personal information before you realized it was a scam, contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately if you shared account or payment information.
Depending on the information you shared, you may need to also cancel your credit card or place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
- Report the Scam
If your identity has been stolen, you should file an identity theft report with the FTC. You should share any details of the specific scam you experienced so they can track it and share information to help other consumers avoid the same tricks.
Save screenshots of any communications or popups and save any voicemails and/or emails that were part of the fraud, so you can share them with the proper authorities.