For whatever reason, I have seen a big increase in the number of my clients who are reporting various tech support scams online. I’ve even had a few who have been called on their home lines from scammers who claim to be from well-known technology companies such as Microsoft. Usually, the scam is the same no matter how it is carried out. You are notified that viruses or malware have been detected on your computer, or that your computer is “not protected”, or some other similar danger and you need to call to have your computer fixed. Usually there are dire warnings about bad things potentially happening to your computer or data and that you should call immediately to have the problem taken care of. Fortunately, most of my clients realized these warnings are scams, but I’ve had several fall for it, at least initially.
Please be aware that these scams exist and do not fall for them. If you see scary warnings of viruses or other problems and you are asked to call a phone number, ignore it. These scammers will usually try to get you to allow them to remote control your computer to “prove” to you that you have issues. Oftentimes, when they take control of your computer, they will create problems themselves so they can remove them later (after you’ve paid a hefty “service” fee, of course). I had one unfortunate client last year who allowed this to happen. When she began to realize she was being scammed, the scammers became belligerent and locked her out of her computer unless she paid a ransom. Luckily I was able to unlock her computer for her, but I almost ran out of options and would have had to completely reformat her computer and reinstall all her software if I had not been successful. These scammers are not interested in helping you, they only want to get your money and/or credit card info.
These scams are often web-based, which means that usually all you need to do to get rid of them is to close your web browser. But sometimes scammers take advantage of quirks in web browser software to make it very difficult to close your browser when their warnings are being displayed. If you run into this situation, call your trusted technology professional to help you out. It is possible that you do actually have some sort of adware that is causing additional pop-ups to display, which may include these scams.
Again, NEVER call a number you are told to call if you see this type of scam. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a computer company, end the call. Tell them you will call your local computer expert and hang up. The bottom line is to only work with reputable tech support professionals whom you personally know. Do not be frightened by warnings of viruses detected on your computer (especially if you have a Mac, since viruses are so rare, or an iPhone or iPad as there have been no occurrence of malware for those devices) as calling a scammer and letting them take control of your computer would usually be worse than any type of malware. As long as you have a trusted technology professional taking care of your computers and network, they will be able to take care of any real problems you may have.
If you have any questions about these scams or any other technology issue, please feel free to contact me.
Have you personally seen these scams or know anyone who has fallen for one?