Tech Support Scams

Scammers already know a lot about you. Don’t let them know even more by falling for tech support scams.

It’s no big secret. Tech support scams understand that you probably have a computer, and assuming you do it’s either a PC or an Apple. In addition, they know that you probably have a smartphone, and assuming you do it either runs on an Android or iOS platform. And that the last thing you want is for your devices to crash.

Getting your name and phone number is simple. They can buy customer lists from legitimate merchants. Or lists of subscribers from magazine publishers, ideally from those who offer titles focusing in on computers and cellular phones. And if they don’t want to spend the money, there’s always the possibility of harvesting names for free by surfing social media sites. Especially the names of those who have published their phone number, email address and even their postal address and haven’t blocked access to people they don’t know. And, of course, there are the lists for sale on the dark web.

How Does a Tech Support Scam Work?

Tech support scams usually begin when you get a call out of the blue from someone who introduces himself as a customer service or technical support representative from Microsoft, Apple, a smartphone manufacturer, or an independent firm representing all of them. He’ll innocently ask if you own a product manufactured by a company on a list he’ll recite to you, or that runs on Windows or iOS. If somehow you don’t, he’ll excuse himself and move on. After all, if he snags just one victim on a single day he’s hit the jackpot. And on most days he’ll hit a few.

Alternately, scammers can pass on the tedious process of contacting potential victims by phone. Instead, they can market themselves widely using serious-looking pop-up messages that are triggered using malware that already infected your computer. He’ll then sit back and await your call. Believe it or not, another option scammers often take advantage of is advertising on search engines and legitimate websites. In 2019, it was discovered that tech support scammers found a way to display their own ads on Google, complete with their own contact information, when consumers searched for PayPal, Amazon and eBay phone numbers.

In any event, if you are contacted by a tech support scammer, admit that you own any of the devices he mentions and engage him in a conversation, there are a variety of different scripts that he’ll then turn to.

What’s Their Pitch?

Maybe he’ll say that your warranty has expired, and he’d be pleased to sign you up for a new one. Except that the warranty renewal being offered is completely phony. It’s just an attempt to cheat you out of your money.

Or he’ll say that a bug (or alternately malware) has been found on your software and he will upload a free patch to remove it. Except that there’s no bug (or malware). What he’ll upload is really spyware that will scan your files and transmit back to him whatever personal information is stored on your device, including bank account and credit card numbers. In other words, you’re being set up for identity theft.

Another possibility is that the spyware will provide the scammer with remote access. Some tech support scammers are bold enough to ask you to provide them with remote access so that they can supposedly repair what’s wrong. In any event, remote access will allow him to read everything stored in your device’s memory. This will inevitably set you up for numerous other scams.

In October 2020, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission succeeded in forcing three tech support companies to fork over $7 million after they were caught offering free security scanning software trials to trick consumers into thinking their computers were breached so as to convince them to purchase their products and services. Their mutual payment processor also had to contribute its share. All told, 127,129 refunds were issued to victims of the scam. 

Don’t think it can happen to you? That may be what the folks at Twitter were thinking on July 15, 2020, when accounts belonging to 45 high-profile individuals and companies were hacked. The accounts belonged to, among others, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Mile Blumberg, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Warren Buffett, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, as well as Apple, Uber, Wendy’s, and a number of legitimate cryptocurrency apps and news sources. They were commandeered to implement a crypto scam that wound up netting more than $100,000 in bitcoin from unsuspecting victims. Turns out it all began when scammers pretending to be from Twitter’s IT department phoned real Twitter employees and asked them to confirm their login details. The rest, as they say, is history. 

If you think you’ve been the victim of a tech support scam, contact the fund recovery experts at MyChargeBack