New twists in tech support phone scams

Filed under: Computing Tips,Security - May 24 2014

Updated 8/19/14:

For several years we’ve been warning people about tech support scams where someone claiming to be from Microsoft, your internet service provider or computer manufacturer calls to inform you that your computer is in danger and filled with trojan viruses or critical errors, or that your Windows license has expired.

keyboard S C A MIn a later twist, shady companies began advertising on Google, Yahoo, Bing and other websites targeting search terms such as “HP tech support number” in hopes that vulnerable computer users would call them. After calling the number the representative would say that in order to help with the problem they would need to remote access to the computer. See examples in this article. Then just like the unsolicited calls from “Microsoft” above, you are lead to believe that your computer is infected.

Recently shady companies are now advertising on mobile search websites targeting search terms such as “Android tech support” or “iPhone tech support”. Similar to other tech support scams, after calling the number you are told to connect your smartphone to your computer then allow them remote access to your computer. You are then led to believe that trojan viruses on your computer are the cause of your smartphone troubles, and they offer to “fix” your computer.

Yet another recent scam will display an error message from a phony program or website displaying a phone number to call for support. This is yet another attempt to trick people into believing that they need to pay for made-up computer problems.

Phony error message

We’ve had other scam reports from clients that have called their internet service provider’s tech support and spoken with offshore agents located in India or the Philippines. The initial contact person was unable to solve the problem so they were transferred to a higher level technician who asked for remote access to their computer, then told them that they major computer problems that needed to be fixed.

The “fix” for all of the above scenarios is typically a remote support service contract ranging from $200-$900. If you hesitate or sound skeptical, we’ve encountered several instances where the scammer has placed a password on the computer, installed malware or deleted files before the remote support session was cut off. The claims made by the remote support scammers have always proved to be false.

If you receive or place a telephone call and the person on the other end is trying to persuade you to allow them remote access to your computer so they can show you problems with your computer – it’s a scam. Immediately hang up. Never allow anyone that you don’t personally know to remotely access your computer. If you call your internet service provider, insist to be transferred to a support agent located in the United States.

The latest twist in tech support phone scams is a call claiming to offer a refund for a previous unsatisfactory tech support call – the caller just needs to verify some financial information to process the refund. After reading this article you should know that the caller is not to be trusted, and that you should immediately hang up.

Please take a few minutes to become educated on this scam by viewing the videos and additional articles below.


Links to additional articles:

Tech Support Scams – Help & Resource Page from Malwarebytes

Federal Trade Commission consumer information about tech support scams

PC World reports that tech support scammers are targeting mobile users

Watch tech support scammers at work, live


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