HOW IT WORKS
It could be an email, a warning screen on your computer, or a phone call telling you there is an issue with your computer.
On the phone, the callers pretend to be from “tech support.” They may ask you to give them access to your computer, and then they pretend to run a diagnostic test. The fake tech representative says the problem or virus can be removed for a fee. The goal is to trick you into paying for “support,” often with a prepaid card or electronic transfer that cannot be reversed.
The on-screen pop-up or email similarly warns you about security issues on your computer. It instructs you to dial a number for help or click a link to download antivirus software. It might look like an error message from your operating system or like antivirus software. It may even use logos from trusted companies or websites.
What To Do
- Do not call the number or click on the link! By doing this, you may give the bad guy access to your machine, you may download malware, or you may start a conversation you don’t want to have.
- Do not assume that people contacting you are working for the company they say they are. Legitimate companies will not call you and tell you that you must pay for tech support. If a pop-up message appears in your web browser offering help, or saying a threat has been detected, it is likely a scam. (Note: this is different from a pop-up window from your security software. To confirm the warning, close your browser and contact your security service through a trusted email or phone number.)
- Don't share personal information. Do not share sensitive financial information like passwords, credit card, or bank account routing numbers over the phone. And do not supply a prepaid gift card as payment.
- Use strong passwords to strengthen security. Use unique, long passwords/passphrases for your computer (secure password guidance) to better protect your accounts from bad guys.
- Install security software. Install and regularly update anti-virus and anti-spyware programs.
Some bad guys even go so far as to pay search engine companies to have their numbers show up first in search results. Consumers who search the web for a company’s tech support may see these fraudulent results at the top of the page. If you want to contact a company, do it through its official website, the information on your bill, or the product manual.
In general, make sure you only visit trusted, secure webpages and practice good cybersecurity habits online.