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Fraud Prevention: 5 Important Things to Know About Tech Support Scams

July 9, 2024

Has this happened to you?

 You’re on your computer surfing the internet when a pop-up message appears on your screen. The message warns you that your computer has been infected with a serious virus and instructs you to call a phone number immediately to get technical support.

 While that pop-up may look official and real, it’s anything but. It’s a tech scam—a popular technique fraudsters use to steal money and the identity of innocent people. Here are five things you should know about this growing type of scam:

  1. Tech scammers use several techniques.

In addition to using online pop-up messages that seem to come from companies you know and trust, like your email provider, device operating system, or antivirus software, scammers may call you and pretend to be technical support representatives. They may even use spoofing technology to make it look like a legitimate company on caller ID. They may also use online ads or listings in search results pages to try to lure you into calling a toll-free number, clicking on a link, or downloading an attachment. Don’t do it!

  1. Scammers may try to steal money or your identity or take over your computer.

Fixing a problem for you is the last thing a scammer wants to do: They want to get you to pay money or reveal personal or financial information that allows them to steal your identity. Scammers may even try to gain remote access to your computer so they can install ransomware, spyware, or other malware on your computer. Don’t allow them access!

  1. Trusted companies will never contact you in these ways.

Never give anyone you don’t know remote access to your computer, reveal personal information (like your Social Security or driver’s license number) or financial information, or send money to someone you don’t know.

If you’re not sure if the message is from the actual company you trust, call the published number on that company’s official website or your billing statement. If you’re worried that something might be wrong with your computer, contact a trusted technology services provider, such as the software company or the retailer that sold you the device.

  1. Tech scams come with red flags.

Though scams can vary by scammer, they often have common characteristics, including a sense of urgency. Beware of communications that urge you to call, pay, or download an app immediately. Also, look out for technicians who call out of the blue to offer you help. Real technical reps never reach out that way.

  1. There are steps you can take to prevent scams or limit damage if you fall for one.

To avoid becoming a victim, create strong and unique passwords for all online services and change them regularly. You should also frequently run and update antivirus and other security programs on your devices.

If you paid a scammer in a tech scam:

  • Contact us immediately at 877.380.2265.
  • Contact your credit card company to order a new card and request that they stop the transaction.
  • Use card controls in our mobile app to turn off your debit card.
  • If you used a gift card to pay a scam artist, contact the gift card provider and ask to have your money refunded.

If you’ve given remote access to your computer or other device:

  • Update your device’s security software and run a scan to identify and remove malware.
  • Change any passwords you provided to the scammer. If you use the same password for other online services, change those as well. (And always use unique passwords for each site or service.)
  • Consider resetting your device. Before you do so, make sure you understand the potential impact and time involved or contact a technical support company that you trust for help.

You can help stop scammers by reporting tech scams.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that you report tech scams that happen to you. Watch this FTC video to learn how reporting a scam can make a difference.

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