Tech Support Scams: A deceptive way to con people

With the rising number of scams in the digital world, the number of Tech Support Scam complaints reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), just between January 1, 2016 and April 30, 2016 reached 3,668.

A Tech Support Scam is when an attacker calls pretending to be a technical support person associated with a legitimate-sounding, but phony, third-party provider. These folks, called scammers, will try and convince you to give them remote access to your device using their social engineering skills.  If the device is a phone or a tablet, the scammer will ask you to connect it to a desktop or a laptop. Once the scammer has remote control of your device, the scammer will claim to have found multiple viruses or scareware on the device and will tell you that it needs to be fixed immediately. The scammer will try and convince you to pay a fee with a personal check, debit/credit card or wire transfer the payment.

Another type of Tech Scam that has been identified is one where the scammer calls and offers you a refund for a service that was previously rendered to you by a company that has since gone out of business. In this scenario, the scammer will try and convince you to provide them with access to your device and your online banking information, to process your refund.  Once the scammer has control of your device and bank account, the scammer then skillfully transfers money from one of your own accounts (savings, perhaps) to another of your accounts (maybe your checking account), making it appear as though the amount has been transferred by the scammer. The scammer deliberately transfers a much higher amount than expected, then informs you they mistakenly refunded too much money and asks you to re-wire the additional amount back to the scammer’s account. Since the scammer never actually transferred his own funds into your account, any amount you send is profit on the scam.

If the victim is unwilling to release the money, the scammer will threaten and berate the victim until the victim transfers the amount demanded by the scammer. In other cases, the scammer will threaten to intentionally install viruses on the victim’s device or destroy the device completely.

Direct phone calls are not the only method these scammers use; they’ll also use pop-up messages. A pop-up message on your computer will claim your device has been attacked by viruses. The pop-up message will list a toll-free, phony, Support Center phone number for you to call. The person on the other end of the phony Support Center line will seem legitimate and will try and obtain your bank account information or extract money from you. In other cases, while accessing the social media or financial websites, you can suddenly encounter a locked screen with a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). This screen will also display a phone number to a phony Support Center, for you to call, to bring your device back to life.

IC3 requests the general public to be aware of such scams, and if any suspicious activity is noted, to immediately disconnect the call, turn off the device, and wait some time before restarting the device. You should also know, any legitimate Support Center will never contact an individual with the requests noted in this article, nor initiate a phone call to a customer. IC3 also encourages individuals to report possible Internet scams by filing a complaint with IC3 at www.ic3.gov.

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