tech support scam
Image: NCCC

The tech world is ripe with scams.

Many of us are wary of those who call claiming to be tech support representatives, but that's not the only way these scammers can reach us. Sometimes those scammers get us to call them.

Anyone who has used a computer in the past 20 years is familiar with popup advertising. These are those annoying messages that pop up on your screen when you visit different websites. If you have your popup blocker on your browser activated, you should see far less of these.

While most are just annoying, others can be quite concerning and look like legitimate warning messages. During your web surfing you get a popup that tells you that your computer has detected serious security threats that could compromise all of your files, your passwords, and your financial information. Oftentimes it even mentions your internet provider, making it sound all the more official.

It prompts you call a number for a technical representative that can clear your system. That's when the so-called Microsoft scam ensues.

Your computer could very well be infected with some sort of adware or program that is prompting the message or it could originate from the website itself. Either way, the number it asks you to call will lead you to a phony call center where you will encounter a high-pressure sales pitch to get you to buy software you don't need and take control of your computer.

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The tech support rep will start by asking you to open up various system logs that contain harmless files and programs. The tech support rep banks on their victim not knowing that these files and programs are benign and will inform you that the logs contain a variety of viruses.

From here, things can deviate a bit. The rep will usually try to talk you into allowing them to take control of your computer where they can plant more malware or they might tell you that if you pay a fee they can fix the problems remotely.

Scammers may also try to talk you into buying antivirus software you'll never receive. Scammers then use your financial information in a variety of ways, including clearing your accounts.

Some things to remember:

  • Microsoft or Apple will never call you letting you know of a virus on your computer
  • Never call a number in a popup warning. If you think there is a problem with your computer, call the company at a number you know is legitimate.
  • Never let anyone gain control of your computer, unless you trust them and know they are legitimate
  • Stay up-to-date on your antivirus software
Published: Tuesday, October 27, 2015
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