Don't Click That Link! How to Protect Yourself from Tech Support Scams

Keeping your software updated and never sharing passwords are just two ways to keep yourself safe

Don't Click That Link! How to Protect Yourself from Tech Support Scams
Image: Pixabay
July 19, 2018

What is a tech support scam?

From robocalls to emails claiming to be from Nigerian royalty, internet scammers are coming up with all sorts of new and creative ways to try to steal your money. One such way is the tech support scam.

A common version of this scheme uses pop-ups in your web browser claiming that you have a security problem on your computer. If you don't call the toll-free number listed in the ad, you might lose all of your data…or so the scammers claim.

If you call them, they will try to get access to your computer remotely so they can run fake virus scans and try to sell you expensive software that you don't actually need. They could also install malicious software (malware) to harvest personal information such as credit and bank account numbers and other sensitive data.

So what can you do? As it turns out, plenty.

How to Protect Yourself from Tech Support Scams

If you want to keep yourself from becoming a victim, follow these steps:

  1. Update your security software
  2. Make sure your anti-virus software is always up-to-date and that you know what alerts from the company that made it look like. This will make it less likely that scammers will be able to fool you with look-alike ads—or disguised malware—claiming to be from your software company. When in doubt, don't open or click it. Instead, go directly to the company's home page.

  3. Don't call
  4. The scammers are trying to get you to call so they can convince you that they really do work in tech support and that you really do have a problem with your computer. If they can convince you of these things, you'll be willing to pay for the products and services they offer.

    If you have a PC, remember that Microsoft does not display pop-up alerts telling you to call a toll-free phone number to discuss viruses or any other kind of security problem on your machine.

  5. Don't let anyone access your computer remotely
  6. If you call the number and the person who answers requests remote access to your computer, don't give it to them. Hang up. This rule also applies if they ask you for money for any product or service.

  7. Report it
  8. Even when you don't call the number, don't close the pop-up until you report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Provide them with as much information as possible, including the phone number. This will help the agency catch the scammers and protect other consumers.

  9. Tell other people
  10. After you report it, be sure to let all of your friends and family know about the incident. People often pay more attention to information provided by someone they know than by third parties.

  11. Don't share your passwords
  12. Never share passwords with anyone, even someone you trust. If you have, change the passwords immediately for the accounts in question.

  13. Look up the tech support number yourself
  14. Anyone who's used a computer knows that it will eventually require tech support. When that happens, go to the official website of your anti-virus software company and find their phone number there.

  15. If you think you were scammed, notify your credit card company
  16. If you think you've been scammed, it's not too late to stop the scammers from getting your money. Call your credit card company immediately and tell them what happened. Ask them to reverse any fraudulent charges, and monitor your statements carefully to make sure that no charges appear that you didn't make yourself.