Knowing the Signs of Tech Support Scams

Tech support scams: help and resource page | Malwarebytes Labs

Tech support scams are a type of online scam in which cybercriminals pose as legitimate technical support representatives from well-known technology companies, such as Geek Squad, Microsoft, Apple, or major antivirus software providers. The scammers typically use various tactics to trick individuals into believing that their computers or devices are infected with viruses, malware, or other issues, and that they need immediate assistance to resolve these non-existent problems.

It is important to know what signs to look out for when it comes to tech support scams. So let’s look at how a typical tech support scam unfolds.

How Do Tech Support Scams Happen?

Step One: 

Scammers initiate contact through email, text messages, phone calls, or fake websites, often masquerading as reputable companies like BestBuy’s Geek Squad.

Step Two: 

They assert that your device is compromised, claim you owe fees for services, or request you to “verify” your identity by providing personal information such as credit card details, Social Security Numbers (SSN), or Social Insurance Numbers (SIN).

Step Three: 

Depending on the specific scam, scammers may coerce you into downloading malware or applications, granting them remote access to your device.

Step Four: 

Once they’ve gained access, scammers will persist in their fraudulent activities. This could involve emptying your accounts, extracting sensitive data from your device, or demanding additional payments for their supposed services.

Common Tech Support Scam Tactics

Now that we understand how a typical tech support scam plays out, let’s look a deeper look at the common tactics tech support scams employ:

1. Cold Calls: Scammers may call you, claiming to be from a reputable tech support company. They often use high-pressure tactics, such as stating your computer is infected or compromised.

2. Pop-Up Messages: While browsing the internet, you might encounter alarming pop-up messages claiming that your computer is infected and urging you to call a specific number for assistance. These pop-ups can be convincing and intimidating.

3. Fake Websites: Scammers create fake websites that resemble legitimate tech support sites, complete with logos and contact information. These sites may prompt you to call or provide personal information.

4. Emails and Messages: You might receive unsolicited emails, text messages, or social media messages, with scammers impersonating tech support representatives from well-known companies. These messages often contain links to malicious websites or files.

5. Malware Downloads: In some cases, scammers persuade victims to download malicious software or applications under the guise of necessary security updates or diagnostic tools.

6. Remote Access Requests: Scammers may request remote access to your computer, claiming they need to fix an issue. Once granted access, they can manipulate your system or steal sensitive information.

7. False Error Reports: Scammers might display fabricated error reports on your computer, convincing you to call a provided number for assistance.

8. Fake Refund Scams: Some scammers claim that you are due a refund for services you never received, and they request your banking information to process the refund, but instead, they steal your financial data.

9. Impersonating Known Brands: Scammers often impersonate well-known tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, or antivirus providers to gain victims’ trust.

10. Social Engineering: Scammers use psychological manipulation to gain your trust, make you panic, or create a sense of urgency to encourage you to take action or provide personal information.

To protect yourself from these common tech support scams, it’s crucial to stay cautious. Legitimate tech support companies will not contact you unsolicited and pressure you into taking immediate action. Always verify the identity of the caller or the authenticity of any message or website. If you have any doubts, contact the tech support company directly through their official channels to confirm the situation.

Ways to Protect Yourself from Tech Support Scams

  • Don’t respond to unsolicited messages or phone calls. 
  • Instal legit antivirus software on your computer. 
  • Never click on links in suspicious emails. Check the URL path by hovering over the link. 
  • Don’t supply passwords, 2FA codes, or other sensitive information. 
  • Learn to recognize the signs of a phishing email. 
  • Always double-check phone numbers. Make sure you’re only using the numbers listed.
  • Consider signing up for credit monitoring. Aura can scan your bank accounts and other financial accounts for signs of fraud (such as an overpayment or “accidental refund” scams).

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