Protect Yourself From Fake Technical Support
In recent months there has been a rise in the number of fake technical support scams.
These scammers will either cold call unsuspecting victims or upon visiting a random website
online you will receive a message stating "Your system is infected" and directing you to call
a number. Neither of these are legitimate technical support methods, and in this article we
will cover each method, the consequences of falling for these scams, what you can do to protect yourself.
The most common technical support scam is the cold telephone call. This is an unprompted
phone call by an unknown individual that identifies themselves as a representative of a major
company (Apple, Dell, HP, Microsoft etc.) or a generic department (the Windows department,
Apple Support, etc.). The scammer will then inform you that your system is sending out error
reports to them, has an infection, or has been hacked in an attempt to convince potential victims
to grant remote access to the computer system.
If they are successful at this step they will generally pull up the Event Viewer, which is
a built in tool for Windows that registers errors, warnings and informative events caused by
normal operation, and demonstrate how "infected" or "hacked" the system is based off of
legitimate software events. Usually at this point the victim is offered a price to "fix"
these issues, and will be convinced to turn over their banking information, credit card
numbers or purchase a money order or gift cards to pay for the service.
Some users have noticed a popup while visiting websites that informs you that the system
has been infected or that you have been viewing inappropriate material and you will need to
call a number to resolve the issue. Upon calling this number the scammer will go through a
similar process as the cold call scammer, however since the victim calls the number they have
a higher chance of success. The end result is the same, an attempt to extract payment from a victim.
The popup scamming option is made possible by several different circumstances. Non legitimate
websites can redirect you to an outside site that provides the popups. Legitimate websites
that use an advertising server that has been exploited can also result in a similar experience.
Outdated or unpatched software can exacerbate the situation by allowing malware or other harmful
software to be installed on the system once the advertisement is triggered. A seemingly legitimate
extension can also be installed in the Internet browser that can lead to this situation as well.
Consequences of falling for these scams are entirely dependent on how quickly the victim
detects the scam. If a cold caller is hung up on they have no recourse outside of harassing
phone calls to continue the scam. Depending on the state of the software on the affected system
by the popup scammer, it may be possible to reboot the system or run a virus scan to remove
the popup. If you are able to clear the website that you have experienced issues with then
you may be able to use the system normally (we generally will recommend service via a legitimate
support company to eliminate the possibility of infections).
Once the scammer is granted access to the system they have several options. Should a
"repair" be denied by the victim they will often lower their price or use a tool to create
an unknown password that renders the system unusable. There have also been instances of systems
being infected by ransomware, (software that encrypts your photos, documents and other information
and will not unlock the files without payment) after a repair is denied. If they are able to
obtain payment then they will likely store the payment information to make fraudulent purchases
in the future, and any "repair" performed or software installed by them could be malicious.
The best way to protect yourself from these characters would be to hang up on them as
soon as you receive any call fitting this description and block the number. No major company
will ever cold call you to offer a service involving the computer system. It is also extremely
important to use a valid antivirus or malware protection and keep all software updated on your
system to prevent the popup scams. An ad blocker can also be utilized to prevent the popup
scam, however many sites strongly discourage this to protect their advertising revenue.
Be sure to contact your legitimate local support company if you have any questions or
experience these troubles. Most local IT companies offer legitimate protection plans and are
equipped to deal with any issue, just be sure to check their reviews.
Steve Baker General Manager \ Senior Technician Expert PC
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