Better Business Bureau Tampa Florida – Imagine your computer freezing, with a full screen alert and speakers beeping. Voice reports that all of your personal information has been stolen, including credit card information, email email passwords and social media logins. Worse, your personal information is sent to hackers; how scary would that be?
More and more people are falling victim to networks of thieves posing as qualified computer technicians who work from the shadows, using sophisticated advertising and carefully crafted sales techniques to scare consumers into buying bogus home and business computer repairs.
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Simply put, these tech support scams depend on their ability to trick people into thinking their computer has a virus, malware, or is “broken” when in fact there is nothing wrong with the devices.
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Users often fall into the scheme through a sudden and persistent pop-up warning that appears on the computer screen or an unsolicited phone call from a “technician” claiming to have encountered problems with the user’s computer. Some users have described loud squeals or alarms; some said their computer suddenly crashed or froze. In most cases, these messages are not pop-up ads, which are quite common; rather, they resemble the computer’s own error messages or even the “blue screen of death” that appears when the computer crashes completely. The screens include a phone number that the victim can call. Several users reported that the pop-ups indicated that the phone number was associated with a trusted technology company such as Microsoft, HP, Apple or Dell.
After connecting to the toll-free number, a “sales technician” (often from India) offers to solve the problems and charges a fee. In each case, a “technician” on the phone provides remote access to the computer, scans the device for problems, and takes the necessary steps to prevent problems in the future. The price is usually around $500, but the price can be even higher. Sales technicians often claim to be from Microsoft, Apple, Dell, or other reputable companies. After payment is made and the user allows remote access to their computer, the representative begins what he describes as a series of diagnostics and “fixes” for the device. Users describe sitting in front of screens, sometimes for more than an hour, watching a remote operator operate their computers.
Although there are tens of thousands of complaints, this tech support scam may be very underreported because many victims don’t even know they’ve been scammed. Others only later find out that there is nothing wrong with their computers and that they have been tricked. This scam has become so common that anyone with an internet-connected device is at risk. in 2016 in a global survey, Microsoft found that two out of three people had experienced support fraud in the past 12 months. Unfortunately, for most of us, it’s not a matter of if we’ll be targeted by these thieves, but when.
Cyber crooks can also capture the victim’s account information during this process and later use it to gain online access to the victim’s bank accounts. In at least some cases, scammers can install spyware on the victim’s computer.
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Therefore, anyone who has been victimized by a tech support scam should check their computer to ensure that no unwanted software has been installed.
Victims should also beware of harassment from contacts who claim to offer them “refunds,” sometimes even from Better Business Bureau impersonators (). The scammers accessed some of the victims’ online bank accounts, transferred money from the victim’s savings to their checking accounts, and allegedly returned the money to the victims. The scammer claims to have accidentally returned more money than he should have, and is asking victims to accept the “overpayment” and return it. Scammers often claim they will lose their jobs if the victim doesn’t help by “paying back” the money.
Courtney Gregoire, Microsoft’s assistant general counsel for digital crime, believes that support fraud is a “pervasive global cybercrime that needs to be tackled by strengthening enforcement, disrupting technology and educating consumers.” Microsoft has taken the case directly to law enforcement worldwide and is working across the industry to fight fraud with task force members including Dell, HP, Intuit and others.
Evidence suggests that most tech support scams originate from call centers in India, which have recently become a source of IRS impersonation calls and other scams. Over the years, many companies have outsourced their customer service functions to call centers in India and it is likely that some fraudsters have used their skills to attempt fraud.
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This study attempts to define the extent of the problem, explain how it works, and provide recommendations on what can be done to reduce both financial and emotional harm to consumers.
This tech support scam is different from ransomware scams that use malware to encrypt all data on the victim’s computer system and then demand payment in bitcoins to unlock it. In the case of a tech support scam, a simple shutdown and restart will usually clear the warning screens and get the computer working again.
Consumer reports of IT support scams have increased in recent years. Almost anyone who owns or uses a computer is a potential target, from a college student researching a history project on their laptop to an elderly person looking for a holiday cookie recipe on their computer.
The statistics collected from various reporting sites are staggering. Microsoft, whose brand name is constantly thrown around by thieves hoping to win the trust of unsuspecting users, says it receives 12,000 complaints worldwide each month.
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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) maintains a national consumer protection network complaint system that includes complaints filed not only with the FTC, but also with the US Postal Inspection Service, about half of the country’s attorneys general, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. . and many other organizations. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) also receives and tracks complaints.
While there may be some overlap in people filing complaints with the FTC and IC3, and IC3 only started tracking it as a separate crime in 2016, these numbers show that this is a very large and serious problem.
Also investigated reports received, such as complaints about specific companies or fraud reports submitted by users to Scam Tracker. In the past two years, it has received a total of about 7,000 reports from people who claim that a company fraudulently pretending to be a computer repair or security service has contacted them to fix real or suspected malware/viruses.
Outside the US, the UK reported more than 34,000 complaints about tech support scams last year, making it the second-highest source of consumer complaints about so-called “computer repair scams”.
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However, the numbers presented tell only part of the story. FTC research shows that less than 10 percent of consumers who fall victim to fraud report it to law enforcement or . In addition, Nielsen Inc. estimates that for every complaint or report received, there are at least 50 cases of serious consumer dissatisfaction that are never addressed.
This problem is compounded by the fact that many people in the tech support field think they are working with a legitimate company, never realize they are being scammed, and therefore never complain. William Tsing of Malwaybytes confirms this, stating, “Too often, victims of tech support scams don’t realize they’ve been scammed, and this is something our Customer Success team faces all the time.”
Although the ages of potential and actual victims vary, in 2016 A survey by Microsoft found that millennials, ages 18 to 34, are more likely to follow fake tech offers than other age groups. On the other hand, fraud reports to Microsoft are mostly from older users.
US states with the most reports and fraud per capita (in descending order): Idaho; Hawaii; Wisconsin; Minnesota; Alaska; Ohio; and Washington. About equal numbers of men and women were found to be victims of tech support fraud.
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Sherry Thomas of Hazelwood, Missouri, St. Louis, looking online for cosmetics on her three-month-old computer.
A warning suddenly appeared on his screen, and an automated message came over the speakers, alerting him to the dangerous situation of his device. A pop-up alert told him to call the number on the screen to fix the problem.
The person who answered said Thomas worked for a Microsoft subsidiary. He told her that his computer was infected with a virus.
The technician, who claimed to represent Cromshield, remotely controlled his computer and charged $179 to his debit card to “fix the problem.” Suspecting that it was damaged, they took it away
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