Tech support fraud is one of the most prolific and common ways in which fraudsters try to obtain your financial information or steal your money. By posing as tech support representatives from major, reputable tech companies (like Apple, Microsoft, etc.), the fraudsters will try to coerce you into intentionally or inadvertently disclosing sensitive information including account passwords, card numbers, files, and personal records.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shares that the fraudsters will contact you via email, phone calls, and pop-up messages. They will present a false problem with your computer or device, commonly by insisting that certain files or scan results indicate an issue. They will then offer an artificial solution to you, which is how they gain access to your computer. The FTC further provides some examples of these artificial solutions, which include, but are not limited to:
- Giving the fraudster remote access to a device
- Installing disguised malware that grants them access to a device
- Requesting financial information (including card numbers) to bill for fake services
- Selling fraudulent services
Kristen Setera writes that investigators from the Boston Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are noticing an increase in the amount of people falling victim to tech support fraud, and therefore an increase in financial losses as a result. It’s important to understand that just about everyone with a phone, computer, and/or access to the internet is vulnerable to such attacks. Individuals, small businesses, large organizations, and even public agencies. No matter your situation, it’s in your interest to stay vigiliant against tech support fraud.
The FTC recommends a few simple things you can do to protect your business and stop this from becoming an issue. First – hang up the phone when you receive an unexpected tech support call, even if the caller ID information looks legitimate. This is a fraudster trying to trick you into divulging sensitive information over the phone. Second – avoid and ignore pop-up messages, especially those that say your device has a problem and to click or call for a solution. Pop-ups from real tech support companies don’t ask you to do this. Third – consult a trusted cybersecurity professional and/or those within your business if you have a concern about your device. Lastly, do not give out your password or grant remote access to people that contact you randomly.
If you fall victim to a tech support scam, the FTC recommends that you should work with a trusted cybersecurity professional to clear your computer and check your company network. If you shared your password, change the password on any accounts associated with it. If you bought fraudulent services, get in contact with your financial insitutition to reverse the charges and prevent future ones.
“Tech Support Scams” [Article]. Federal Trade Commission. Available at: https://www.ftc.gov/business-guidance/small-businesses/cybersecurity/tech-support-scams [Accessed Feb 22, 2023]
“How To Spot, Avoid, and Report Tech Support Scams” [Article]. Federal Trade Commission Consumer Advice. Available at: https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-spot-avoid-and-report-tech-support-scams [Accessed Feb 22, 2023]
Setera, Kristen (2022). “FBI Warns Public to Beware of Tech Support Scammers Targeting Financial Accounts Using Remote Desktop Software” [Article]. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Available at: https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/boston/news/press-releases/fbi-warns-public-to-beware-of-tech-support-scammers-targeting-financial-accounts-using-remote-desktop-software [Accessed Feb 22, 2023]