Have you ever been intensely working on a project or just
surfing the net and a little box pops up? If you are like me, first comes panic,
then the question; am I going to lose all my documents and photos?
These pop-ups can advise of a security breach, or a need to update
software. Or in the worst-case scenario, they’ll warn your files have been
locked or confiscated and you must pay a ransom to get them back. I can attest
to the fact that ransomware is no joke.
I was hit a couple of years back with ransomware: all my
files were encrypted, and I lost everything. It was the absolute worst. I took
my computer to a technician who said it would take a three-step process to
retrieve each file; with 800 files the task seemed almost impossible.
The Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker
received more than 7,000 reports
in the past two years from people claiming a company posting as a computer
repair or security service contacted them to fix problems with their computer.
Microsoft – whose corporate name is often used by thieves to
dupe consumers – reports receiving 12,000 complaints worldwide every month.
While the ages of potential and actual victims vary, Microsoft says millennials
are most likely to continue with a fraudulent tech support offer, while older
consumers are more likely to file complaints.
Luckily, if you realize a tech support scam is
targeting you, a simple reboot of your computer usually eliminates the
warning screens and gets you back to business. Some of the ways scammers target
potential victims include:
Nearly half of tech support scams begin when an alert
message appears on the computer screen saying it’s detected a problem. There will be a number you can call
for help. Never call a number that just appears on your computer.
Another popular way for thieves to get in touch with victims is through cold
calls. The caller claims to be from Comcast, Norton, Dell, or another tech
company and says servers have detected signs the consumer’s computer has a
security problem. Never give a cold caller any financial information and never
let a cold caller have access to your computer.
When using a search engine to look for tech support, be wary of the sponsored
ads at the top of the list. Microsoft warns many of these links go directly to
businesses set up to scam consumers.
recently reported scammers now use email to reach potential victims. A link in the email takes the consumer to a website the
scammers operate that launches a pop-up with the fake warning and phone number.
What should you do if you realize you are the victim of a
tech support scam? First, contact your bank immediately and put fraud alerts on
your accounts. Then take your computer to a trusted local business to check for
malware. Also, remove any software that has authorized remote access to your
computer. Then change the passwords for online access to financial institutions
and other sensitive sites that could have been compromised. Finally, help your
neighbors out by sharing your experience on BBB Scam Tracker,