Hungate Business Services (HBS) wants computer users – particularly clients – to be aware of an increased prevalence and aggressiveness of tech-support scammers.
Such perpetrators connect with people by phone, email or via on-screen pop-ups, convincing users their computers are in serious trouble. They then say they can “fix the problem” if you allow them to upload “security” or “technical support” products onto your computer for a fee – when, in reality, no problems actually exist. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), about $280 is spent on average during first scammer encounters and that more than $24.6 million has been bilked from American victims over the last two years alone.
But there is some good news. The FTC has begun fighting back – as of May 2017 – through “Operation Tech Trap,” a nationwide and international crackdown on such schemes. The campaign involves the FTC working closely with state and international law enforcement partners to issue complaints and temporary restraining orders and, in some cases, even filing law suits against tech companies that are engaging in such activities. In some cases, individuals are also being indicted and arrested.
While taking criminal action is helpful, researchers who study tech scamming say educating computer users on how to deal with scammers may, in fact, be the most effective deterrent. According to one researcher (Nick Nikiforakis) at State University of New York at Stony Brook, it’s important that victims learn how to spot virus infection warnings as fraud, long before beginning a 20-minute phone conversation with a fake help-desk provider.
In this regard, HBS offers the following advice related to identifying and avoiding scammer interactions:
- Never ever call a number that appears as part of a screen pop-up warning saying you have serious computer problems. The same goes for opening links in emails.
- Never hand over control of your computer to someone claiming to be from a reputable tech company who needs to “fix” an issue by uploading and activating software. If you’re worried a real problem exists, contact a tech professional you already know and trust.
- Never provide your credit card information, financial information, or passwords to someone who claims to be from tech support.
If You Fall Prey
If you do get enticed into paying for bogus products and services using a credit card, the FTC says you can call the credit card company and get the charges reversed. You’ll also want to check your banking and other credit card statements following the encounter for any unfamiliar charges.
In addition, take action to remove any malware that the fraudsters may have installed by downloading legitimate security software and deleting anything that shouldn’t be there. It’s also important to change any passwords that you’ve given out. If you use the same passwords for other accounts, change those as well.
If you need immediate assistance after encountering a scammer, call Hungate Business Services (HBS) at 276-243-4026 or email our help desk at [email protected] We also suggest you go to the FTC’s Complaint Assistant webpage and report the incident.