Tech Support Fraud involves a criminal claiming to provide customer, security, or technical support in an effort to defraud unwitting individuals. This type of fraud continues to be a problematic and widespread scam.
Criminals may pose as a security, customer, or technical support representative offering to resolve such issues as a compromised e-mail or bank account, a virus on a computer, or to assist with a software license renewal. Some recent complaints involve criminals posing as technical support representatives for computer or printer companies, cable companies, or government agents, even offering to recover supposed losses related to tech support fraud schemes or to request financial assistance with “apprehending” criminals.
Initial contact with the victim typically occurs through the following methods:
- Telephone: A victim receives an unsolicited telephone call from an individual claiming the victim’s device or computer is infected with a virus or is sending error messages to the caller. Callers are generally reported to have strong, foreign accents.
- Search Engine Advertising: Individuals in need of tech support may use online search engines to find technical support companies. Criminals pay to have their fraudulent tech support company’s link show higher in search results hoping victims will choose one of the top links in search results.
- Pop-up message: The victim receives an on-screen pop-up message claiming a virus has been found on their computer. In order to receive assistance, the message requests the victim call a phone number associated with the fraudulent tech support company.
- Locked screen on a device: The victim’s device displays a frozen, locked screen with a phone number and instructions to contact a fraudulent tech support company. Some victims have reported being redirected to alternate web sites before the locked screen occurs.
- Phishing e-mail warning: The victim receives a phishing e-mail warning of a possible intrusion to their computer or an e-mail warning of a fraudulent account charge to their bank accounts or credit cards. The e-mail provides a phone number for the recipient to contact the fraudulent tech support.
Tech support fraud was originally an attempt by criminals to gain access to devices to extort payment for fraudulent services. However, criminals are creating new techniques and versions of schemes to advance and perpetuate fraud. Never give unknown, unverified persons remote access to devices or accounts and remember that legitimate customer, security, or tech support companies will not initiate unsolicited contact with individuals. You should also ensure all computer anti-virus, security, and malware protection is up to date. Some victims report their anti-virus software provided warnings prior to attempt. Read our Identity Theft Safety Tips for more information on how to fight fraud and what to do if you become a victim.