Avoiding “Tech Support” Telephone Scams

by Lon Seidman | Mar 16, 2014 1:28pm
(3) Comments | Commenting has expired

Computer “technical support” calls that originate overseas and victimize American consumers are increasing in frequency, thanks to cheap international phone rates and advanced phone dialing technologies. CTTechJunkie received one of these calls and we recorded the conversation in the video above.

This particular scam begins with a call from the “technical support department” claiming that a computer within the household has downloaded some malicious software and potentially compromised by hackers.  After gaining the trust of the victim, the scammer on the other end guides the user to load a Microsoft event viewer utility that’s built into windows and displays innocuous errors for troubleshooting purposes. The scammers use the items labeled ‘warning’ and ‘error’ to convince their victim that something ominous is amiss.

The scammers direct users to this event viewer app built into Windows. None of these warnings are dangerous but the caller convinces their target that this is a virus.

The solution the scammers offer is to connect to the victim’s computer using remote access software. This is usually a very simple process even for the most technically challenged individuals, as the scammer guides their victim to a web page that initiates the remote access software, with the scammer walking the victim through overriding the Windows security warnings.

Once the scammer is in, he or she has full access to the user’s machine from a half a world away and can load in software that actually does cause harm to the computer. The solution, of course, is to hand over a credit card number and pay for their assistance. Many times the scammers don’t remove the software they installed, requiring additional services from a local computer shop to fully correct the problem the scammers caused.

There is no way to prevent or stop these calls from occurring and are nearly impossible to prosecute given their international origins. The best defense is to simply hang up on any caller claiming that a computer in the household is compromised and contact an Internet service provider or computer manufacturer directly if there’s concern a household computer may actually be compromised.

The Federal Trade Commission has a helpful page with tips to avoid being scammed and how to help people who may have fallen victim to one.

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(3) Comments

posted by: timelord | March 17, 2014  4:26pm

An excellent policy is to hang up on any calls you receive that you are not expecting, personal calls excepted.

This would prevent you from falling victim to this kind of scam, financial scams, charity scams, etc.

My personal policy is that I don’t ever donate to any charity over the phone, not even ones that I have a donation history with. I simply explain that I don’t make donations by phone and tell then that they may mail me a request if they want. Some will and others won’t but either way I’m not getting ripped off.

I also have a separate credit card that I use when making purchases online or by phone (if I called them). That way my regular CC statement should only show charges for places that I visited physically, and the other one is easier to monitor for unauthorized charges.

Most people don’t realize that you can call your credit card company and ask thay they issue a new card number. That can reduce fraud if your credit information is floating around but hasn’t been used yet.  It also works if you’re having trouble cancelling a previously approved periodic charge to your card.

When you call to change your number tell the customer service rep that you have no charges pending and make sure to verify that no further charges to the old number will be honored.  Otherwise they will sometimes, as a “courtesy,” accept a periodic charge to the old number and move it to the new one.

posted by: NoNonsense2014 | March 18, 2014  2:46pm

I tried dealing with one of these calls in a similar manner. It was fun. However, rather than ending the calls, it seemed to make them more frequent. Thereafter, no matter how many times I told them not to call anymore (including telling them I don’t have a computer, or I have a Mac, or whatever), they kept calling. And they will not hang up on you. Finally, I said I’m on the do-not-call list and if they kept calling, I would take legal action, the guy got nasty and said he would report ME to the U.S. Government! I told him to go ahead. Now, whenever I get a scam call (tech support or otherwise), I just put my phone on ‘mute’ and leave the line open until they hang up on me in frustration.

posted by: NoNonsense2014 | March 18, 2014  3:02pm

Addendum to my earlier post: Even when I told these clowns that I was not stupid enough to fall for their scam, and they were wasting their time because I was not going to do what they wanted, they still refused to hang up on me. So, I’m surprised they hung up on you.