Tech Support Scams

Have you received a phone call that your computer has been compromised? Have you seen an advertisement on a webpage alerting you that your computer might be at risk? These calls and advertisements may contain the name of your town or claim to be from companies such as Microsoft or Apple. Be careful! These are likely criminals attempting to steal from you. They may steal banking information, files from your computer, passwords, or use your computer to break into company networks.

It is extremely dangerous to allow scammers access to your computer. If you are not sure if something is legitimate, please contact the ITC offices at 1.800.417.8667 or our 24-hour help desk at 1.888.217.5718. We will be happy to help you determine if the call or advertisement is legitimate.

Social Engineering

These criminals are trained to gain your trust and are often friendly and seem helpful. They use a tactic called “social engineering” to trick you. Their goal is to be your friend and gain access to your computer and bank accounts. They may use phrases like “Computer License Security ID,” “Chinese and Russian IP Addresses,” “Software or Hardware Warranty,” “Trojan Virus and Malware,” or “Microsoft Technical Support.” Often, these phrases either don’t mean anything or are not being used correctly. They are carefully selected to create fear in the typical computer user.

If the criminal convinces you to let them on your computer, they will keep you busy while they start stealing from you. They may open the Windows Event Viewer and claim that the events listed are evidence of malware, viruses, and hackers. They may open the Windows Prefetch and Temp folders or Windows Registry database and claim that these seemingly random files and hexadecimal math entries are evidence of suspicious activity. In reality, these are all normal parts of a healthy computer.

Once they have access, they are free to do anything they want. Scammers can hold your computer hostage by creating a startup password, encrypting the hard drive, or deleting critical files. They might install keystroke loggers in the hopes of later stealing your passwords for important websites. They may install software on your computer that automatically steals confidential files and information either now or later. Scammers might decide to make your computer part of their zombie army. They use infected computers for criminal activity and hope this would be traced back to you instead of them.

The friendly person on the phone might try to sell some computer cleanup or tech support service to you. After you have paid for this “service,” they often do nothing. Be aware that you probably just paid them to rob you, and you just gave them access to one of your  credit cards. Contact the card issuer if you gave them credit card information.

Be Cautious

We must all do our part to remain vigilant and not become victims of a technical support scam. Microsoft and other companies do not make unsolicited phone calls or send unsolicited emails. They also do not include phone numbers in their error messages. When in doubt, do not click the link and hang up the phone.

-Michael Martinell, The Broadband Guy