These days, we live our lives online. Whether we’re ordering groceries or looking for new shoes, all we need to do is create an account, fill out some basic personal details and log in.
But what happens when that account is compromised – or when we think that account is compromised?
Maybe you get an email from technical support letting you know that your account has been breached and steps are needed to make it secure again. Just click on this link, the email might say, and we’ll take care of it.
But if this happens to you, think twice before you click.
The FBI recently posted an alert notifying consumers that tech support scams are on the rise. Cyber scammers are nothing if not clever, and our increased reliance on technology following the COVID-19 pandemic left a massive opportunity for fraudsters to prey on unwitting consumers.
Recognizing a Tech Support Scam
While the scenario above is not uncommon, there are many other ways scammers use tech support fraud to con people out of personal information and their money. Here are some outlined by the FBI as particularly prevalent right now:
Utility or cable/internet scam
In this scenario, a scammer posing as someone from a utility company or internet provider sends a notification that your bill is past due and that these services can be shut off if this is not remedied.
Travel industry scams
Scammers pose as technical support reps for car rentals, hotels or airlines and present great deals, taking fake reservations for vacations that are never actually booked.
Ride-share driver scam
Drivers for ride-share companies are being subject to scammers posing as their company’s customer support team, reaching out to correct an issue with the driver’s account or address a rider complaint. In the meantime, they are accessing the driver’s banking details.
Crypto wallet scams
People are receiving calls from crypto scammers pretending to be tech support for cryptocurrency exchanges. In these schemes, the scammers claim to have flagged an issue with the victim’s crypto wallet and ask for information to secure their account.
How to Help Avoid Tech Support Scams
It’s important to remember that technical support reps never reach out to customers unsolicited. So, if someone is contacting you about your account and seeking details to fix a problem you didn’t know existed, don’t take the bait.
Installing a pop-up blocker on your computer helps reduce unwanted advertisements containing malware. Make sure you regularly update your computer with anti-virus software.
Cyber scammers can lure victims online by paying for their website to appear near the top in online search results, listing their contact information for those looking for tech support. So be wary of the sites you search for tech support information and pay attention as to whether or not they are marked as “paid ads” in a Google search. It’s always good practice to read reviews and investigate any company you plan to do business with.
What to Do If You’re a Victim of a Tech Support Scam
If you are the victim of a tech support scam that resulted in a transfer of funds, contact your bank or credit card provider immediately to try to stop the transaction.
If you granted a scammer access to your computer, update your security software and run a scan to ensure that remote access is no longer possible and the proper protection is in place.
If you’re concerned that personal details have been stolen that may result in ID theft, engage a reputable identity theft protection and monitoring service to check for breaches and put long-term protections in place.
Reporting your experience with technical support fraud can help stop others from falling victim to these schemes. You can report a scam to the Federal Trade Commission and to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center .