Scammers, as always, are lurking around just looking for a new opportunity to strike. Taking advantage of people’s increased reliance on working and taking classes from home, they’re offering even more phony tech support services.
Here’s what you should know about tech support scams:
How to spot tech support scams
Scammers don’t want to protect your computer from viruses and other threats. They want to sell you useless services, steal your credit card number, or install malware, which will let them see everything on your computer.
How do you know if you’re being scammed? Here are three common scenarios:
- Unsolicited call from tech support.
- Unknown pop-up appears on your screen.
- Unsolicited email about a suspended account.
How to avoid tech support scams
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers these tips on how to protect yourself against tech support scams:
- Never give control of your computer to someone who contacts you out of the blue. Criminals can spoof phone numbers, so you can’t rely on Caller ID. Avoid giving anyone you don’t know access to your computer, or your credit card information.
- Don’t click links in unsolicited pop-ups or emails. If an unknown pop-up appears on your screen or you get an unsolicited email, avoid clicking on any links. Instead, go to the company’s website by typing in its URL.
- Maintain your anti-virus software. Use trusted anti-virus security software and make sure its updated regularly.
- Recognize legitimate tech companies. Legitimate companies won’t contact you by phone, email, or text message to say there’s a problem with your computer. Security pop-up warnings from real tech companies won’t ask you to call a phone number.
Act quickly if you’ve been scammed
If you’ve been scammed and you paid by credit or debit card, contact your credit card company or bank to ask them to stop the transaction. If you paid with a gift card, immediately contact the company that issued the card and tell it you paid a scammer and ask if they can refund your money.
Report tech support scams to the Federal Trade Commission at reportfraud.ftc.gov and the Attorney General’s Office in your state.
Action taken on company supporting tech support scammers
On Tuesday, the CFPB filed a court action against BrightSpeed Solutions. It processed payments for companies that claimed to offer technical-support services and products to consumers over the internet. However, the companies tricked consumers into purchasing expensive and unnecessary antivirus software or services.
Many of the targeted consumers were older adults unaware of clickbait scams and that the software and services they purchased were actually available for free.
BrightSpeed went out of business in March 2019. From 2016 to 2018, it processed remotely created check payments for more than 100 companies totaling over $70 million.
A remotely created check payment is produced by a company and taken from a consumer’s bank account. The check often is authorized by the consumer remotely, over the telephone, or on the internet, and it doesn’t require the consumer’s handwritten signature.
BrightSpeed continued to process the scammers’ remotely created check payments for months and, in some cases, years. BrightSpeed kept processing the checks despite knowing about nearly 1,000 consumer complaints, several inquiries from police departments, two banks raising concerns about its client companies, and payment return rates averaging more than 20 percent, according to the CFPB.