Tag Archives: Scams

Tech Support Scams: What You Need To Know To Protect Yourself

Computer scams come in all forms

Tech scams are more common than ever before. Scammers send millions of emails every day, pretending to be from technical support services, government offices, charities or insurance companies. They promise to send lottery winnings, offers that are too good to be true, or sales on products that will never arrive once ordered. Scammers can take advantage of people even if the target doesn’t take the bait. Thieves send emails containing malware, spyware or viruses that infect the computer when they are opened. Antivirus software may be unable to detect infected files, such as certain trojan viruses. The user doesn’t know their system has been breached. Scammers can take control of your computer, steal phone numbers, personal data, and other sensitive financial information such as credit card numbers, bank account information, and more.

Forms of Contact

Con artists use a variety of methods to conduct tech support scams. Scammers contact targets through unsolicited phone calls, text messages, email, and pop up ads. If you receive calls or texts from someone you don’t know, you can use a caller ID app for iPhone to identify it.

Pop-up Ads

Tech scams can take place through pop-up ads that appear during regular use of your web browser. The pop-up is often an unrelated topic or item that encourages you to click on the website. Pop-ups may appear to be system error messages or warnings from tech companies like Microsoft or Apple. The pop-ups can infect your system. Others simply do not go away and efforts to report them go unheard. The ads may also be able to infect your system with viruses undetectable by antivirus programs. Web browsers offer free pop-up or ad blockers which can help the situation.

Scare Tactics

Scammers can feed on a consumers’ fear by alerting them to security breaches, viruses, or useless software programs for malware and spyware. Recent scams include emails sent to users, claiming that the scammer has your personal information. The sender says he has access to your password and online accounts. The emails may contain passwords to your email account. The sender demands a specific amount of money that must be sent in 24-48 hours. The scare tactic is effective, as people want to safeguard their personal information. Emails making such claims should be reported, passwords should be changed, and the email deleted entirely from the system.

Tech Support Scams

You receive a call from someone claiming to be from computer tech support from real tech companies like Microsoft or Apple. The caller, posing as an employee with Microsoft or Apple, says there is a problem with your computer, e.g., a virus or damaged memory. The scammer offers to fix the problem for a small fee. You are asked to wire money or pay with a gift card. They ask for those because it is almost impossible to trace or get your money back. The funds must be delivered to a specific email or online account, neither of which are related to Microsoft or Apple.

The caller offers to run a scan if you give them remote access. If you agree, the scammer pretends to run a scan on your computer and then tells you about a problem that isn’t real. The problem is significant and will cause your computer to fail. The caller offers to fix the problem for an additional cost.

Tech Support Refund Scams

A similar tech scam is a tech support refund scam. The caller offers a refund for services previously purchased. They claim the company is offering refunds as part of a customer satisfaction program. Other claims include that the company is going out of business. Regardless of the story, there are no refunds. The caller asks for your phone number, personal data, and banking information for the sole purpose of phishing and stealing more money.

Online Shopping

The person or company offers products at a low rate. The scammer takes the money, but the product never arrives. The company refuses to give refunds. More likely, the scammer steals the person’s information and credit card or bank account info and disappears.

Phone Calls

Scammers make thousands if not hundreds of thousands of random phone calls every day. There is no limit to the stories they will tell. Legitimate companies do not call to ask for payment for tech support or alert you to a government issue. If you do receive a call, use a reverse phone search to look up the number that called you. Block the number that was used. You should also write it down so it can be reported to the authorities.

Improve Security

Thieves love weak passwords. Change passwords often or create a password using a password generator to improve your computer’s security. You should update security software and antivirus software on a regular basis.

What to Do If You Were Scammed

People tricked by tech support scammers have recourse if the con was paid by credit card or bank card. The financial institution can reverse the charges and file a fraud report on your behalf.

Gift cards are harder to trace and may not be refundable.

If you gave a scammer remote access to your computer, update your computer’s security software. Run a scan and delete anything it identifies as a problem.

If you gave your username and password to a tech support scammer, change your password right away. If you use the same password for other accounts or sites, change it there, too. Create a new password that is strong.

Reporting a Scam

The Federal Trade Commission has recorded one of the calls made by a computer tech support fraudster. The FTC has posted a  recorded call from a scammer: You can listen here.

Tech support scams are commonplace. In 2017, the FTC received over 150,000 reports about tech scams. Consumers neglect to report scams because they are embarrassed or they may not know they’ve been scammed. If you think you’ve been the target of a tech scam, report it online to the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant.

The Dangers of Sexting

How Sexting Can Ruin a Person's Life

Reporters talk about sexting on a regular basis, usually involving politicians and public figures. Regular people, including teens, also sext and may not understand the implications of their actions. People have ruined marriages and relationships all in the name of fun and games. Teenagers and daters are targets for identity thieves and scammers. Kids are targets for kidnappers and pedophiles. Parents want to protect their children, but that may not be enough. Children should be educated about the dangers of sexting and contacting strangers online.

What is Sexting?

Sexting involves two people exchanging intimate information through text messages. Predators ask their targets for nude pictures or sexually-themed messages. The predators convince the victims to send the messages to get or keep their attention. Statistics show that 1 in 7 teens routinely sends “sext” messages and 1 in 4 receives sext messages. Parents should discuss sexting with their children. The child should be encouraged to share if they are being pressured by anyone to send sexts. It’s common for a person to receive a message containing a nude photo or sexual suggestion. If that happens, the child should report it. The parent can use an iPhone app to find out who owns a phone number and then report it to the authorities.

Dating Sites

Adults might send sext messages to people they meet on dating sites. Many people using online dating sites tend to move very fast in forming relationships. Hackers engage targets who get caught up by the romance and ignore their instincts. Hackers can use the messages to gain valuable information or threaten to post the messages or pictures unless the victim pays. The scammer can sell the information to another who will use it for financial gain and cause the target grief and legal troubles for years to come.

 Sextortion

“Sextortion” is a form of extortion or blackmail. The victim exposes him or herself to another through sexually-related messages or photos. The recipient uses that information and posts – or threatens to post – the information online or send it to the victim’s contacts. As a result, people can be targets of “revenge porn,” a method wherein the victim has personal information or photos posted online by a former friend or lover who wants to get revenge. The act can cause fights, embarrassment, loss of a job or worse. School officials might punish teenagers, causing them to be expelled or denied access into colleges of their choice. People put themselves and their families at risk, including their careers and relationships. Photos posted on the Internet stay there forever. You can’t delete them or get them back.

Sexting carries legal issues since the person taking or sending the photo can receive fines or jail time for distributing pornography.

Protect Yourself

If someone asks you to start sexting, refuse. It will help you to avoid embarrassment, hacking, and possible legal problems. Avoid storing intimate photos and videos on your computer. A hacker will trick his victim and access the other person’s computer, posting private photos on social media sites.

Law Enforcement Phone Scams

Police Scams

Police officers warrant respect and obedience. Parents teach children to respect and obey the police. When a police officer calls and asks for a donation or informs you of an outstanding warrant, the impulse to comply is immediate. Unfortunately, the person calling may not be a member of law enforcement. The scammers posing as police, call and prey upon the victim’s fear. There are three common scams relating to law enforcement:

Bench Warrants

A bench warrant is a “go to jail, do not pass go” document. If you have a warrant against you, police will arrive at your door and cart you off to jail. The police do not call. Have you ever seen a cop show where the police ring up a dangerous felon?

Typically, the caller will order you to purchase a pre-paid card or arrange to send money via Western Union or MoneyGram. Don’t do it! If you suspect the call may be legitimate, call your local police station immediately.

Relative in Jail

Another common scam is the relative in jail scam. Senior citizens are usually the targets of this scam. The caller pretends to be a family member, saying he is in jail. The caller says a bondsman will be calling shortly. The target is expected to give out credit card information or to send money through Western Union or using a pre-paid card.

This is a scam. Like the kidnapping scheme, the target is not offered any proof that the story is true. The scammer plays upon the target’s fear that a family member is in distress. If you receive such a call, find out the name of the jail and call it directly. If a bondsman is required, meet him at his office or the jail.

Police Charity

Citizens may receive an annual phone call asking for donations to the policeman’s ball or to support the Fraternal Order of Police. Police do solicit funds for these and other charities, but will not ask for a credit card or wire transfer over the phone. If you receive this call, do your research and contact the organization directly for verification.

Detecting a Law Enforcement Phone Scam

It may be difficult to identify a false request asking for money, although it is not impossible. Scammers often use fake identities and use a spoofed caller ID to hide their real phone numbers. Scammers may be able to tap into phone numbers used by police to appear legitimate.

Ask for more information

If the caller asks for a donation, ask questions. Ask the representative for information about the organization. Callers should supply their full names and the organization’s legal name and address. You can require the caller to explain how donations are allocated. If the caller states that the request is coming from a specific chapter or precinct, call that location to verify before opening your wallet. Scammers faced with questions may be unable to give an answer, get defensive and hang up. You can also use an iPhone app to do a reverse look up a phone number to check if it’s related to scams.